The Journeyman Project – Time Distortion

From The Adventure Gamer

Written by Reiko

Agent 5 Journal #1: “Today was not a good day to oversleep. If I hadn’t made it to work when I did, we all would have been erased permanently. This is the most major time rip I’ve ever seen, and I’m the only one who was on duty and escaped being rewritten by the distortion wave. I have to fix history!”

When I start Journeyman Project from the menu with the New Game option, I first get a video with voiceover explaining the historical background of the scenario. I summarized this in the introduction. The important thing to remember is that we are at a critical point in history, so of course, when time travel is involved, something is bound to go wrong, and we have to travel through time to fix it. And of course, when there’s an elaborate procedure and complicated equipment to fix whatever’s gone wrong, then we’ll definitely have to use that procedure and that equipment.

After the background, there’s an intro video, which starts by zooming out from a floating city, which suddenly explodes. I’m guessing that’s a dream, since then we see an alarm clock going off, implying that Agent 5 has just woken up. As he reaches out and puts on his headset, the interface forms around the picture, and a side screen runs through diagnostics as what sounds like a radio program greets its listeners.

Home sweet home

When we have control, we can move around the bedroom. An alert appears on the left: “Agent 5: Report to the Temporal Security Annex.” Time to get up and go to work.

BioChip – Interface item

To start with, the only item in inventory is the “BioChip – Interface” item, which allows saving, loading, and checking score. Of course, score is 0 to start. In addition to the inventory list, the chips can be accessed directly from a pull-out tab at the bottom that shows them just as icons with distinguishing letters. Based on the size of the tab, we have space for at least eight chips, which I’m sure we’ll collect eventually.

I’m probably going to complain about this again, but some of these biochip actions could have been a lot more convenient as a permanent button somewhere in the interface rather than a selectable inventory item. Once I get more than a few items, it’s going to be annoying to scroll through the inventory to find the right item and select it before I can use its functions. There’s enough space on the screen that there easily could have been a permanent button/menu for meta functions like saving and loading.

Transport Card item

I poke around the room a little and find the Transport Card item on the desk (which also has a lamp that can be toggled on or off). Now I can take public transport to get where I’m going. The transport card goes in the same inventory item list as the biochip. So what I don’t get is why those two things are in the same list, when they aren’t the same kind of thing. The biochip goes into the interface and can be accessed from the biochip tab anyway, so why not just make the biochip tab always visible and keep the inventory list for items that have to be dragged around to use them? Given time limits, I just know I’m going to be frantically scrolling through the inventory looking for the right item at some point…

The side screen alerts me that I have ten minutes to get to the TSA, or I’ll be late. I start looking around a little more quickly. The apartment has two doors leading out of it. I try one and discover a bathroom. Well, that’s important, but not what I was after right now. I try the other and make it out into the main corridor of the apartment building. I wander around some more and eventually find an elevator. When I summon it, a voice announces what floor it’s on as it moves. For some reason, it goes all the way up to the rooftop level before descending back to floor 4, where I am. (Maybe that’s commentary on how elevators rarely seem to come directly to you when you’re in a hurry?)

This is all that was rendered of the rooftop level…

In the elevator, I have the choice to go to any of the four levels plus the rooftop level. I suspect there’s nothing interesting on the intermediate levels, and I’m right. Amusingly enough, if I try to access level 2 or 3, a pleasant voice just informs me that “this floor was never modelled or rendered.” It is possible to go to the rooftop level, but all I get is another short featureless corridor with a door at the end that won’t open. A voice there says that the rooftop level is not accessible during the alien procession. (I’m guessing the developers didn’t model that area either.)

So down I go to the first floor, where I find the transport system, a direct matter transporter. Across from the transporter, there’s also a kiosk with a video advertisement about the apartment complex, Caldoria Heights. This is just a little something extra to make the location a little more interesting, but it’s also counter-productive when you’re in a hurry.

The controls here are a little fiddly. I have to first click on the transporter to get it to open up, which takes several seconds. Then, after I move toward it, the interface automatically spins around as I sit down in the transporter seat, which takes another couple of seconds. Then a bug flies into view and has to be zapped by the system, which takes another chunk of time. To add a further agonizing delay, one time I tried it, the interface decided to inform me at that point that I was now late, which sent me back to standing in front of the transporter. So then I had to open it up, sit down, and watch another bug get zapped before I could actually use it.

I’ll be there in five minutes through the magic of the transporter system.

Well, no need to rush if I’m already late, I guess. I don’t know if it’s even possible to get to the TSA quickly enough to not be considered late, but with the forced delays of the elevator and the transporter, I’m inclined to think not. I even tried again later, but no matter how quickly or directly I went to the transporter, it always told me I was late when I got into it (although it didn’t always send me out of it again at least).

So I put my transport card into the slot (I have to first click on the item in the inventory list and then drag the icon from the window over to the slot) to get the available choices for transport, which are:
* Hard Rock, Tokyo
* Flagstaf [sic] Beach, AZ
* Temporal Security Annex
* Other

Obviously the right choice is the TSA, but for fun I try all the choices. “Other” just results in an error message from the transporter saying I don’t have any other choices. The other two result in a game over. I’ll describe this in more detail at the end of the post. So there’s definitely something wrong that’s about to happen, and if I don’t go to the TSA, I won’t be in the right place at the right time to fix it.

On to the TSA then! After transport, the transporter opens onto a different corridor, the end of which has a door which first asks for a code. This is copy protection, but it’s easy enough to find the code in the manual. There’s no input interface; I just have to type the number.

Maybe my tardiness will be forgiven if I save the timeline?

When I’ve done that correctly, the door proceeds to run three detailed scans: a cranial contour check, a central cortex check, and a biotech implant check. (I don’t even know how a brain scan for identification would really work: aren’t our brains changing all the time as we gain new memories and think different thoughts and learn things?) When those succeed, I get “ID Scan: Confirmed. Welcome Agent 05.” But also: “Your 4th late arrival has been verified and logged.” Oops?

I am directed to the Control Center to proceed with my work, presumably to monitor the timestream. The computer helpfully reminds me that I have to do a mandatory review first (obviously for the benefit of the player who needs to understand how time travel in this story works and what will need to happen). I can sit around at this point and nothing will happen, which is kind of amusing. But we can’t get to anything interesting if we don’t follow instructions.

The Control Center contains a large console with a seat in front of three widescreen monitors, much like fancy programming desks sometimes have these days (but in the early ’90s when this was designed, that would have been quite a futuristic setup indeed.) I click on the left-hand monitor to bring it down into focus, and it asks me for a second copy protection code. After I enter this, it gives me a selection of three videos: Background, Theory, and Procedure.

The left-hand screen is optimized for displaying videos, apparently.

The Background video gives some history about the Pegasus device developed by Elliot Sinclair and the establishment of the Temporal Security Agency. The Theory video describes time travel as a tunnel connecting two points in time. A significant change in the past will create a rip in time that generates a reality distortion wave, which can only be avoided by traveling back in time beyond the distortion point of origin.

The Procedure video describes what to do in the event of a distortion wave: go to the Ready Room, get a Pegasus biochip and the Journeyman key, use the biosuit generation system, then go to the Pegasus device and jump 200 million years into the past. This will bypass the distortion wave and also allow me to retrieve a backup of historical data stashed there for safekeeping, which can then be compared with the data altered by the distortion wave to figure out what’s been changed.

The distortion wave is making its way toward the present, splitting as more distortions occur.

As soon as I return from watching all three videos (in fact, literally the moment after), an alarm sounds, and immediately the computer identifies a temporal distortion wave. Okay, time to use the procedure I just reviewed! Just another day on the job, right?

Journeyman Key item

Suiting up for time travel.

I make my way out of the Control Center and down the hall to the Ready Room. An enclosure on the far wall contains the Journeyman key, and a smaller enclosure below it holds two biochips: the Mapping one and the Pegasus one, all of which I collect. I also step over to the biosuit generator and trigger it to get a biosuit. Now I’m ready to travel through time!

Biochip – Mapping item

Biochip – Pegasus item

The first time I went through this sequence, I had an awful time actually getting the Pegasus chip into my inventory. The second time, when I started over in order to try some additional things, I had the same trouble with the transport card at the beginning. I finally figured out that I have to drag and drop the item directly into the image area of the inventory. If I drop it anywhere else, I don’t end up taking it.

Another interesting note is that it seems that once I’m out of the control center and not watching the distortion wave, it doesn’t really progress. I fiddled with the biochips for more than a couple minutes, and nothing happened. It’s an interesting example of limited urgency. I don’t even hear the alarm in the corridor, only inside the Ready Room or the Control Center.

The inside of the time machine, showing the jump options and the timeline.

I travel down the corridor opposite the Ready Room to get to the Pegasus device itself. It’s locked behind a door that won’t open if I don’t have the Pegasus chip. Inside, the device only gives me one option, to jump back to 199K BC. Oddly enough, when I click on it, there’s a timeline that appears at the top that shows me three temporal rip locations: one in 2112, one in 2185, and one in 2310 (and 2318 is the present year). We’ll surely have to go to those times later, but first we have to get the historical data so we have some idea what’s been changed. I guess the timeline sensors can tell when the discrepancies occurred but not what happened.

A volcano in the distance, and a sheer cliff at my feet.

Activating the jump triggers a trippy video sequence of traveling among various loops and whorls that apparently represent time. When the scene resolves again, we’re far in the past, facing what looks like an active volcano in the distance. I take one step forward…and am warned that I’m standing on the edge of a cliff. Time travel is potentially very dangerous! Falling off the cliff would be no good, so I turn around and start following the path into the rocky area behind where I started.

The interface warns me that large carnivorous creatures have been detected, but nothing really comes of it. I see a shadow of a pteradactyl fly overhead, and the shadow of something that looks like a Tyrannosaurus rex roars when I go around another corner, but nothing else happens.

The hidden alcove with the historical log disk.

When I reach the end of the path, I find a TSA logo embedded in a rock. I press it to open up an alcove with a set of three holes. Then I can use the Journeyman Key to turn the holes and unlock the archive. I take the historical log and now I can jump back to the present.

Historical Log item

This is probably a good time to note that the energy value in the top left corner of the interface starts at 100,000 (one hundred thousand), but this starts dropping steadily once you’ve jumped somewhere into the past. All I did was walk forward one step to find the cliff, then turn around and walk maybe ten steps along the rocky path to find the place where the log was hidden. I had some trouble with clicking too fast and the rock would close again, forcing me to re-open it. Even so, this was a very short jaunt into history, but by the time I jumped out, my energy was about 10% depleted already.

So I’m definitely going to have to replay sections to optimize my time if I want to get a good score. Every time the suit returns to the present, the energy level returns to maximum, but the score at the end will be higher the fewer trips taken and the less energy used. There’s also the goal of solving puzzles peacefully and without changing anything beyond what’s necessary to fix the problem, so that might be tricky too. I might replay sections just to see what happens if I go out of my way to change more things.

When I return to the present, I retrace my steps back to the Control Center with the historical log, where I am prompted to insert it so that the data can be compared. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out that I needed to click on the console to open the drive first before I could put the log disk in. I was trying to drop the disk all over the console with no success. The drive area didn’t really look like something that was openable, I guess, and there was no response when I dropped the log anywhere.

Four discrepancies for three temporal rips

Anyway, after I get the log in, I have to enter the third copy protection code from the manual, and then the right-hand monitor moves forward into focus to display its analysis of the historical data. There’s an animated sequence that says, “Correlating rip dates to historical differences…” and so forth. As I thought, there are discrepancies in 2112, 2185, and 2310, but also in 2308.

The one in 2308 is interesting because it concerns the first contact from the Cyrollans. In the original news clip, we hear a summary of the event and then an audio recording of the actual Cyrollan transmission stating the Symbiotry invitation and 10-year terms. In the changed news clip, the reporter looks different, and this time the Cyrollans only say, “We will return when you are ready” instead of offering Symbiotry membership. Okay, something’s definitely gone wrong. I’d better examine the records relating to the actual changed events.

In 2112, a small country called Gorbastan is the last to consider signing the Worldwide Unification treaty. There’s a terrorist faction who disagrees with the treaty and takes hostages, some American, but despite that, the country is ready to sign the treaty. After the change that caused the time rip, a nuclear missile was launched somehow toward Gorbastan, jeopardizing the peace talks and dooming the Worldwide Unification Treaty to failure. My goal will have to be to prevent that missile from being launched.

In 2185, a cargo pilot approaching the Morimoto colony on Mars detected an alien spacecraft, which did nothing except hover for a time and then travel outward toward the edge of the solar system. However, after the time rip, somehow the entire Mars colony was destroyed, killing the 30-person crew and making people think that hostile aliens were the cause. I’ll have to prevent the destruction of the colony.

In 2310, a rally was held to discuss whether humanity was ready for contact with aliens. This is two years after the original contact with the Cyrollans, which seems kind of out of sequence, actually. One particular activist, Enrique Castillo, gave a particularly persuasive speech in favor of dealing with aliens. The result was that most of the crowd was also in favor. After the time rip, somehow Castillo was killed instead, and the crowd was decidedly anti-alien. How this could affect the original contact in 2308 I don’t know, but clearly I need to prevent Castillo from being killed.

Each scenario is also given a “chance of success based on historical relevance”. For 2112, it’s 23%; for 2185, it’s 57%; for 2310, it’s 48%. I’m not quite sure what this means, but perhaps it means the chance of resolving the entire time rip by resolving the issue in that time. I would think I’d need to solve all three, though.

Well, I’ve certainly got my work cut out for me. Next time I’ll poke my head into each time and decide which one to focus on first.

BioChips: Interface, Mapping, Pegasus
Other inventory: Transport Card, Journeyman Key (also found the Historical Log)
Time travel trips: 1
Score: 26452
Deaths: 3

I have ceased to exist…

#1: The first two choices in the transporter, Tokyo and Arizona, give me the same result: I get a small glimpse of an alternate location around the transporter edges, and then I get a game over screen that gives a score breakdown and offers options to restore, start a new game, or go back to the main menu. At that point I’d gained 500 points just for picking up the transport card. The ending is labeled “Uncreated”: “A disruption in the space/time continuum has caused a cataclysmic reality distortion wave. You have been uncreated in its wake.”

#2: When the distortion wave is identified, I can just stay and watch the computer display the progress of the wave through time. It takes 2-3 minutes, but the wave eventually travels up to the present year, which again causes an “Uncreated” game over. (This time I have 2000 points, though.)

I can’t…hold…on…

#3: Moving forward off the cliff in the past causes me to fall to my death, with a “Fall from Cliff” ending: “One small step for man, one giant leap for … well, you get the picture.” I had 5000 points for exploration, 5000 points for recovered biochips, 15000 points for visiting the Prehistoric era, for a total of 25000. Boy, I started racking up the points quickly. We haven’t even gotten to any of the main missions yet. I guess this means I’ll have to be careful where I step!

Session Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please…try not to spoil any part of the game for me…unless I really obviously need the help…or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I’ve not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!

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