Voyage, from French developer Kheops Studio, is an adventure game inspired by the Jules Verne novel From the Earth to the Moon. In Verne’s story, which was written in 1865, three men are shot from a large cannon, but the trajectory is slightly off, and so instead of landing on the Moon, they simply circle it and then return to the Earth. In Voyage, some parts of the mission work better than in the book -- the capsule actually lands safely on the Moon, for example -- but other parts fail spectacularly, and so only one of the three men survives. That leaves it up to you to guide the lone survivor as he explores the Moon and searches for ways to survive and hopefully return to the Earth.
If this premise sounds slightly familiar, it might be because Kheops Studio released an adventure called Return to Mysterious Island in 2004. That adventure was also inspired by a Jules Verne novel, and it also tasked you with surviving and escaping from someplace. The main difference between the two games is that Return to Mysterious Island took place on a tropical island, and so your goals there were more commonplace, mostly featuring “Survivor” style concepts like collecting food, making shelter, and starting a fire.
In Voyage, meanwhile, you quickly discover that there is life on the Moon, and so your objectives have more to do with learning about the “Selenites” than they do at playing as a castaway. And so you learn how to read Selenite hieroglyphics, you learn the Selenite number system (including base 20 arithmetic), and you learn the relationship between Selenite plants. Strangely, the plants are thrust way into the forefront, and there must be at least two dozen puzzles dealing with them. After, oh, I don’t know, the first ten, solving puzzles about the plants stopped being any fun.
The puzzles on the Moon are also a little strange. Because the game involves science fiction and an alien civilization, I guess that Kheops Studio decided that anything and everything is possible, and so you do things like make a “shrink ray” so that you can fit through a small door, and you create a special “paint” that makes your space capsule much lighter, so that it can be carried to a Selenite cannon. I’m generally lenient about the plausibility of games, but Voyage started out on thin ice with the Moon having inhabitants and an atmosphere -- not to mention loads of plants -- and things only went downhill from there. In fact, the best part of the adventure by far is when you’re in the capsule at the start of the game, and you have to deal with some problems so that you can land on the Moon. Once you exit the capsule and actually step foot on the Moon, instead of viewing colorful and wondrous sights, the game turns into a drab and unlikely bore.
On the brighter side, Voyage is at least friendly to play. There are some timed puzzles, and there are some places where you can die, but if bad things should happen to you, the game immediately returns you to a safe place, and so you don’t have to do a lot of saving and loading. The game is also friendly in that there isn’t a lot of pixel hunting required. Objects are never hidden in suspiciously dark corners, and there are usually alternate ways of gaining objects (such as bartering with the Selenites), so that if for some reason you don’t locate an object, you won’t find yourself stuck in the game.
But while friendliness is nice, it’s not enough to save what is otherwise a sinking ship. Voyage just isn’t creative enough or fun enough to make it a worthwhile purchase, and so I wouldn’t recommend it. Adventure game developers like Kheops Studio would be much better off making fewer, more interesting games than in cranking out multiple titles each year.