QFTLG could be the worst abbreviation ever used in a game title. But going strictly by the gameplay, Journey to the Top: Quest for the Lost Gems is a fairly engaging platformer on XBLIG — that is, before the game pretty much breaks during the third fire level. As a fan of Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden and Contra games, I have faced many tough challenges, but Journey to the Top goes over the top (ba-dum ching) with the fire hazards and contains some very annoying bugs.
As a modern game with a retro style, blah blah blah. The graphics do their job. As you can see in the photo above, some of the static backgrounds are kind of neat, I guess. Let’s move on.
In regard to the music, repetition isn’t much of a factor, as you’ll hear many different tracks that tend to evolve a good deal before they loop. The music also changes styles depending on the world you’re in. The sound effects are standard but inoffensive.
So what is Journey to the Top all about? Jumping and avoiding obstacles as you collect coins — I would say just for the hell of it, but there is a coin achievement — and obtain the gem that allows you to advance to the next level. You have infinite lives, so dying is not necessarily a problem. Sometimes dying can be a strategy when it comes to managing the few power-ups you’ll run across, including speed boots, a spring that makes you jump higher, an invincibility hat, and a clock that stops everything in place (think Castlevania). The problem? If you don’t complete a level in 10 minutes, you have to start the level over.
Journey to the Top can be a grind as you die again and again attempting to get past a set of obstacles, so it is similar to the Platformance games by Magiko Gaming. As in the Platformance games, you don’t have an attack button, and there are no bosses.
Well, I say there are no bosses, but there could be a final boss. I wouldn’t know since I haven’t beaten the game. I stopped playing Journey to the Top after determining that the third fire level (almost the end of the game) isn’t even worth trying to beat. Strangely, I didn’t stop playing out of frustration, as I have during tough levels in games like Ninja Gaiden II (NES) and Castlevania III, which I would continue playing and finally beat. I just got to a point in Journey to the Top where I had seen enough laughable bugs, such as falling onto a lava pit and not dying, and come across enough “when the stars align” obstacles (meaning that advancement in the fire stages is often due to luck, not skill or timing). When a game won’t allow you to pick up a crucial item when you’re supposed to be able to, it might be time to stop playing.
Even though the fire levels inspired me to quit based on logic (why care to beat something that seems broken?), I despised the four water levels the most. In these levels, you’re not even taking a “journey to the top” — you’re slowly floating to the bottom, which is pretty lame.
The game has several achievements. Some of them are neat ideas, I suppose, but I have little motivation to go back and play through the game again. The water and fire levels sucked that much.
Journey to the Top: QFTLG is a decent effort from developer Liel and not a bad platformer for the first eight levels. But eventually I saw the game for what it is: a less polished version of the excellent Platformance games. If someone says QFTLG is a solid game, there’s only one response: LMAO.