Indie Review: Journey to the Top: QFTLG


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.

Overall Review

5 Mediocre

User Ratings

Leave a review Total votes: 2 votes

Review Pros and Cons

Variety of Non-Repetitive Music
Serviceable Graphics
First Eight Stages Are Pretty Good
Lame Water Levels
Third Fire Level Is Broken


  1. Hello, thank you for reviewing JTTT.

    As you can imagine, I am curious to know at what point in 4-3 you thought the game was un-passable? I consider myself a horrible gamer but I did manage to complete the game (which as the developer might not be saying much) but please feel free to contact me with the specifics of the level, so I can make whatever changes are necessary :)

    This seems like a fair review, other than the above I have no qualms.

    PS, the game contains 16 levels and not 8 ;)

    Ahanks again!

    • Jed Pressgrove

      Hello Liel, thank you very much for commenting. First, in regard to the eight levels, I meant that the game was pretty good for the first eight levels; I spelled this out in the “Review Pros and Cons” with the statement “First Eight Stages Are Pretty Good.” However, I realize that my statement in the conclusion about these levels could be misleading, so I edited my conclusion to say the “first eight levels.” Thank you for pointing this out.

      I believe you when you say 4-3 is beatable. In fact, I got very close to beating it. However, I end up wasting so much time fighting the bugs and unfair fire hazards at the beginning of the stage that I don’t have enough time to figure out the final few jumps. As I said in my review, it just seems to be based more on luck than skill or timing. Here are my specific observations:

      1. When you start to jump up toward the first lava/fire pit, sometimes a ball of fire will drop to the ledge right beside the pit. You have to jump on this ledge to advance over the pit, so naturally you have to wait on that fire to die out. However, sometimes a second ball of fire will drop right where you’re standing while you’re waiting for the fire to die out, and the game doesn’t seem to give you enough time to make the jump so that you can dodge the incoming fire ball and land on the ledge as the fire dies out – or at the very least, I haven’t been able to do this one time after trying dozens and dozens of times. There’s a similar problem like this later on when you get to the first item, the invincibility hat. You have to jump to a higher ledge, but a fire ball will often drop onto that ledge and burn, and a second fire ball that might come down at you is traveling so fast that you can’t make the jump (or again, at least I haven’t been able to perform this jump after many, many attempts). It is true that you can advance past these situations, but it all seems to depend on whether that first or second fire ball drops down at an inopportune time. If they don’t drop, then you can get through easily. Of course, you might die right after getting past the ledge. Then you’re back at square one and potentially facing the problem I outlined above. I just think advancing here requires more luck than timing.

      2. My second complaint has more to do with the bugs when you reach the invincibility hat. First of all, sometimes you can’t even pick up the hat; that is, sometimes you’re standing right under the hat, but “x” doesn’t show up to indicate that you can get the item, so you have to jigger around for the “x” to appear. Anyway, sometimes when I pick up the hat, I want to use it immediately to cancel out the potential fireball problem I mentioned above, but sometimes when I get to that first ledge above the hat, the fire ball still kills me even if I’ve activated the invincibility hat. Of course, when I die in this situation, I am returned to the spot of the hat, and sometimes when I reappear in this spot, fire starts burning that ledge, and I die again. The whole time I’m wondering how the fireball dropped to that ledge in the first place, since there’s a ledge above that should block any fireballs falling from the sky. Now, just like the above problem, I have been able to advance past this section and move on, but it takes so much time and luck to advance that my efforts are fairly futile once I get to the final part of the stage. The obstacles and moving platforms right below the gem – that whole section, while not being broken necessarily, requires incredible timing and maybe a little luck, but I spend so much time dealing with the problems I’ve just described that I don’t have the time to get through unscathed to the gem.

      In sum, I think that with some extreme luck I could beat 4-3, but like I said in the review, it doesn’t seem logical for me to continue trying when the odds are like this. Again, I feel I didn’t quit the game out of frustration but rather out of common sense.

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