Saturday, 4 January 2020

Game 115: The Journeyman Project (1993) - Introduction

Written by Reiko

Adventure Gamers, I am very excited to begin a new series with you all. This post will be an introduction to the first game in a groundbreaking time travel series: Journeyman Project! I've been looking forward (backward?) to covering the first Journeyman Project because JP2: Buried in Time and JP3: Legacy of Time were two adventure games I owned and enjoyed when I was school-age - I think I still have the boxes somewhere even. But I never played the first game at that time. (For some reason, for several years I kept starting with the second installment of an unfamiliar series - I believe I mentioned that when I covered Gateway, but it happened with books, too.)

Original box cover art.

Journeyman Project was considered groundbreaking mostly because it was advertised as being "The World's First Photorealistic Adventure Game!" According to its box cover, anyway. Other games had used FMVs mostly as embedded video of real people in real places (like we saw in the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective games), but JP1 is arguably the first to mesh FMVs based on actors with pre-rendered backgrounds. The original Myst, known more for its beautiful island backgrounds and mechanical puzzles than for its grainy FMVs of actors, was released later in the year, but even later Myst games often don't mesh the video of actors with the backgrounds very well, and other games did worse yet, to the point where poor FMV is a hallmark of a certain subset of ‘90s games. While the original Journeyman Project may not have been any better than Myst in this regard, it still led the way, and furthermore, later games in the trilogy greatly improved on the video technology.

Michel Kripalani - image from a Gamasutra article

The Journeyman Project trilogy was the flagship series for the game studio Presto Studios, which for a while had a close relationship with Cyan, the developer of the Myst series. Presto Studios had humble beginnings, like many game development studios of the time. The first game was the brainchild of Michel Kripalani, who just gathered some friends, including programmer Greg Uhler, and set to work on it in 1991. Two years later, at the beginning of 1993, Journeyman Project was released first on CD-ROM for Macintosh. Two sequels followed in the next several years. Later, the team was asked to develop Myst III: Exile, which became a priority over the partly-begun Journeyman Project 4. Sadly, the fourth game was never finished.

You can read more about the history of Presto Studios in an Adventure Classic Gaming article based on interviews with Kripalani himself and other Presto Studios employees.

Early versions of Journeyman Project apparently had performance issues. In parallel with the development of the second game, Buried in Time, Presto Studios developed a fixed version of the first game, which they labeled Journeyman Project Turbo and released in 1994. At this point, I have been unable to find a copy of the original 1993 release, and even if I did, it may well be unplayable on modern machines. The Turbo version is available, however, so that's the version I'm going to be playing. As far as I can tell, it's basically like a patched version, except there was no way to patch games then except by releasing another version.

Main Menu for Turbo: it looks almost identical to the original version’s menu, according to Mobygames screenshots.
Main Menu for Pegasus Prime from the GoG version. Very much a remake.
To further complicate things, there's also Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime, a remake with enhanced graphics and puzzles originally released in 1997, but only for Macintosh. It wasn't until 2014 that it was released for Windows and made available on GoG and later still on Steam. I won't be addressing that version, except I might briefly take a look at it after I've completed and rated the Turbo version. If I do, I'll just make a few comments after the final rating. We'll probably examine it in full detail when we get to the 1997 list, as it will be a very different experience.

By now, you might be wondering, what's this game about, anyway? Time travel, of course! Also, aliens. In the year 2308, aliens called Cyrollans approached Earth and offered humanity ten years to decide whether to join their Symbiotry of Peaceful Beings. The game starts as the ten years is up. Humanity has been peaceful for some time, but only because time travel has been safeguarded by the Temporal Security Annex (TSA). The Pegasus, the only time machine in existence, is hidden and guarded by the agents of the Temporal Protectorate. You play as Agent 5, tasked to find out who is changing history and interfering with the aliens' offer.

Agent 5’s bedroom.

The interface gives us a picture of our surroundings in the middle, with a status bar at the top showing energy, compass direction, and date. On the left we have notes and directives, and the bottom shows inventory. We'll have to manage various chips to connect to our time travel outfit. I remember that Buried in Time also had chips but Legacy of Time did not. Farther down, we have directional buttons. I hope the keyboard also works, because clicking to move everywhere will get tiresome very quickly. That’s especially true given that there are time limits: time travel uses up energy which can only be replenished by returning back to the starting time. I may need to explore carefully, figure out what I need to do, and then restore back and do it quickly, to avoid using too much energy.

We begin at home and must travel to the Temporal Security Annex to start our mission, which we will do next time. Leave a comment with your score guesses!

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 CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw.


  1. I am a sucker for anything time travel related, but sadly I never played any game of this series.
    So, for the score I will hazard a guess of 59, just because it seems pretty well regarded.

    1. Oh yeah, you commented a lot on my Timequest writeup. Glad to see you're still with us for more time travel fun. :)

  2. Huh? Its easy to find the original. I'll be playing along in the original. I call shenanigans. This is just lazy! On several levels.
    You be able to play it in emulated Windows, either through DOSbox or some kind of virtual machine. Granted, this will cause problems, the original problems. The problems that should be a part of the rating, kind of.
    There's also Mac emulation. As long as you're not using some kind of Linux, or Ubuntu, it should be good to run. After some futzing around. I won't be playing along on Mac because I'm using Ubuntu and Mac emulation on Ubuntu, for me, has no sound and no way to get sound. Fortunately, I can play the Windows version with no problems...that aren't in the original.
    I remember Riven having decent fusions of actor and background. I do know that III and IV had some cool tricks to make things look pretty good, which may be become of Presto.
    I guess 65.

  3. I wanted to play this game, but I am glad that you are picking it up. I too am fascinated by time travel games, but for some reason I only played the sequel when I was younger. I remember that it had a great NPC, but I do not know if the first game has anything like that to set it apart.

    My guess is 57.

    I'd play along with you, but I am working on a time travel game myself... :)

  4. I also played this series out of order! My family got the third game as part of a bundle of games that came with their new computer (which also included Baldur's Gate, so it was a really nice bundle), and I loved it growing up. I never had a chance to play the 1st two until GOG got a hold of them much later. The comparison between them all is definitely interesting and colored my impressions of the 3rd game very differently as an adult.

    I believe I played the Pegasus Prime version, not Turbo, but I assume the parts I found the weakest will still be there, so I'm going to say 52.

  5. I also played Pegasus Prime, but not the original or the Turbo version. I'm also a huge fan of time-travel related stuff but I seem to remember that this game didn't use the notion of time-travelling to its full notion and could have just been a classic sci-fi story, but the details are pretty fuzzy in my memory so I could be wrong. I'm going for a neat 50, because this score might happen sometime.

  6. This is a series I've never played or noticed, but it seems popular so I'm interested in reading about it.


  7. I have no idea for this game, except the name, never played in my life

    I will go with 41

  8. I've barely heard of this, but it seems not too badly regarded, so I'm gonna go with 58.

  9. It is one of the names I instantly recognise from my old PC magazines, I read it everywhere yet never gave it more than 2 thoughts, didn't even know it was an adventure game until now. My disdain for FMV games prevents me from going higher than 45, but I do look forward to a proper analysis of a historic series!

  10. This is strange, but back in the 90s, when i thought that i played or know every adventure game, i never heard of this one. So, a totally random guess based of the scores of fellow commenters right above this, i say 54

  11. I remember playing this at a friend's place when it first came out. The realism (for it's time) of the graphics and first person view was striking for me, but I also remember getting bored of the story and puzzles. I have a vague memory of wanting to play Indiana Jones or some Sierra Quest game instead.

    I'll guess 48

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  13. I had the Journeyman Project Turbo as part of a Multimedia CD pack that came with our fancy new CD drive. Unfortunately our system wasn't well equipped to run it and I gave up after I first used the time machine.

    I'll guess 52

  14. Sneaking in here with a 53, a blind guess because I never heard of this game back in the day at all.

  15. I first came in contact with this series from the third game since they advertised it rather heavily with a demo in Riven and didn't get to play the first game until a few years ago with help from ScummVM. Really, the hardest thing with the first game was finding a keyboard to my computer so I could play it. I hazard a guess of 59.