Nobody really likes roaches, do they? They're pretty gross looking, after all, and they serve no real purpose other than to wake you up by skittering along the wood floor of your bedroom in the middle of the night. Yet science suggests that these nasty creatures would outlast humans in a nuclear apocalypse, which is the basis for Journey of a Roach, a point-and-click adventure game that does the impossible: it makes roaches likable.
Perhaps even more impressive is that it does so without any dialogue. Journey of a Roach tells the story of two roaches: Jim and his clumsy buddy, Bud. Upon getting a glimpse of a flower growing in the barren wasteland of what appears to be a postapocalyptic Earth, Bud tries to guide Jim to the beautiful plant, only to fall deep underground where all sorts of mutated bugs live. On your journey to rescue him, you discover a world full of interesting and varied characters, all brimming with plot and personality despite never speaking a word. It's as if Pixar's A Bug's Life merged with the animated movie 9.
As a roach, one of your biggest advantages is the ability to crawl up walls and across ceilings, which is immediately neat and useful. You can move freely around the environment with the keyboard or analog stick, and climbing walls makes traversal easy. There are occasional issues with movement, such as when you might not be able to climb onto something that should be no real obstacle for a roach, or moments when the camera rotation is disorienting when you're climbing on ceilings (particularly in one section with air vents you must crawl through), but for the most part, getting around is not a problem.
Since Journey of a Roach has no dialogue and isn't heavy on story, the majority of the experience comes down to solving puzzles. This is where the game's point-and-click inspirations are clearest; most puzzles boil down to the tried-and-true "find item in one area, use item somewhere else" mechanics. That said, Journey of a Roach seems to have learned some lessons from both successful and failed adventure games of recent years, and most puzzle solutions do make logical sense (as opposed to requiring seemingly random item combinations that lead to more guesswork than brainpower, like many adventures of old).
Even if you get stuck, you can often get a subtle hint by hovering the cursor over a specific object, which can alleviate some of the frustration of not knowing what an inventory item might be used for. There are a few moments when you might have to resort to trial and error (one puzzle in particular I solved completely by accident, and I'm not sure I would have figured out the solution on my own), but generally, this hint system works well to inform you of exactly what you should be doing.
There is also a handy feature that lets you zoom out slightly and highlight "hot spots" (the objects in the environment you can interact with), which can help you locate some of the harder-to-find items. The small arrows it uses to point out objects of interest, however, aren't always enough help. It's still possible that you will spend more time than you'd like beating your head against a puzzle only to discover that you missed the necessary item hidden in the corner of an adjacent room. In this sense, Journey of a Roach falls into the same sorts of traps many adventure games fall into, which you will either find nostalgic or frustrating, depending on your history with the genre.
Though the journey itself is charming, it's the puzzles that keep you pushing forward. None of the puzzles are especially demanding, and you can finish the game in a single two- to three-hour sitting, which feels like an appropriate length once the credits start rolling. Once you know all the solutions to the puzzles, however, the game can easily be completed in under half an hour (in fact, a Steam achievement awards you for finishing it in under 18 minutes). This is not a game for which you'll want to rely on a walkthrough, because it will be over far too quickly.
Journey of a Roach is a charming, worthwhile adventure with some clever puzzles and a nice cast of characters, though you may wish for a longer adventure for the price. It makes some of the same mistakes as its ancestors, but it makes up for most of them with clever design and a unique world. If all roaches were this enjoyable to be around, maybe I wouldn't mind knowing they'll outlive humanity.