Goodwill Games: Journey to the Motherland – The Ultimate Journey (It’s a Trip!)
Goodwill Games is a new feature where I go to Goodwill, buy a game, play it and report back with my findings. Here are the rules:
- The game will not be more than $5.
- You can only play with what is provided in the purchased box.
- I will play every game with my friend and roommate Ewzzy and keep track of our win/loss record
If you’ve never been to a Goodwill to look at games, I want you to stop reading this instant and do it now.
It’s a gold mine. Just like any actual mine, there is a lot of useless rock to sift through before you find your priceless gems.
I kind of wanted to wait for February to come around so it would be appropriately timed (Black History Month and all), but Ewzzy was adamant about playing this immediately so here it is, the next gem:
Next in the long line of games-that-have-way-the-hell-too-long-names-for-very-little-reason is Journey to the Motherland: The Ultimate Journey (It’s a Trip!). Another solid purchase, only about $3, JttMtUJ(IaT!) seems, at least looking at the box, to be nothing very special.
How wrong I was.
To be brief: I have never become more uncomfortable with a game as I learned more about it.
Let’s dissect the title of this game more deeply, so I can absolutely shatter your worldview. “Journey to the Motherland” evokes thoughts of Soviet Russia and muscly, bearded comrades trekking across the wide expanse of the Siberian tundra stopping only to chug their precious vodka. “The Ultimate Journey” adds a sense of Saiyan gravitas to the narrative I’ve erected. If I recall correctly, there is an episode in every saga of Dragonball Z titled “The Ultimate Journey,” and this game is that episode. “It’s a Trip!” Oh! There’s some much needed levity to this epic and severe story. Instead of Dragonball Z, maybe we’re talking more the original Dragonball to get that younger crowd excited and into it.
Let’s recap: Journey to the Motherland: The Ultimate Journey (It’s a Trip!), as far as the title suggests, is a Soviet Union Dragonball-esque adventure game for all ages. This seems like an unequivocal win. I would play that game.
Journey to the Motherland: The Ultimate Journey (It’s a Trip!) is not that game. It’s a half-Cranium clone, wait for it, for African-Americans.
Maybe I should have gotten that from looking at the box. The title of the game is clearly displayed over Africa. My wild imagination got ahead of me, creating scenes of young Goku atop the Flying Nimbus whacking Commies with his Power Pole. WHY ISN’T THIS THAT GAME?
Moving on, most of you are probably pretty familiar with Cranium; sort of a combination of many different styles: word games, molding, name that tune, etc.. You may be wondering what exactly is half-Cranium? Easy. take only two of the activities from Cranium–in this case, Pictionary and Charades–and, voila!, you’ve got yourself half-Cranium.
For black people? Though slightly ethnic, I am not a black man, nor is Ewzzy. Additionally, this game is meant to be played by 4-16 people in teams. The two of us are clearly not 4-16 people. What were we to do?
Obviously we invited our token black friend.
Patrick provided us with a little bit of context as well as a reason to have some necessary White Guilt to accompany this game.
Opening the box, we were presented with a rulebook (sweet, sweet Mercy) called the “Guide to the Muthaland.” Seriously. The rules it expounded were actually quite simple. Each team has a piece, they go around the game board (starting in America) successfully drawing or acting out things for their team to guess until they get back to Africa. Easy.
Each tile on the game board corresponded to a category (much like Trivial Pursuit):
- blue – History/Patents/Inventions
- green – Sports
- red – Entertainment
- grey – Black Awareness
Present on the bottom of each card is either a drama mask (Charades) or a pen and paper (Pictionary) indicating how you convey the card to your team. For instance, the Soul Train card with a drama mask on it makes you dance the Soul Train in front of your team until someone shouts out “Soul Train!” From a design standpoint, this is the most vanilla game I’ve ever seen. Each game card has at most 4 words on it and a mask or pen and paper. That’s it.
I can absolutely see the utility of this game. Get the whole family together, put Grandpa on a trip with his grandson and have him explain some important parts of African American culture and history like “Ossie Davis” or the “Black Panther Movement.” Get the family talking about important issues and breaching interesting subjects with the younger generation, interacting with the hands-down coolest part of the game: the “Guide to the Muthaland Glossary,” a section at the back of the rule book that had in-depth descriptions of some of the game’s lesser known elements.
Sadly, I am not the target audience so this game provided very little entertainment once actually playing. The difficulty presented in the game didn’t come from a lack of knowledge of black culture, more a lack of desire to continue playing such a boring game.
The highlight of this playthrough was landing on the board’s “special” tiles allowing you to “Exercise your right to vote” and move forward two tiles or take the fast track on the “Freedom Train” to help get you to the Motherland faster. Saddest of them all is the tile close to the end of the game that sends you to, and I’m not joking, “the back of the bus,” a tile about 10 spaces back. Ewzzy was subjected to this blatant discrimination letting our guest Patrick just barely eek out the win.