Jack Keane review
Sometimes a different type of game is very pleasing. The relatively relaxing nature of Jack Keane compared to the violent and/or chaotic games that dominate gaming today is most welcome when you're feeling a bit tired, but not quite in the mood to do something else, like reading. The excellent puzzler/racer Audiosurf has often been my reprieve in such circumstances recently, but Deck 13's adventure game has been a good alternative. I previously previewed the game, noting the rarity of such titles these days, and also that the game was shaping up fairly well. Now I have the final code, does it live up to these expectations?
On the whole, yes. Jack Keane isn't a revolutionary title, but then I never expected that having seen the preview version. It's out to provide us with a solid adventure game when there really aren't many around, and on that front, it does seem to deliver. It's a 3D point-and-click game, similar to Escape from Monkey Island a few years back, and indeed follows that release more than just being in the same genre, with the emphasis on a light-hearted tale, eccentric villain, and a spot of humour in the dialogue. The game does manage to be reasonably funny, though not as much as LucasArts' titles were in their heyday, and it also suffers somewhat in its translation from German. Some sentences don't flow right, and in combination with timing which isn't always spot-on, it can ruin some of the jokes, which is a pity. Though the game doesn't rely on the jokes, adventures titles do rely on interesting dialogue, and such flaws do undermine the release. Thankfully the other part of adventure titles – the problem solving – seems to be working well. It's nothing that you haven't seen before, but it does generally seem to work.
The biggest problem for Jack Keane is when it doesn't work. Sometimes there's just so many steps involved in solving puzzles that a walkthrough feels like the only way to proceed, which is never a good sign. There's just too much to do for simple tasks that, at times, it can feel frustrating. There's also the issue that even the tried-and-trusted method of searching the screen for the change of cursor to work out what to do doesn't always work here, as sometimes you need to head to certain sections of the screen by clicking on them, but you wouldn't know they were useful until your character makes their way over to it. Again, this makes a walkthrough more tempting than it should be. However, while you do have to work out some rather peculiar logic, on the whole, the puzzles will occupy you for quite a while, with the whole story likely to clock in at over 10 hours.
While I won't go into full details of the game's story, I will say that it does involve the titular hero, Jack Keane, in a quest on a mysterious island. And no, not Monkey Island, but Tooth Island. A British colony, no less, so you get plenty of British Empire references thrown in to the mix. There's also an American woman involved, who you actually get to take control of at points in the game, and adds an extra dimension to the story. One interesting thing I noticed, now I've seen the proper game, is that Deck 13 really have thrown historical accuracy out of the window. I saw glimpses of this in the preview code, such as the existence of "South Africa" in Queen Victoria's era, and now such things as airships seem to be appearing before the Wright Brothers even got off the ground. It's curious that they would chose to do this, but in the context of the game, it doesn't really matter at all, and it can get away with it all as it's part of its fictional world. After all, the humour benefits from references to more modern concepts, and historical accuracy shouldn't stand in the way of a good adventure.
While the gameplay is pretty much the standard point-and-click fare, there is at least some deviation from the linearity common in these games. This comes from both the multiple characters you control (as mentioned earlier), and the fact that there are sometimes choices in the story. At these points in the dialogue you get to choose the mission you want to do, and although in the end things turn out the same, it's nice to have the option. There are also some bonuses you can pick up along the way which unlock a special gallery, though beware not to select it without saving as you'll lose your progress in the game!
Technically Jack Keane is a bit rough. The graphics have a nice style, but look somewhat dated compared to recent PC offerings. There are also a few glitches, unfortunately, but nothing that should distract you too much. The voice-overs are fairly decent, aside from those few translational issues mentioned earlier. There's also the problem that timing isn't quite working as desired, meaning some of the humour is unfortunately lost. Still, Jack Keane has a fairly competent engine, and does the job well enough.
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