Jack Keane PC
The adventure game genre, or point and click if you prefer, was a big deal back in the 80s and early 90s, with series like Monkey Island proving very popular and still being named as favourites among gamers today. However, since then flashy visuals and an increasing desire for multiplayer and online content has seen a big decline in the number of these games being made, with only a handful of developers and publishers risking the outlay in developing one.
One of these partnerships is between Deck13 Studios and 10tacle Interactive, bringing us Ankh and its sequel in 2005 and 2006 respectively. These retained the humour and challenging puzzles that the genre is famed for, albeit with snazzy 3D visuals, and it made for a welcome distraction from the usual genres that dominate the release schedules. And so here we are with Jack Keane, the latest effort from Deck13 and 10tacle.
The game begins in London with Jack being accosted by some thugs who are after money that he owes to a loan shark. After escaping he ends up receiving a request from, erm, the Queen to go to Tooth Island in the Indian Ocean. Being the captain of a ship called the Charming Princess this isn’t a problem, and with a dozy crew, he sets sail to drop off a British agent and so on and so forth. Of course, things don’t quite go to plan, and all sorts of japes occur along the way. The plot is nothing new; it’s just dressed up nicely with some fancy locales and vaguely interesting characters. It certainly could be worse, but as a means of making you want to continue playing and find out what happens, it’s not the best. This is slightly disappointing when you consider how important the story is in games like this.
Anyone who has ever played Grim Fandango, Monkey Island, or indeed either of the Ankh games, will instantly be at home with how to play Jack Keane, and even for those who are new to the genre, it couldn’t get much simpler. You point at where you want to go, or an object you want to interact with, and you click. It’s that simple. Double-clicking will make you run, which is vital as Jack walks painfully slowly, and objects can be combined by clicking on an item in your inventory (displayed at the top of the screen) and then clicking again on the second object. Really, this game should come with an RSI warning.
Pressing the X button on your keyboard will highlight all of the items on-screen that can be interacted with, although generally it’s clear what can and can’t be used by Jack. It’s only a case of moving the cursor over an item and you can tell straight away whether Jack can use it or not. The environments that you’ll be furiously point and clicking around are generally quite colourful and bright, although even on high settings you feel more could have been done. A stylised and cartoon-like look accompanies everything, and the character’s facial animations help to inject some personality into the game.
Sadly things on the audio side aren’t quite so good; the voice acting, which you’ll be hearing a lot of through Jack’s comments or the many cut scenes, is a real hit and miss affair. Some character’s voices suit them very well and sound good, while others seem out of place and can be really, really irritating. What’s more, the subtitles that accompany the speech don’t always match what’s actually being said. It’s baffling really, and the stilted nature of some cut scenes where the subtitles appear before the speech – or a pause occurs when a character’s supposed to be immediately interrupting another – does nothing but spoil the illusion of being in a different world and ultimately detracts from the experience.
It has to be said that with the few-and-far-between nature of games in this genre, the gameplay does feel very dated now, and very slow. With these games only coming out once every few years now, with nothing really changing bar a slight graphical upgrade, it can feel like you’ve seen it all before. Trudging around looking for a way to solve a puzzle to progress through a story you don’t really care about with a main character you have total indifference for isn’t most people’s idea of a good time. Jack Keane is one of those games that will do nothing to attract new fans to the genre, but for those of you who have fond memories of LucasArts titles and others in that vein, this might be worth looking into.
A decent effort, but you’ll need some stamina to see this adventure out.