Format: Download or DVD
Developer: Deck 13
Mac Publisher: Freeverse
System Requirements: Mac OS X v10.3.9, 1.4GHz PowerPC or Intel processor, 512MB RAM, 64MB video RAM (Intel GMA 950 chipset supported), 1GB hard disk space
Review Computer: 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo aluminum MacBook, 2GB DDR3 memory, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics
Network Feature: No
Processor Compatibility: Universal
ESRB Rating: T
Availability: Out now
Version Reviewed: 1.0 (Unibody and Nvidia-MacBook/MacBook Pro owners should download the update (496K .zip).)
If I may borrow a phrase from fellow reviewer and retired puppeteer Bill Stiteler, “More like this, please.”
It’s hard for me to not get nostalgic about the halcyon days of adventure gaming whenever I work through a new one, but I won’t do that here. No title dropping, no wistful memories of study hours lost back in college. You don’t want to hear that, and considering the surprisingly large number of recent adventure games available on the Mac, nostalgia no longer really servers its purpose. We’ve got adventure games now. Good ones, so let’s talk about those. More specifically, let’s talk about Jack Keane.
Jack is a pirate, or at least what modern entertainment wants us to believe pirates were. Handsome fellows. Noble. With healthy teeth. Seems that only bad guy pirates are allowed to actually look like pirates these days. The rest have to look like Bruce Campbell.
For lack of money, Jack accepts an assignment in which he must transport a British secret agent to Tooth Island. That’s not the adventure, though, as that ends quite abruptly (and in comical fashion). The game quickly becomes more about Jack getting his payment for transporting the agent, and just gets weirder from there. Throughout a good portion of the game, you’ll have a hard time figuring out what’s the plot and what’s a subplot, but that’s part of the fun. You encounter dozens of characters that help or hinder (or help and) your progress, but you can rest assured that most of it comes together in the end.
The gameplay puts a shiny polish on the tried and true point and click method of discovery. You’ll move Jack and Amanda around by…oh, yeah. Amanda. Although you spend the bulk of the game controlling Jack, there are also portions where you’re in charge of Amanda, an American gun for hire who’s been employed by the mysterious Dr. T., the game’s villain. Don’t worry, though. Amanda’s attractive, so you know she’s a good guy.
Anyway, you control Jack and Amanda by clicking the screen to move them, or by clicking on objects to have them interact. If you can talk to someone, the cursor becomes a mouth. If you can manipulate an object, the cursor becomes gears. If you can pick that object up, the cursor becomes hands. It’s all quite intuitive, although I often found myself clicking on something when I should’ve been right clicking. Many objects you find will have to be combined before they can be used, and the bulk of the puzzles are built around that; what do you use on what, and where do you find it?
Considering there are over 250 objects that can be used throughout the game, inventory management could have been a bear. But the developers were smart enough to keep the inventory at a decent number at all times, and objects that are no longer of use disappear when you’re done with them.
As with all adventure games, there’s a lot of reading to be done, there are many cut-scenes, and plenty of the game involves seemingly aimless exploration and trial and error. Not sure how to get that monkey to stop pedaling the stationary bike that powers the electric fence? Keep clicking on your inventory. Eventually, something’s going to work. If not, keep clicking on the environment until you find something that will. Unlike in the past, you never really die in Jack Keane, so there’s no penalty for being random as opposed to thinking through a puzzle. And that’s fine, because quite a few of the puzzles are random. Logic doesn’t always work in the pirate world apparently, and that’s part of the joke. Combining objects that make no sense to you will make no sense to Jack, either, but he’ll acknowledge it with a shrug and use what you give him to progress.
The game does bog down at times. The plot often slows too much in an effort to create some over-the-top puzzles, and there are times where it seems the writers were trying too hard to be funny. There are some laugh-out-moments, but a lot of the comedy felt forced. In a game such as this, if the joke isn’t there, it’s best to just move on. In addition, the voice acting isn’t all that great. It’s passable, but it often felt as if the actors had recorded their lines out of order with no knowledge of how they related to what anyone else was saying. To be fair, though, this may be due to some choppy editing that killed any possible flow of conversation. The whole thing felt fairly disjointed in that regard.
The graphics are dated, but that’s kind of the point. Visually, Jack Keane is as colorful and appealing as the adventure games to which it’s paying homage. However, there are also many clipping problems in which Jack’s feat will disappear into the ground, and such. At one point, he was completely submerged under the roof of a house after jumping off a chimney. I was able to control him just fine, but it does show that the game needed some more QA before being released. The audio could have used some more work, too; quite often, the ambient sound effects pop on and off as if the game has no idea where your character is. Babbling brooks and forest sounds are either right in your face or barely noticeable, with no transition between audio levels.
It would be easier to overlook these few gripes if the price were lower. $40 is a bit much, especially considering most adventure/puzzle games go for $20. Jack Keane is able to distance itself from the competition via its fully animated characters/environments and its wealth of puzzles, but not enough to justify spending twice as much.
That being said, I had a lot of fun with Jack Keane. I’d like to think this has more to do with the quality of the game than with any sense of nostalgia, but I imagine that’s not the case. Those who never got into adventure games or who have never actually played one will likely grow tired of Jake Keane within a matter of moments. But if you prefer your games to be story driven or like your puzzle logic to border on the absurd, then Jake Keane is a fun, entertaining romp worth the few technical glitches and slow moments along the way.
Buy Jack Keane