Developer: Deck13 Interactive
Publisher: Nordic Games
We here are Dealspwn have consistently pointed out that the Adventure Game genre has never been dead. Even before the likes of The Walking Dead and Gemani Rue came along into our lives, there were numerous games filling the genre with new experiences. One such game, Jack Keane, recieved praise for its old-school approach and comedic stylings back in 2007. Now, some six years later, the "captain" has got a sequel that aims to inject some new blood into the genre with the inclusion of various gameplay mechanics.
Before we look at if developers Deck13 have been successful, let's quickly cover what the game is about. Players take the role of the titular Jack Keane - an English adventurer who hurls himself into adventure whenever he can. The story for The Fire Within sees Jack travel across the world, from escaping a Shanghai prison, to searching the docks of Hamburg, and exploring the African wilds, as hunts down pieces of a pendant that will unlock the greatest treasure the world has ever known. Of course, nefarious forces are hot on his trail, but with the assistance of a handful of supporting characters, Jack sleuths, fights, and jumps his way into adventure whilst also dealing with his own lack of focus (or fire, if you will) within himself.
Accessibility has been the aim with the controls, with both WASD movement and traditional point-and-click controls included, but despite the choice offered to players neither scheme is particularly affective thanks to the horrendous automatic positioning of the camera. Continuous movement would often change course as the camera panned around or changed angle, making the included platforming sections (yes, there are platforming sections to contend with as you point-and-click) more frustrating than they needed to be. Even the cutscenes were a victim to the camera’s dastardly plan to ruin the attempt at a cinematic experience, cutting off the heads off several characters as they tried to deliver their dialogue.
Jack Keane 2 features two other mechanics in an attempt to stand out from the rest of the Adventure genre. The first provides the player with branching choices that will have them choose one character or another for certain tasks, affecting a relationship mini-game (and ultimately one of the scenes at the end.) This would have been fine, but one choice in one of the final sections of the game came across as broken – choosing one character (with a specific item) over another (who didn’t have it) meant I was stuck, and thus made the whole idea of choice seem ultimately pointless. The second mechanic is a fighting sequence that borrowed far too much from the system in Monkey Island 4 than it probably wanted to, coming across as a time filler instead of being revolutionary.
Thankfully, pixel hunting for most items is made a non-issue thanks to the hint button at the top of the screen, causing useable items to glow, but this of course in no way makes the solving of puzzles any less of a challenge. Certain puzzles will require specific dialogue options to be selected regardless of the items in Jack’s possession meaning, unlike many other adventure games, players will be unable to shortcut their way to completion. Otherwise, most of the puzzles the game provides fall between easy and challengingly logical – as long as items are used in the right order, that is.
Perhaps a little prematurely, Jack Keane 2 touts itself as being a comedy, mixing humour with references to films and video games to raise a laugh, and while you can see the basis and potential for these gags a lot of them just weren’t particularly funny (the Michael Caine parody in particular was bloody awful. Also, feel free to read that previous statement is his voice. You’re welcome.) That’s not to say I didn’t laugh at all during my playthrough (there were a few moments that did make me laugh out loud) but when one of your selling points is that of a comedic game, you probably should have more than a few laughs packed in there.
That said, there are a number of banana-based pudding recipes in the credits sequence. So there’s that.
This is the big issue with Jack Keane 2 - every time I began to find some form of enjoyment and charm within the game, there would be an issue lurking around the corner. Its art style is colourful and pleasing, but deciding to animate their mouths for just half of the dialogue (or perhaps it was bugged, either or) killed any visual enjoyment along with the horrendous camera angles. The characters, which would approach being likeable, would be scuppered by the hit and miss delivery of their voice acting (which as I understand has been localised, unlike its predecessor), and the story, which I described to a friend as a “Sunday afternoon adventure film on Channel 5” would lose momentum thanks to some questionable and all-too-convenient plot points.
The overall issue with Jack Keane 2 is that you can see the potential for it to be an enjoyable game, but the execution of almost every aspect, from its artistic approach to its gameplay mechanics, have been done much better by other games, making this adventure game best described as a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” The 8-10 hour run time is not the worst way to spend your time, and fans of Jack Keane’s previous adventure will no doubt enjoy the ride, but considering the RRP of £20+ it’s a bit much for something that does not consistently hit the mark on many levels, especially when more established franchises offer more enjoyable and higher quality gaming experiences for the same price (or cheaper.)
- Charming and accessible art style
- Most of the puzzles are challenging without being too fiendish.
- Banana recipes in the credits look pretty tasty.
- Bravely attempt to mix up adventure game mechanics…
- … but the execution of said mechanics is below par.
- Poor camera angles affect both gameplay and cinematic moments.
- A comedy game that is rather light on laugh-out-loud moments.
The Short Version: While there is some enjoyment to be found in the return of the “captain,” poor execution of the gameplay mechanics and its comedic stylings mean that, while you can see the potential, the fire within certainly isn’t burning all that brightly for this adventure game.