Disenchanted by the world of gaming that requires fast hand to eye co-ordination and no need for solving puzzles, unless you count deciding which grunt to shoot first as a brainteaser? Well come this way, because Jack Keane will be a refreshing surprise. Developed by Deck13, most famous for cartoon point and clicker Ankh, Jack Keane has slipped under the radar somewhat. Without a huge amount of press coverage, it may not do amazingly well compared to the likes of the Broken Sword series or LucasArts' games; but it certainly deserves to be noticed.
As soon as I loaded up the game, I was instantly reminded of fond memories of Monkey Island and Broken Sword. Starting out with a cut-scene of a zany mad Doctor T and his assistant Miss Gristle, the silly cartoon humour was instantly apparent. Early on there was even a cheeky nod towards knowing it's just a game with a comment about how all games make a player aggressive anyhow. As the game goes on, the zany style continues. The story itself unfolds to be centred around Jack Keane, a supposedly British adventurer who has been given the task of meeting up with a secret agent and taking him to the mysterious Tooth Island. I say supposedly because despite being told in the game that Jack was orphaned and abandoned in London, his voice sounds distinctly American; although it doesn't affect the game at all as the voice acting carries a great sense of enthusiasm anyhow. As Jack discovers, he is inadvertently involved in a tea conspiracy... yes a tea conspiracy! Or so it seems at first, before the carnivorous plants start appearing.
The story gets sillier and sillier as the game progresses, but that's a great thing. It matches the bizarreness of LucasArts older games without copying them too much. All the action within the game is extremely cartoony, making it fun to play. The puzzles in point and click adventures are often the downfall, getting far too illogical and daft. In the case of Jack Keane, they gradually get harder meaning by the time you've got to them, your brain is working in the way that's needed to understand the problem. There are also no timed sequences in the game so you can take your time to solve each puzzle making it a very relaxing game, although sometimes infuriating when you just can't figure out the solution. Jack Keane himself is a very likeable character, the stereotypical cartoon-like adventurer. Think Indiana Jones mixed with George Stobbart of Broken Sword fame. Further on in the game, you are able to play as another character that initially seems like an enemy of Keane but turns out to be a valuable ally. This is not a huge change to the gameplay as it's still all point and click action but it makes the story a bit more interesting and causes quite a twist in the player's perception of what will unfold next.
The graphical style is completely appropriate to this type of game. It makes all the scenery look luscious and extremely pretty, but in a distinctly cartoon-like manner. Deck13 obviously have pretensions for realism, and that's what makes Jack Keane all the better. It is a welcome change from gritty realism, in fact. The graphics are pseudo-3D so the perspective is just right, much like one of the newer Broken Sword games but more defined. The voice acting is also extremely enjoyable, full of caricatures and slightly camp perhaps, but perfectly matched to the rest of the game.
Deck13 even manage to throw in some bonus features. Admittedly they're not the most interesting of features, wax works of the characters in the game, but it's always nice to be rewarded in some way. All of these bonus features are unlocked through completing small puzzles scattered around various parts of the game, which are not necessary to complete so as to progress within the game. Also at the end, make sure to watch the end of the credits for some outtakes, always good fun...
Overall, Jack Keane does exactly what it says on the box. It's an enjoyable romp of a point and click adventure, it manages to maintain a fun sense of humour, and it is the perfect antidote to the domination of instant gratification in first-person shooters and real-time strategy games. Jack Keane is well worth anyone's time and should cause a chuckle or two as well.
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