Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within
Jack Keane 2 is a point-and-click adventure game, something of an hommage to the classic Monkey Island series, brought to us by Deck 13.
I wish I could say that I liked this game because I really wanted to. Although I never played the first Jack Keane, released in 2008, I have fond memories from playing Monkey Island back in my younger days. Unfortunately, this isn't the 90’s anymore and the game suffers simply by utilizing such an archaic gameplay mechanic.
The Walking Dead episodic series from Telltale Games showed that the point-and-click style of gameplay didn’t have to fall to the wayside with the emergence of modern computing. Telltale managed to create a game that delivered emotion, action, and puzzle solving in perfectly controlled portions that never got bogged down by frustrating to discover logical leaps. Unfortunately, Jack Keane 2 did not learn from Telltale and this game is full of logical pitfalls that did nothing but turn me off (subsequently causing me to turn the game off).
Logical disconnects are, in my own opinion, the primary reason that modern point-and-click adventures fail to find an audience. The entire gameplay experience revolves around searching the environment for clickable objects, storing those objects in your inventory, and then rubbing all of your inventory items together and across every inch of every wall you come across like some sort of OCD crazy person.
Even when solutions seem obvious, it is a struggle to match your current vision for success and the pre-prescribed path that the developer has laid forth. Take the opening sequence: you start out on a boat with two thugs shooting at you. Armed with a rifle, the obvious solution to this puzzle is to shoot the bad guys, right? No… no, you are wrong and you should feel bad for thinking that. The actual solution is to shoot a random barrel that is hiding a box of explosives (which you couldn't know) so you can then shoot that to defeat thug number one. The second thug is defeated by kicking a barrel of whiskey at him and then shooting the puddle of whiskey, which results from the barrel breaking, causing an explosion that knocks him off the ship. Did I mention that you didn't actually defeat the first thug with the explosion? Nope, you only distracted him. Now you have to shoot a box of cannon balls so as to make one roll onto the thug's head to knock him out. It doesn't knock the thug out though, it just gives you time to get behind him so you can shoot a loose cannon to light the fuse and have the kickback knock him off the boat. Let me reiterate that you are doing all of this with a gun… A GUN THAT SHOOTS PEOPLE. If your reaction to that is "WTF," then you and me are on the same page.
That is what I mean by a logical disconnect. How am I supposed to know that the developer wants me to take my newly acquired police baton, tie a sponge to the end of the baton, coat the sponge in hair gel, and then use that as a torch? It’s not a fault of the game but a fault of the genre. Jack Keane 2 is living in the past. At one point these gameplay mechanics where a revolutionary way of telling a story with limited processing power, but that isn’t the age we are living in. No, I don’t want Jack Keane to be another Call of Duty, but I don’t want it to be what it is either. It needed to have taken queues from more modern (more successful) point-and-click adventures, such as The Walking Dead, and adopted those gameplay elements rather than trying to remind us of Monkey Island.
Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within is a game that wants to win you over with its charm and wit where it can’t win you over with its gameplay. This may work on some, but the majority of the humor fell flat for me. Most of the jokes felt juvenile, at best, with some of the context specific dialogue becoming downright grating when you were stuck in a room trying to figure out what the developer wants you to do.
I feel that one of the major issues I have with the humor is in the game's delivery. The voice acting felt very… robotic, with major characters having over the top accents that distracted from the dialogue. I can see a lot of the jokes and off kilter comments being more suited to a deadpan style of delivery, but that is too nit-picky even for me to delve deeper into. It is possible that I just didn't understand some of the humor; Jack Keane 2 was originally released for a German audience over a year ago and their comedic tastes may just differ. I can't forgive the moments where I felt truly annoyed by the gameplay and that annoyance was being compounded upon by repetitive, poorly voiced, one liners.
While I can’t personally give my recommendation for Jack Keane 2, I understand that it is a genre that has a dedicated following, not to mention that fans of the original Jack Keane will still find Jack Keane 2 to be an enjoyable experience. It is a classic point-and-click adventure in every sense of the word. It is a game that almost feels frozen in time and may be worth a try if you are yearning for some gaming nostalgia.
+ Nostalgic gaming - Archaic, frustration inducing
+ Made for point-and-click purists - Poor, over-the-top voice acting
- Hit or miss jokes resulting in