Jack Keane Review
We head off for an adventure with Jack Keane.
Review by Lewis Denby
Published 10th September 2008
- Developer: Deck13
- Publisher: 10tacle Studios
- Release Date: 7th March 2010
Is it synonymous with the adventure genre these days that the game should spectacularly crash early on? The biggest problem with the one on show here was when it occurred: not right at the start, but a couple of hours in. An even larger problem was my assumption that the game would have any kind of auto-save feature at the start of a new chapter. It doesn't. I had to start again.
To be fair to Jack Keane, this was the only crash I experienced during my time with the game, but it seems bizarre not to periodically save progress when bugs like this are occasionally unavoidable. If this had happened after another hour, I'd have been far less inclined to bother starting again at all, and I'd have missed out on a surprisingly refreshing and enjoyable adventure.
The eponymous protagonist is an arrogant, cock-sure youth embarking on a voyage to the mysterious Tooth Island to prove to the world, and seemingly to the insecure teenager buried deep inside him, that he's the fastest in the world at navigating the route to India. Tooth Island, of course, houses all sorts of nasty goings-on, headed up by a man named Doctor T, and involving a plot to become the only tea trader in the world. It's a charming Lucas Arts-esque affair, and the 19th Century atmosphere is delivered brilliantly. The silliness of the whole thing is fantastic, and while its cultural references get a little confused at times, many do provide for some decent giggles. It's let down by a generally uninspiring cast of stereotypical characters, but some of the clichés serve their purpose here, despite offering nothing in the way of depth.
Despite a little silliness, the puzzles at the heart of the matter are actually pretty good, and it brings me to tears to find that this is a genuine surprise in a modern adventure game. Credit where credit's due, though, even without comparison to sub-par competition, Jack Keane provides some tantalising and usually logically-solvable problems from start to finish. It's still a case of 'use the bin bag on the skeleton', but it does at least reason things well, and those familiar with the classic Lucas Arts titles will feel very much at home here. There's rarely any horrific backtracking, either. In fact, quite the opposite is true: Jack Keane is an exceptionally driven, forward-moving experience, perfectly paced and always giving an incentive for progression.
That incentive is rather important, as Jack Keane is a huge game. The game is split into eleven chapters, each taking anywhere between half an hour and three hours to complete. It's not huge in a Bethesda RPG sense by any means – areas are nicely compact and everything always lies within easy reach. But the scale of the narrative may daunt the younger or less experienced sector of the audience that would otherwise clearly find an appealing title in Jack Keane. It's no bad thing to make a lengthy game, and this one certainly presents value for money if nothing else, but its sprawling nature does seem somewhat at odds with the otherwise mainstream style.
Visuals are a mixed bag of charmingly colourful architecture and barely competent technology. Environments and characters in the fully-3D engine are blocky and low-res, but hats off to Deck 13 for not relying on dated 2D backdrops. Despite the mechanics, the overall effect is still rather nice, thanks to the skilful artwork on display here. It's definitely all about the Monkey Island imagery, which works perfectly for Jack Keane, especially when a mid-range machine will run it without a hitch on full detail.
So far, so very, very good, but Jack Keane seems to have fallen flat on its arse while preparing for the voyage to Britain.
Originally a German title, Jack Keane's UK appearance is something of a botched job. Translation is passable, aside a couple of grammatical gripes and the occasional odd bit of dialogue that doesn't quite work in another language, but the voice acting is thoroughly atrocious throughout. It's delivered with passion, yet still manages to get so many things horribly wrong. The emphasis and timing are so frequently way off that nothing flows with any cohesion whatsoever. It's as if the actors have been offered zero guidance when delivering their lines, and I sincerely doubt anyone read the script beyond the actual words they were speaking. This is a game that manages to make an ordinary conversation seem like two people reciting monologues to the same camera. The script itself is fine, which makes it all the more perplexing.
Elsewhere, there's more nonsense. Jack frequently informs everyone how proud he is to be a Londoner… in a plucky American accent. A man from the Secret Service speaks in a stuffy British voice, but says the word 'route' in its American form every single time. There are bizarre pronunciations all over the place, and traces of real accents seeping through the hammy voiceovers every second. There are volume issues throughout, seconds of sounds randomly skip, and some bits of spoken dialogue don't even match the subtitles. Jack Keane creates a lovely cartoon illusion and atmosphere, but in one swift swoop it almost entirely eradicates it.
It's a shame that such a solid adventure game is spoiled by this sort of laziness, and if you can forgive this fault there's a lot to like about Jack Keane. Gripes aside, it's a fitting homage to classic examples of the genre, and should be thoroughly enjoyable to adventure connoisseurs and newcomers alike.
Review Score: 7/10
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