Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within is an old-school point and click adventure game from the talented German developers at Deck13 Interactive. It stars Jack Keane a somewhat buffoonish, somewhat heroic adventurer who bears more than a little resemblance to a certain Guybrush from a certain Monkey Island series. The first game in the series, released in 2008, was something of a sleeper hit. It featured a script that was decent and contained a cast of characters that were actually fun to interact with, even the annoying Amanda, the token buxom blonde love interest. However, sub-par production values, poor movement and technical glitches held back what could have been a truly great gaming experience.
The first thing that struck was how much better this game looked. The opening few minutes, which consisted of a gunfight aboard a burning ship, showcased just how much more cinematic Jack Keane 2 was. Facial animation is expressive and nuanced. The environments are lush and vibrant, making full use of the ‘cartoony’ aesthetic to drench each vista in color. If you want a comparison, think Telltale’s Back to the Future series of games, same sort of color pallet and aesthetic appeal. Overall though, the graphics in Jack Keane 2 are a treat.
In this adventure, Jack has to travel east to find a mystical treasure. Sound cliché? Well, that’s because it is. There was some real potential here but by the end of the story, it’s pretty average. Also, the dialogue fails to deliver. Adventure games need to have awesome dialogue, loads of humor and likable characters because sometimes puzzles have the ability to frustrate and annoy you. Think of it as Pavlovian conditioning, the funny character moments as being the rewards for working out the puzzles. Unfortunately, the dialogue and humor here is hit and miss, with more miss than hit. There is definitely effort here but the humor is just not that funny. There is a section in the game where players will enter Hamburg and Amanda tells you many times that Germans do not have much of a sense of humor. Now the developers of this game, Deck13 Interactive, are German. Suffice to say, this was quite telling.
The voice acting on the main characters are good, especially Jack Keane. The NPC voice acting however, is cringe worthy. The opening stage is set in a Shanghai Prison and the NPCs populating this level sound like they were pulled from South Park’s City Wok dude, it does get a bit better as the game goes on but not by much at all. Overall, these flaws mar what could have actually been a very good story.
Jack Keane 2, like all point and click adventure games is all about solving context based situational puzzles by exploring your environment to find the solutions. Here, puzzles are more frustrating than fun. They aren’t overtly difficult but a number of issues just increase that frustration level. The first frustrating experience is when players will enter an area it isn’t obvious what items can be picked up and which cannot. To solve some puzzles, gamers will have to stare at every nook and cranny to get everything in order, which is more tedious and annoying than it is challenging. The game has a feature that will highlight objects that could be picked up but most of the objects are small so this tool is mostly useless. To say nothing of the terrible camera which is fixed making you actually move if you want to see something.
Adding to this frustrating are the many technical faults. Since Jack Keane 2 is a 3D game, you can actually move him using either the mouse or the WSAD keys. Needless to say, this is not the most fluid of movement systems. You can often click on an object many times but Jack will just stand in front of it and stare making you maneuver him into different positions before he will finally pick up the object.
Along with the puzzles, Jack Keane 2 has included some rudimentary platforming and fighting sections. Unfortunately both of these elements fall flat. The platforming especially is painful because quite simply, the movement controls in a point and click are not made for the precision jumping required for platforming. It’s like trying to thread a needle with a truck. The combat section is better, it plays a bit like rock-paper-scissors in which you have to watch your enemy’s attack stance and choose the appropriate counter. In reality this adds up to watching an enemy in slow motion and clicking the counter from a list. This section could have added some much needed fast tempo action but is instead even slower than the rest of the game, making it more of a chore than anything else. Overall, when the game actually pull the reigns back and gives classical point and click style gameplay, its fine but all this unnecessary padding just detracts and frustrates.
Jack Keane 2 has a surprisingly good soundtrack. The ambient music fits the scenes well and I especially like the folk tribal music that plays in the pause screen. Sound effects are also well done, a bullet hitting a cannonball has a believable ring to it and cannon fire actually sounds menacing. The full orchestral themes also help to heighten the sense of high adventure the developers have been going for.
Overall, Jack Keane 2 is a competent point and click adventure game with very solid production values and a likeable main cast. However, technical glitches, very frustrating puzzles and poorly implemented controls hold this back from becoming the next Monkey Island.