by Marcus Mulkins
reviewed on PC
A flashback to the Monkey Island glory days
Once upon a time, this game was going to be entitled Jack Keane and the Dokktor's Island. That was back in 2005 and shortly after developer Deck 13 had just released a well-received game entitled Ankh. Along the way, besides changing publishers a couple of times, the title got shortened. Whatever the reason(s), after about three years of ballyhoo, it looks like the game is -finally- going to make its debut.
On the surface, the game looks like it taps in to most of the fun aspects that were to be found in Monkey Island. Does mentioning that game give you a clear idea of what to expect? The image that conjures up for me includes ‘cartoonish’ artwork (check), pervasive tongue-in-cheek humor (check), point-and-click interface (check), cursor rollovers that indicate how on-screen objects are to be used (check), pick-your-choice-of-clever-lines dialogue trees (check). Yeah, the game has all that, so I guess my work is done here! What's that? You want details? Oh, alright then…
All Jack needs is a battered fedora and you'd have....
At the start of the game, Jack's poor money management skills have caught up with him. The loan shark that lent him the money to buy his galleon, ‘The Charming Princess’, is tired of waiting for his money, plus interest, of course. Two thugs are entertaining Jack at the top of Big Ben. Despite being bound to a chair, you will have to figure out a way to extricate Jack from his predicament and get him back to his ship. (I'll give you a clue: it involves masochism)
Once back to his ship, before he can sail off into the sunset ahead of the leg breakers, Jack meets an agent of Her Majesty's Secret Service. "Your mission, Mr. Keane, when you have accepted it, is to sail to Cape Town and pick up a British undercover agent. Thereafter, you will deliver him to an island in the Indian Ocean. For performing this task, your grateful government will bestow upon you the sum of 10,000 British pounds." Of course, Jack seizes upon the task as the quick and easy way to settle his debts, and then some.
Not so fast matey
Of course, you have already figured out that there will be very little about this mission that is ‘easy’. For starters, when he gets to Cape Town, he will discover that the undercover agent is a little... eccentric. Oh, okay, make that a LOT eccentric given that the agent thinks that disguising himself with a Mexican sombrero and serape is the ideal camouflage in Cape Town, South Africa. Naturally, for whatever reason, the Brits think that that agent is –the- agent to send to Tooth Island to undo the evil machinations of an evil botanist -appropriately named Doctor T- with an appropriately evil scheme to kill off the entire British tea crop, worldwide. Knowing just how much Brits love their tea -Queen Vicky in particular- they would then be forced to buy all of their tea from Doctor T as he would have the singular tea species capable of coping with the botanical tea nemesis he himself has unleashed.
Once Jack's ship arrives at Tooth Island, he most likely wanted to simply drop the British Secret Service nutcase and go back to London to collect his money. If only he hadn't sailed smack into the island. Fortunately, unlike the Exxon Valdez, he wasn't carrying a load of crude oil. He was left with the option of tagging along with the nutcase or… tagging along with the nutcase. It certainly looks like he won't get off the island until the entire affair is over, so he might as well do what he can to get it over with quicker. You get the idea.
More like having Jerry Lewis cast as Indy Jones
The puzzles you find along the way shouldn't be too painful to sort out. Jack has a tendency to think to himself out loud, so you will not lack for clues about what is needed to solve any particular puzzle. And if you botch a conversation thread through a dialogue, you will always be allowed to step back and start from scratch. Sooner or later you will get it right. And just to keep things interesting, just so you don't get too hung up on your macho male hero ego trip, you will have to accomplish certain goals with a feisty American femme fatale named Amanda.
Jack Keane is NOT supposed to be a serious brain teaser. Think of it more like an Indiana Jones movie with Jerry Lewis cast as the hero instead of Harrison Ford. I'll suggest that it could have been a serious brainteaser, given some of the solutions. But with Jack providing you enough hints all along the way, no obstacle is insurmountable, no matter how twisted the ‘ideal’ solution may be. Toss in the many entertaining conversations scattered liberally throughout, and the odds favor that you will find yourself laughing out loud at least a time or two before you reach the credits roll at the end. There won't be any immersive high tech cut scenes that will wow you with graphic eye candy. Nor will you be sucked into a first-person perspective with a full spherical view of the environment. What you will do is work through some puzzles that won’t make you reach for the aspirin. And you will laugh, just often enough that you actually stay with the game, if only to see what it is that will make you laugh next. When you finish, you will be wishing there was more.
No Pros and Cons at this time