Jack’s back – and no, I don’t mean the CTU agent made famous by Kiefer Sutherland. I mean Jack Keane, the hero from the game with the same name. The original Jack Keane was a 3D point-and-click adventure title with some family-friendly charm, due to its Indiana Jones inspiration crossed with a dose of Monkey Island (remember the first game’s box art?) salad dressing, but suffered from unfortunately poor translation work and voice acting that ended up losing some of the ring to its one-liners and overall comedy. After five years, Deck13 Interactive is returning with Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within, a follow-up that returns the charm of the original, but still suffers from some executional problems that stop it from being a great adventure title.
The game begins a few years after the first game in the year 1899, with Jack Keane following a rumour about a mysterious treasure in a Chinese city. For Jack, the journey to China isn’t one of glamour, and as often with rumours, there is trouble waiting, as Jack ends up getting himself slammed in a cell in a Shanghai prison. Lucky for Jack, his roommate happens to be a shaman with the power to reveal where treasure is hidden. Unfortunately, the shaman dies while entombing this information into the hero’s subconscious. With hints locked in his head, Jack must escape the prison with the help from his lovely partner, Amanda, and travel the seas to find the rest of the amulet pieces and discover what awaits him. But just like all the good action-adventure flicks, there’s a bad guy who wants to stop him and claim all the loot as his own.
In typical point-and-click fashion, there are a lot of interactions to be done between characters and the world.Jack Keane 2 makes it a fun time to get through the game’s plot. This is due to the light-hearted nature represented by the characters you meet on Jack’s journey and the humorous attitude that surrounds the game’s story. It’s not often that you can say you hired a Gorilla as a cook on your ship that only serves banana-based meals. Another great example is that the game isn’t afraid to acknowledge some carefree banter, such as when you arrive at the Hamburg docks. This shipping area is populated by Germans, which the game makes fun of by explaining that Germans have no sense of humour – the developers are German, so it’s nice to know they can put themselves in for a joke without getting insulted. During your time in Hamburg, you meet a worker who won’t tell you his name. This is where the dialogue takes a turn to break the fourth wall when Jack explains that “when the mouse points at you, it says Rolf.” Breaking the fourth wall rarely happens, but when it does, it doesn’t come off feeling cheap – it’s tucked neatly in with the rest of the game’s comedy.
It’s a theme that suits well with the game’s 3D cartoon-like aesthetic. Jack Keane 2 is truly well-presented, and the characters and environments look great in this visual flair. Since the game is in 3D, it means you can use either the WASD keys or the mouse to direct Jack (or whoever else is in control at that given moment) where to go. The mouse is not the recommended control scheme for this game; the nature of the fixed camera angles in the 3D world make it hard at times to judge where to drag the mouse so that Jack follows correctly. One example is when you try to walk down a volcano in one of Jack’s visits to his subconscious, and very bizarre, mind. Jack refused to walk down it, and that was the point where I transferred over to the WASD buttons, which solved most of the control problems I had with the game. The only other thing I wasn’t too keen on (ha, get it?) is the inclusion of jumping and using that as a requirement to get to some areas of the world – the fixed camera doesn’t help the player to judge a simple jump. It feels really bad, and even if you make it, the angle messes up on the keyboard that you’ll accidentally fall off and have to do it again. It’s all very cumbersome.
Puzzles are an essential part of a point-and-click game, and Jack Keane 2 is full of many to solve. Unlike the recent The Night of the Rabbit, Jack Keane 2 is much easier to come to the conclusion of what you should be doing to solve the problem that lies in front of you. I never found the game too difficult to figure out, and its linear progression makes sure you’re never doing more than a puzzle or two at a time. It also helps that there is a light bulb in the corner of the screen, which when highlighted will glow all objects that can be picked up within the environment. I ended up using this once in every room as a way to check to see if I had missed anything. It can be quite hard to see which items are available to take without them glowing with the help of this feature. Your inventory never becomes overwhelming, and for the most part you often use the items soon after acquiring them. There is some trial and error (when is there not in this genre?), but you’ll figure it out fast due to the limited stock of inventory items you find.
To distinguish itself from the normal classic adventure game, Jack Keane 2 throws in a relationship mechanic that is very simple at best. The idea is that you pick between certain dialogue options at specific points in the game when two of Jack’s female friends, Amanda and Eve, are asking for Jack to agree with their side to a discussion. This ranges from giving one of them a snow coat to agreeing if one is better at seducing men to make them talk. The banter between Amanda and Eve in the game did get annoying towards the end. The two females bicker an awful lot that you end up feeling just like Jack Keane does – fed up and annoyed at their little pitiful arguments. Another part of the game is the fights. They don’t feature often – around five or six times – but they aren't exciting to deal with. It’s trying to copy the idea of Monkey Island’s insult sword fighting, but instead with funny martial art attacks. It’s not amusing. The fights are a game of choice: you pick a defensive move that will work against the opponent’s incoming attack, then answer with your own attack and hope it’s the right one so it isn't blocked. Taking part in combat is just dull – there’s no other word for it.
Even though Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within has some issues with its controls and features a relationship idea that isn't fleshed out, the time you spend with Jack and his chums is no doubt enjoyable and manages to hit most of the right notes for a point-and-click game. It moves at a steady pace without interrupting the player much with mystifying puzzles, which is helped by the fact that they can be solved without having to think up inconceivable solutions. Jack Keane 2 might not be the smashing excellence in the genre that The Walking Dead was praised for last year, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give Jack Keane 2 a try if you like a bit of delightful comedy in your adventure games.