The inmates have taken over Dr. Henry Jekyll's insane asylum. His daughter has been kidnapped, and to rescue her he must find a book for a sinister attorney. To get the book, he must find three "metallic pieces." Like that description, Dreamcatcher Interactive's Jekyll & Hyde starts out promising and then quickly descends into nonsense and cliché. It's among the worst action-adventure games ever released and is so crippled by confusing camera angles and bad control that it seems less like a game and more like a parody of its genre.
Jekyll & Hyde's problems are both varied and numerous. They add up to make the game virtually unplayable, at least by anyone without an iron constitution and infinite patience. The most obvious problem will be apparent in the first few minutes of play. The controls are hard to manage, and getting Jekyll to turn precisely is a task in itself. He turns far too quickly, which makes rounding corners and maneuvering around objects a frustrating ordeal. Simply opening a door can take several tries as you attempt to navigate into the precise position required. You can imagine, then, how frustrating it can be to try to run along narrow beams and walkways in the game's more arcadelike sequences.
The camera angles make things even worse. The game is played primarily with the camera positioned behind your character. Its vain attempts to follow you would be funny if they didn't cause you to die so frequently. Monsters are always lurking around corners and behind objects, but it takes the camera a few moments to turn after you do, so you'll often be killed by something you never even saw. This condition is at its worst in the tight hallways of the asylum, but it remains a problem throughout the game. Other times, the camera will shift to a more "dramatic" position. These views are just as bad, especially when this position is higher up. It's surprising just how many objects the camera manages to hide behind, and your view will often be obscured just as you need to make a critical jump or fight an approaching monster.
These problems are compounded by the fact that the game includes numerous jumping puzzles and that combat is very difficult when you play as Dr. Jekyll. As Mr. Hyde, things are a bit better. He's stronger and can jump higher and farther, so neither the combat nor the precise jumping puzzles are quite as difficult when you play as Jekyll's darker side.
That's the game's big selling point: You play as both Jekyll and Hyde. Occasionally, you'll get the chance to switch from the weak, cane-wielding Jekyll into the feral Hyde. There are puzzles that require you to be one or the other, and you can change only in certain circumstances. It's a good idea, and it could possibly make for an interesting mechanic in a better game. Thankfully, Jekyll & Hyde doesn't attempt to make an already disturbing story "edgy." Unfortunately, in large part, it also has nothing to do with its source material, other than the fact that you play as both characters.
The story in Jekyll & Hyde falls back on the most unoriginal of console platform-game formulas. Find the several things and then get the big thing. You must find the "metallic pieces" to get the mysterious book. The search for the pieces takes you to a Chinese brothel, a graveyard, some docks, a train, and many other diverse locations. The game is apparently inspired by Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the characters and locations are well designed. But they look bad, mostly because of the game's flat look. Everything looks two-dimensional, and the effect, coupled with the camera's erratic behavior, can be nauseating.
The original artists tried, at least. The characters you'll encounter are creative, including huge, machete-wielding guards, scary lunatics, undead creatures, and even robots. Fighting them is essentially the same in every case: You run up, hit them a few times, and they die. The artificial intelligence for these creatures is nonexistent--enemies will often turn and walk away in the midst of running straight at you. Other times, they'll whack away and kill you easily, as you desperately try to turn your character into a position where you can hit them back.
Dying in Jekyll & Hyde is not fun. The save-and-reload function is terrible, combining the "bookmark" feature of console games with the save-anywhere feature of PC games. If you die in a level, you must start the whole thing over, or at least at your last bookmark. There's no autosave at bookmarks, so you must manually save if you want to restart at your last position when you resume. It's a worst-of-both-worlds solution, and it's made even worse when you realize that you've done something wrong and there's no going back. Turn into Hyde before you're supposed to, kill some people, and then realize you are irrevocably stuck in the game. So you have to save often, but not for the reasons you're accustomed to. It's nothing but a safeguard against dead ends and the game's fairly frequent crashes, and as a way to avoid repeating too much of the game when you restart.
Chances are you won't restart, though. Jekyll & Hyde is so bad that the few good elements seem like nice little surprises. The voice acting isn't terrible, for instance. You might appreciate that. Otherwise, you'll just find yourself frustrated and annoyed, forgetting its promising premise, its one interesting mechanic, and its creative design while you frantically try to get the camera to move so you can grab the ledge or hit the zombie with your cane.