Over the years there have been numerous buccaneer-based adventure games, from early two-word parser games like Scott Adams' Pirate Adventure, through Infocom's more complex text adventures like Cutthroats and Plundered Hearts, and on to LucasArts' Monkey Island trilogy - the last of which, The Curse of Monkey Island, was far and away the best adventure game of 1997.
Cyberflix's Redjack: Revenge of the Brethren is the latest game to utilize a pirate storyline, but it is far from the greatest. In the past, Cyberflix has made interesting and original adventure games (Dust, Titanic: Adventure Out of Time) and dreadful action games (Skullcracker, Jump Raven). Redjack makes an attempt to blend these two genres, and it should be no surprise that the final result is a somewhat schizophrenic blend of good adventure and terrible action.
Redjack has many strengths. The basic story is fairly involving: You play a young man named Nick Dove who is being pressured from a variety of people in his town to make something of himself (though why they think signing on with a bunch of pirates is a good idea - and they all seem to think signing on with a bunch of pirates is a good idea - is never explained). As you prepare for the pirate's life, you learn of a group of pirates who sailed under the name the Brethren and were led by the legendary Captain Redjack. Redjack was betrayed by one of the Brethren during a particularly lucrative plundering and, as he died, cursed his treasure until the turncoat was revealed. Now, many years later, the few living Brethren are reuniting, and it is your job to find Redjack's betrayer.
The adventure portion of Redjack is standard fare. It's moderately fun but lacks the innovative elements that made Dust so interesting, such as characters who seem to lead their own lives and follow their own schedules. In Redjack, you simply move from port to port, solving one or two puzzles and talking to numerous characters in each place and moving on. It's a fairly standard adventure game in that respect. There are a number of "maneuver the mechanism" puzzles and a few intuitive inventory-based puzzles. The puzzles are not too hard, and if you get stuck, another character in the game will often have a small piece of advice. They will occasionally even tell you the solution to a puzzle, which saps some of the challenge from the game. Redjack is also, like most modern adventure games, far too short.
On a technical level, Redjack is really impressive. The characters are animated is a pseudo-claymation style, and each has a great deal of variety and personality in its animations. The voice acting is good, for the most part, and the ambient music is fitting, though at times it gets rather repetitive. The real strength of Redjack is its 3D engine. This isn't Unreal, mind you, but it's a great deal better than the 3D engines seen in games like Tex Murphy: Overseer.
So far, so good. It's just a shame that someone decided to go and spoil a decent adventure game by including action elements. There are two basic kinds of action sequences: swordplay and a sort of Mad Dog McRee-style shooting gallery. The swordplay isn't so bad - at first. The swashbuckling training portion of the game is actually quite fun, though you'll find in actual combat the techniques you learned aren't any more effective than just wildly swinging and parrying. The shooting sequences are even worse. Imagine trying to make a 3D shooter out of the Might & Magic VI engine, and you have the basic idea; the engine that was great for adventure is abysmal for action. Blocky, hard-to-see enemies and sluggish response time only complicate matters. Add to this the frustration of having to go through two of these sequences in a row without being given a chance to save, and you'll be pulling your hair out by the fistful in no time.
Had the designers stuck to the adventure side of things and spent more time developing the stories and the characters, the game would have been much, much better. As it stands, Redjack isn't all terrible; it's only half terrible, and your individual need for new adventure games will be the deciding factor in whether or not the competent half is worth the effort.