It’s been five years since our first encounter with Jack Keane in his first game. Now Frankfurt based developers Deck13 Interactive are back with Nordic Games handling publishing of Jack’s next adventure – Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within. We’ve been spending some time with the game to see if it improves upon the original.
The Fire Within is set in 1899, a number of years after the first game. Your adventure begins in Shanghai but will also take you around the world to locations such as Hamburg, Egypt and Africa. The game throws you straight into a firefight in control of returning character Amanda with her trusty rifle. It’s a little confusing at first but the sequence introduces you to the games mix of action and point-and-click adventure.
Amanda is on her way to rescue Jack who starts his adventure locked up in prison. After the opening with Amanda is complete the action shifts to Jack who is stuck in his cell with a dead shaman. It’s a typically bizarre setting but we’d expect nothing less from this genre. Jack’s first task is to escape his cell using the items available to him. There’s a filthy pillow case, a watery bowl of soup, a newspaper and a dirty toilet cover. The solution doesn’t make a lot of sense at first and we stumbled upon parts of it through trial and error.
The game uses the mouse to point and click on characters and items. Jack will automatically pick up things that he can use or give some explanation about what you clicked on. There’s a helper option you can use to highlight objects in the world but frustratingly this doesn’t show everything that you can click on. Your inventory is show at the top of the screen and you can examine items or use them to solve puzzles.
There’s a lot of humour in the story and the conversations you have with the characters you meet. When Jack is talking to another character the game usually presents you with a choice of things to say to them. His responses are often quite fun or silly which adds to the entertainment but the conversations are always quite linear.
Early in the game Jack is entered into a prison fight that he needs to win. Before he stands a chance he needs to learn to fight by completing a series of puzzles. Fights take place in slow motion with your opponent always attacking first. You must then choose one of your defensive moves and if you manage to counter their attack you can then attack back with one of your offensive moves. Fights are irritating at first as there is no way to win until you learn enough moves.
As well as combat the game also features some platforming sequences. Jack can be moved around using left mouse to move to a set location or holding it to run. Right mouse carries out a jump. Alternatively you can use the keyboard to move, jump and run but neither control method is particularly easy. The game really could have been improved in this area.
Thankfully the story and the puzzles are the main focus of the game and they will keep you entertained and confused in equal measure. Most of the puzzles actually aren’t too hard but it is always satisfying each time you beat one and progress a little further. When we did get stuck we found ourselves falling back to the old adventure game solving method of scanning everything on the screen and attempting to use every item with everything else. Sometimes it’s only once you solve a puzzle that you realise what the developers were trying to get you to do in the first place.
The game is very well presented and uses a cartoon-like aesthetic. Characters and environments are quite detailed and the modelling and texture work is good. The voice work is actually quite decent characters lip-sync to their words and feature some nice animations. At times the game feels a little buggy in places and this can be noticeable during movement but we didn’t find any issues that were game breaking.
Despite some rough edges and problematic controls we actually rather enjoyed our time on Jack Keane’s latest adventure. Some of the puzzles are a little too obtuse and the game might have been better had it focused solely on the adventure parts but it’s still a fun game. It’s nice to see a game attempting to bring something new to the genre. If you enjoy these kinds of games then Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within is an adventure worth taking.
For more information check out the official Jack Keane website.