First posted on 20 January 2009. Last updated on 10 January 2011.
The game is available at GamersGate.
Deck13 Interactive's Jack Keane is an adventure game imported from Germany. It is set in the tradition of LucasArts' Monkey Island. Deck13 Interactive is best known for the Ankh series of comedy adventure games, and Jack Keane has much in common with Ankh. As with Ankh, Jack Keane is a very satisfying game with solid production values and writing. Although a few problems with hotspots and counterintuitive puzzles have prevented the game from earning a perfect score, I still recommend it highly to any gamer who enjoys a lighthearted point-and-click adventure.
The game puts the player in the role of a ne'er do well ship captain named Jack Keane. As the game begins, Jack finds himself the captive of a couple of thugs, who are after him for the money he owes their boss. After Jack manages to escape, he is hired by the English to transport a special agent Montgomery to the mysterious Tooth Island, where a megalomaniacal botanist and tea planter (Doctor T) is scheming to disrupt the international tea trade. Along the way, Jack meets the beautiful Amanda, Doctor T's henchwoman. (Avid gamers will likely recognize Amanda's voice, performed by Lani Minella, who is also the voice of Nancy in Her Interactive's Nancy Drew series.) Amanda and Jack do not like each other at first, though their relationship gradually improves and they begin to grow fond of each other. As Jack devises a plan to stop Doctor T, he also learns a bit about his own mysterious childhood past.
The goal of any comedy based game is to inspire laughter, but with Jack Keane I seldom break into open guffaws while playing. A few of the better gags involve the relationship between Amanda and Jack, but Agent Montgomery is also quite funny as a pretentious charlatan with hilarious mannerisms. Nevertheless, I best describe this game as more zany than hilarious, more like The Secret of Monkey Island than Sam & Max Hit the Road. The developer does a good job poking fun at stale conventions. For instance, when Jack cuts some vines with his knife, grand music plays, as though something really wondrous has just occurred—when in fact, it is quite mundane work. Aside from the main story, there is also an important subplot concerning the island's natives who are planning a wedding before an accident (caused by Jack, not surprisingly) injuries the bridegroom who then succumbs to amnesia. This and several other plot twists help to turn the game into a rather long affair.
The puzzles in Jack Keane are mostly inventory based, usually involving finding and using an object or combining objects in the inventory to discover new uses. For instance, combining a telescope with Amanda's rifle turns it into a sniper rifle, which allows her to shoot at jars and barrels a great distance away. Most of these puzzles are intuitive enough, and the characters usually provide hints about their purpose. Thankfully, the developer has made the wise decision not to give the player too many objects to work with at any given time, so it is easy enough to rely on trial and error when all else fails. The developer also does a good job making use of hotspots. When Jack can climb on a ledge or rock, a bright, flashing star appears over the hotspot. I greatly appreciate this feature. As well, the developer has cleverly limited the areas Jack or Amanda can explore; this greatly reduces the tedium involved in backtracking all over a large map to try ideas. Finally, at certain points Jack can even activate bonus features, which allow him to zoom instantly to specific locations. Although the player gets to control Amanda at times, the bulk of the game is spent playing as Jack.
I was only stumped a few times while playing this game. In all cases, the problem turned out to be hotspots which I had failed to notice. Even with the flashing stars, some hotspots are very easy to miss, especially when walls or awkward camera angles can obscure them. Since the camera angels are fixed in each scene, the game may play much better if the player is allowed to control the camera instead. Also, the characters' frequent protests to the player ("That won't work") can become quite grating after awhile. The game is better off to either leave them out or limit how often they are repeated.
Some of the puzzles are dialog based, which necessitates going through each dialog option several times. Many of these are triggered by game events, so it may be necessary to repeatedly go through each and every option multiple times. This can become quite tedious and even uncalled for. If a developer really wants to force the player to talk to a character before moving on, it is better to give the character enough hints or suggestions to make it clear what needs to be done. For example, I found myself roaming for hours with Amanda, only to find out later that I needed to talk to Miss Gristle about lemon aid, but could do that only after I had executed a few other actions.
These complaints may overshadow what I have enjoyed about this game, however. Most impressive are the graphics and 3D animation. The characters all move realistically, and Amanda is among the most aesthetically pleasing characters I have yet seen in a videogame. The game is probably not suitable for all ages. It includes a few scenes in which Amanda is wearing nothing but her bra and panties, and there is an implied sexual encounter. There is also a funny section where Jack is completely naked, though the player only sees Jack's behind (he covers his private parts with his hands). I personally do not find any of this offensive or questionable, but some parents (who may be purchasing this game for their children) may not want their children to see these scenes. There is no cursing or gratuitous violence. The sound effects and music are good, though not particularly noteworthy. Voice acting is good to great throughout, though it was a bit disarming hearing Amanda say naughty things with the voice I have come to associate with Nancy Drew!
Jack Keane is a very good game that will likely please both Ankh and Monkey Island fans. Though not without a few flaws, most gamers will be impressed with Jack Keane's solid production values and attention to detail. I recommend it, though I sympathize with players who get stuck in this game. They need not to feel too guilty about their mishap—it is likely a missed hotspot or dialog option rather than their own ineptitude.