Jekyll & Hyde
First posted on 15 October 2013. Last updated on 15 October 2013.
The game is available at GamersGate.
Jekyll & Hyde (not to be confused with Jekyll & Hyde developed by In Utero and published by DreamCatcher Interactive in 2001), from German game developer Pixelcage, is an interesting attempt to adopt Robert Louis Stevenson's classic characters, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, into a totally different story. The attempt, unfortunately, is not completely successful: the monotonous settings, the limited controls over the characters' abilities, and the complete lack of the feel of the source material make the famous characters feel superfluous, leaving all of their potentials left unexploited.
The game's story begins in London in the late 1800s, at a time when the death toll in the general population is fast rising because of the plague. Jekyll is compelled to help and begins to experiment by mixing different ingredients into potions in order to find a cure for the disease. In an experiment that Jekyll has decided to perform on himself, the potion which he has concocted turns the quiet and reflective Jekyll into the impetuous and savage Hyde. While trying to recreate the potion, Jekyll falls in a well inside his manor and discovers an underground labyrinth of ancient tunnels running through the city. As he starts to investigate, he discovers a dangerous occult sect that wants to bring back the ancient Greek gods to rule the world. With the mind of Jekyll and the muscles of Hyde, you (as Jekyll or Hyde) must stop the terror from beneath the streets that is a threat to the city above (and the rest of the world).
The game's graphics are good. The characters are well rendered. The underground tunnels and dungeons are detailed, even if a bit repetitive. The cut scenes deserve special praise. They are beautifully illustrated in a hand drawn style that are narrated like a diorama.
The game is played from a third-person perspective. Sometimes, the camera aims at too high of an angle that you cannot see clearly what lies in front of you. The camera changes automatically as you move around, though it can also be manually adjusted. Unfortunately, these perspective shifts often occur at the most inopportune times, without any predictable pattern. Too frequently, the camera changes direction just as you jump across a chasm or make a turn: left then becomes right (and vice versa) and forward then becomes backward (and vice versa). The control of the characters also lags, making it a challenge to time and position the characters correctly before a jump. This leads to frequent deaths during platforming that are simply frustrating.
The game's sounds are a mixed bag. The ambient sound effects are good and mostly coherent with the environment. By contrast, the music is too repetitive and not at all memorable. Fortunately, the voice acting is nearly flawless. Both Jekyll and Hyde are well acted, and their voices match perfectly with their characters' contrasting personalities.
Alas, the weakest part of the game by far is the gameplay. Not infrequently, the puzzles are just tiresome variants of logic puzzles that require you to guess the correct sequences or patterns. When you select an object that can be taken or manipulated, a magnifying glass or a hand cursor will appear. You can also prepare potions with Jekyll's portable lab: a briefcase with test tubes in which you can mix different ingredients according to secret recipes that you can find scattered throughout the areas you explore. These potions give Hyde special abilities, such as enhanced strength or vision. However, you can only turn to Hyde at fixed points in the game, when you need extra strength to move a heavy obstacle or to jump across long distance. In this sense, Hyde is a mere workhorse for heavy labor.
The game has a built-in perpetual hint system. By pressing the H key, all hotspots with which you can interact to make progress in the game are shown. Yet, at times, this overbearing handholding can make the game feel like a giant tutorial. It seems as if the developer is worried that the puzzles may have been overly difficult, even though they are actually quite easy.
Fans of Stevenson's novella will be disappointed with this game. The game's story makes little effort to connect with the source material. Rather, much of the story deals with Greek mythology, and much of the game takes place solely underground among caves, mines, tunnels, and even lava rivers. It is only until near the end of the game that you emerge out from underground to have a final battle against the forces of evil. It is difficult not to ignore the fact that both Jekyll and Hyde are largely superfluous and that any other pair of characters will likely serve the story equally well. Perhaps the developer believes that putting these famous characters in the story will give a deeper and more cultured tone to the game.
The potion making is a rather simple mixing process. Every time you discover a new ingredient and recipe, you can prepare it to give Hyde a new power. It is a superficial way to incorporate a bit of role-playing game element in the gameplay. However, because it does not actually allow you to modify your character at will (but only at times deemed necessary by the game), the added element seems shallow in practice.
The game natively supports keyboard, mouse, and even gamepad controls. The use of a gamepad can definitely make some of the platforming easier.
There is a notable lack of character interaction in the game. In fact, most of the game is a solitary marathon. All of the pivotal narratives in the story are told through cut scenes rather than in-game events. As with a movie, if the storyline is good enough, there is no need to explain it so deliberately.
Despite the game's shortcomings, Jekyll & Hyde makes for a good introduction for novice gamers. The generous hint system and appealing graphics will attract newcomers to the adventure genre. Mixing other genres in the gameplay will also make the game appeal to a wider audience. It is a pity that the game has so little ties to Stevenson's original story. Seasoned gamers may want to skip over this game, as well as those who expect a strong literary adventure.