Even though in the great video game hospital the adventure genre is a morgue from which not even the most renowned patients return, during the past few years various producers have tried to reanimate some bodies, either by introducing a new gameplay element, or recruiting artists from other fields to offer, as they say, the best of both worlds (i.e. Benoit Sokal for Syberia).
Jack Keane is an effort to revive the “oldschool” adventure format, on which Day of the Tentacle and Sam & Max Hit the Road were based, meaning it goes back to ridiculous puzzles, pop-culture references and the good ol’ point-and-click. Alongside the episodic phenomenon that is Sam & Max, Jack Keane oozes of the golden-age LucasArts atmosphere, and unsurprisingly picks up a few ideas from the Monkey Island saga.
When looking at the screenshots, one can notice the cartoonish graphics, caricaturized characters and… monkeys. The story’s got its own mix of adventure movie clichés, covered in jokes and a comedy nuance, from the title character – an orphan pirate grown in London to the villain – to a diabolical tea magnate with a speaking deficit who wants to destroy the British Empire.
However, the main interests of any seasoned adventure fan are the puzzles: well, the vast majority of them lack any form of logic – which isn’t necessarily bad. If you’re used to the wacky ideas that Day of the Tentacle demanded, for instance, to get Washington’s wooden teeth, Jack Keane has its own series of quirks. Distracting an old, bitter housekeeper by framing a gorilla with a couple of mishaps or “reanimating” a tiger with a shopping cart, the game succeeds in maintaining the essence of some of the most illogical and funny moments in the adventure genre.
Even so, some puzzles seem to be inserted just for continuity’s sake. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that they have to be logical or surprising all the time, but scratching your left ear with your right hand isn’t always as funny as it seems. It’s not a big error on their part, but I found myself wondering why a puzzle was put in the game a few times.
The story isn’t exactly original and it doesn’t have enough substance to sustain a franchise, but it’s comparable to the adventure movies of the 80s. It does have its own flavor and it’s sprinkled with references to The Lord of the Rings, The Godfather, lost and other products of mainstream culture, which you most certainly already know. It’s got enough motivation to keep the game away from the dusted shelves before you reach the end, but that’s about it. From a perspective that’s willing to compromise, Jack Keane is the promise that LucasArts didn’t keep after incorporating it in Escape from Monkey Island: a 5-game MI contract.
That being said, the facts are as follows: Jack Keane is a ship captain whose career isn’t exactly going anywhere, sent alongside an extremely inefficient secret agent, in the name of Her Majesty, to solve a mystery that revolves around tea plantations of a certain Dr. T. He is joined by an ambitious missus, Amanda, who travels to the island to fill in her new job. The twist toward the ending isn’t uncommon, and it can be described just like the overall storyline: a cute effort, which justifies the trouble of making it, but doesn’t consecrate the game.
The few memorable characters are some Indian guy who mimics Don Corleone, several monks who distill alcohol at Mr. Daniels’ temple and a butcher who aspires to be a poet. I don’t exactly know why, I suppose that’s because I’ve already seen most of the character patterns already in other titles, but most of them didn’t suggest anything new to me.