What is it?
More to the point,
who is Jack Keane?
Well, General Jack
Keane is a retired four-star general and former Vice Chief of Staff of the
United States Army, and a defence analyst. No really! He is.
However, for the
rest of this article I'm going to play along with a little bit of fiction
that Jack is the captain of the down-on-her-luck merchant ship, the
Charming Princess. He's an orphaned adventurer with serious debts, a
mutinous crew of two ne'er-do-wells, a strange pocket knife, and he's
suffering the tender attentions of a pair of underworld thugs intent on
beating him to a pulp.
There! I'm sure
that'll make for a much more entertaining read.
The game called
Jack Keane is a point-n-click adventure game that I downloaded from
GamersGate. It's a full-sized DVD game, so the download is big: 750MB big.
However, the GamersGate download program did it all quite smoothly, and I
was up and running faster than if I'd ordered the game from a
'conventional' e-retailer. But I must question why sites like GamersGate
get to charge almost the same as a bricks-and-mortar store for an entirely
electronic distribution channel (with no manual in this case). Their costs
are hardly comparable with someone supplying a boxed piece of software
with a manual, not to mention heat, light, staff and other ancillary
Enough ranting, back to the game.
The game was originally written and released in
Germany, and now it's been translated into English, and woe betide anyone
who suggests the Germans have no sense of humour. This game is full of sly
little jokes and downright funny moments. 10tacle Studios and Deck 13
Interactive have done a great job of storytelling in a colourful and
Give me a flavour of the plot?
As I've already
mentioned, the eponymous Jack is in a bit of a pickle! We start the story
with the bad guy of our story, Dr T. and his housekeeper cum
right-hand-woman, Miss Gristle. After he has introduced us to the main
plot theme -- his diabolical plans to destroy the British Empire -- we
switch to Jack himself. Jack is tied to a chair in a loft somewhere in
London, awaiting the outcome of some heated discussions (at least on one
side) between the representatives of a Mr. Lee. It seems that Mr. Lee lent
Jack a significant amount of money to buy a ship, and now he wants it
The solution to
this opening 'bind' sets the unconventional tone for many of the puzzles
in the rest of the game. The rest of the plot, without giving too much
away (I hope), is concerned with Jack's adventures getting to, getting
around and escaping from Tooth Island -- the home of Dr T. Not to mention
foiling the plans of the aforementioned bad guy, trying to get the girl
(Amanda in this case; a very capable woman), and learning about his own
How do you play?
This section is
usually pretty redundant in a point-n-click game, and in this case there's
not a lot more to say than: you point where you want to go, and click to
go there. The cursor has four forms: pointer, hand, magnifying glass, and
speech bubble. In the pointer form, left or right clicking will move Jack
(or Amanda, later on). In the other three forms, left clicking will
describe the object or person clicked upon, and right clicking will use
it, pick it up or allow you to speak to the object or person. I found this
the wrong way round for my preferences. Right click should describe, left
click should act, but there's no option to switch this.
options, the Settings screen covers all the usual things like screen
resolution, subtitles and sound volumes. But it also covers brightness,
level of detail, effects and -- one that caught me out early on --
Fadeable Inventory. There are no settings to change the game controls.
Normally your inventory just shows as objects across the top of the
screen, but if you have the Fadeable Inventory option switched on, the
inventory is hidden until you press the Return/Enter key. I only found
this out by accident, after wondering where my inventory items had gone,
and quitting and reloading the game a couple of times in frustration! This
would not have been a problem if I had had a manual. But as this was an
electronic download, there was no manual and the Readme file in the game
directory was quite unhelpful. More on this later. I think, in retrospect,
I prefer an inventory that is sensitive to the mouse moving to the top of
The main action of
Jack Keane is played out full screen, in a cartoon style that's
exactly like that shown in the promotional artwork. It's quite reminiscent
of the Monkey Island genre of games. It's fully 3D, but also third
person, so you end up double clicking (to run) to make Jack run around
quite a lot. Thankfully the ultimate third-person game navigation faux
pas of the character going to completely the wrong place, or having to
be coaxed into exactly the right spot, are very rare in this game.
Navigation is pretty easy, and there's always the 'X' key (another
discovery by accident). Of course, 'X' marks the spot, so if you press the
'X' key, all the hotspots in a scene are marked by a white asterisk. Mind
you, it is usually quite clear where the objects of interest are in a
scene -- much of the time. Everything that's not a floor, wall, ceiling or
background plant is clickable, even if it's not necessarily germane to the
There are many
dialogue scenes and cut-scenes in this game, and these are all presented
in a more 'widescreen' format, with thicker top and bottom borders, so
that it's clear when you're in control and when you're not. The dialogue
options are presented as a simple menu below the action. Whilst there are
quite a number of dialogue trees, and some repetition in order to solve
some puzzles, I never found the dialogues to be onerous. As far as I could
tell, the majority of the cut-scenes are done just using the game engine.
There's very little in the way of pre-rendered glossy stuff here, so
there's little likelihood of technical issues switching between the game
engine and a separate animation engine.
Puzzles come in a
variety of forms. There are inventory puzzles, including multiple stages
of item combination. There are dialogue puzzles -- follow the right line
of argument to obtain help or an object. There are simple mechanical
puzzles, although no sliders or mazes. Finally there are no subtle colour
problems or audio challenges, no timed sequences, nor can you die at any
In some games, the voice acting can leave you
wondering whether the voice director had the foggiest what the game was
about. Not so in Jack Keane. The voice acting, whilst somewhat
clichéd in some cases, was excellent throughout. Dr T. is a classic
villain of the 'evil genius' variety; it's a cliché, but it works so well!
There are a variety of accents in the game, some of which, if poorly done,
could have been quite impenetrable to listen to -- but this game suffers
none of this. Something that often bugs me is English accents done badly.
Since I'm English, that might suggest there's some bias going on here. But
there are a number of English characters in Jack Keane, and they're
just fine, though there are a few places where the translators could have
done a better job with the upper-class English idiom.
The music in Jack Keane is excellent.
The game is a story of feats of Errol Flynn-like derring-do, and the sound
track is one to match. It's a full orchestral sound, with plenty of
triumphant horns and swirling strings. The full nine yards.
If you can find them, certain actions not
directly required for the main story (for example, collecting all of a
specific type of object) cause bonus features to be unlocked. I would
suggest the bonuses aren't exactly revolutionary, but they are cute in
their own way, and add a certain amount of replayability to an otherwise
almost completely linear story.
One minor content warning. This game contains
a little human nudity. However, the graphics are cartoon, the
nudity is strongly hinted at, rather than explicit, and there's nothing
even PG-13 about it. Any children I know would just laugh at the
Getting to specifics regarding the problem with
the Readme file. In fact it was singularly inaccurate when it came
to describing issues with the downloaded version of Jack Keane. It
states that you always need the game DVD in the drive, when it is clearly
the case that the downloaded version does not come with a DVD. You don't
even need an active Internet connection. Now normally this isn't a serious
problem, but as the Readme file is the only documentation supplied,
perhaps 10tacle Studios or Deck 13 Interactive could have put a little
more effort into making sure it was appropriate to the version supplied.
Remember the Monkey Island games? Well,
Jack Keane is straight out of that genre. Rearranging the employee
of the month paintings, and finding a monkey-powered electric fence could
so easily have come straight from the piratical adventures of Guybrush. So
many other features of the game reference the classic: the graphical style
has that same warped cartoon feel, the characters are full of inverted
stereotypes, and the puzzles scream for a logic that would defy the great
George Boole himself! (He invented the True/False logic that digital
computers are based upon.)
All in all, I got a
big game, with plenty to do. I never died, there weren't any subtle colour-based
or sound-based challenges, and I never found a dead end in the story.
There were a few minor glitches with some objects -- it's possible to
duplicate the umbrella and red garter (wherever they might be), but
nothing that really affects the gameplay. The game certainly never
crashed, even when I Alt-Tab'd back to the Windows desktop.
is colourful, well paced, not extraordinarily difficult, altogether great
fun to play, and there's not a single four-star Army general in sight. In
my opinion, and this may be heretical (for which I make no apologies),
this is Monkey Island done right, at last. This is reflected in the
grade I've given this game. My gripes about documentation or the English
idiom don't come close to making me want to penalise the actual game.
What do you need to play it?
OS : Microsoft Windows
XP, Windows Vista
Processor : Pentium IV
2 GHz / Athlon 2.4 GHz
RAM : 512 MB RAM
Hard disk : 1.5 GB free
hard disk space
Video Card : DirectX
9.0c-compatible video card with 128 MB RAM (MX series and XGI Volari are
Sound card : DirectX
Peripherals : Keyboard
Recommended Requirements, where different from
Processor : 3.0 GHz
Memory : 1 GB RAM
Video card : DirectX
9.0c-compatible video card with 256 MB RAM
(I used a custom built PC running Win XP Pro
SP2, on an AMD Athlon 64 3500+, with 2048 MB RAM, a C-Media USB sound
system, and an ATI Radeon X1950 Pro 512MB video card)
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