As Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within opens, the titular hero finds himself stuck inside a Chinese prison with a dead bunkmate, while the British forces pound the living crap out of the place with massive cannons. His partner-in-crime Amanda is coming to the rescue, but unfortunately she’s stuck on a ship with a duo of disgruntled pirates who’ve decided to redecorate the place with brains and blood. Preferably hers. And so begins Jack Keane’s latest point n’ click adventure, a global treasure hunt filled with Zeppelin chases and unruly elephants.
As far as adventure game openings go, it’s certainly a memorable one. Amanda’s gun battle with the pirates reminded us a little of some recent Monkey Island moments (as did other aspects of the game which we’ll cover later), but it’s an exciting introduction to the cast and the story and just one of a handful of adrenalin-fuelled set pieces. Once the pirates are dealt with, you take control of Jack, who it appears has smuggled himself inside the prison to nab an amulet which will lead him to untold wealth. The rest of the game has him teaming up with Amanda and another feisty heroine called Eve (who prefers non-violent solutions compared to the wonderfully aggressive Amanda), in order to track down the aforementioned treasure before the comically over-the-top villains get their mitts on it.
As with most modern point n’ click adventure games, Jack Keane 2 blends traditional adventure mechanics with a jazzy control scheme. You’ll spend the majority of the game exploring 3D environments, examining and combining objects to solve puzzles and talking with characters to gain clues and insights. However, the control method isn’t as straightforward as clicking around to move and interact. Instead you have to hold down the mouse button and drag the cursor around, to get Jack to follow. We kind of got used to it after a short while but it definitely feels clumsy. Thankfully you can shift to WASD keyboard controls if it irritates you too much.
Jack Keane 2 also throws in something that curls the toes of many adventure game enthusiasts: the dreaded action scene. Thankfully they aren’t too obnoxious, with the worst involving a bit of timed jumping. You’ll come across a number of fight scenes where you need to learn the correct defence to your enemy’s attack, which are reminiscent of Monkey Island’s insult duels, but failure simply means trying again so it isn’t too frustrating. All the same, we’re sure some point n’ click fans will see them as an unnecessary burden rather than an arcadey break in pace.
How much you enjoy Jack Keane 2 also rests on your love or hate of the comic humour, which is quite reminiscent of Lucas Arts’ surrealistic style. The characters’ bickering (particularly Amanda and Eve) can be quite entertaining at times, with the cast merrily trading abuse even when in mortal danger. There are plenty of throwaway one-liners that are more likely to raise a groan than a chuckle, but we did find ourselves grinning at some of the more witty moments.
Sadly, while Jack Keane 2’s graphics are for the most part attractive, the production values do slump a little in places. Some animations look a little stiff, the camera occasionally goes a bit mental and we spotted a couple of glitches that yanked us out of the moment. We’d also recommend turning the music volume down - not because the tunes are offensive to the ears, but they tend to clash with speech. Eventually we simply turned on the subtitles to make sure we didn’t miss anything. To be honest, some of the voice work is overly hammy, so you may prefer to turn the speech volume right down too.
Jack Keane 2 isn’t a tricky game by any standards, and should give hardcore adventurers few problems if any. Adventure newbies are helped out with a ‘highlight objects’ option, which is designed to illuminate any interactive hotspots, although this doesn’t always work and we missed at least one tiny item (a near-invisible stick) which wasn’t pointed out. You’ll find the occasional surreal puzzle that’s well and truly pitched outside of reality, but we personally had no trouble progressing through the game.
Jack Keane 2: The Verdict
It’s a shame that Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within is marred by clunky controls, some iffy production and those pesky action scenes, as it’s an entertaining enough romp with plenty of humorous and memorable moments. Adventure newbies may be put off by those niggles, and the game may be a little too easy for hardcore adventurers, but everyone in between should find plenty to like.