|Genre: Adventure & RPG|
|Min OS X: 10.4 CPU: G4 @ 1400 MHz RAM: 512 MB Graphics: 64 MB VRAM|
November 5, 2008 | Michael Yanovich
Let me step into my time machine for a moment.
Click. Whir. Buzzzzzzz.
There we go.
It’s 1994, and the new game Jack Keane is the latest must-have title of the season.
Now, back into the time machine…. Set the dial to 2008.
Buzzzzz. Whir. Click.
Ah, back home again. And Jack Keane is a mediocre also-ran that fills a niche that hasn’t been seen in over a decade.
It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s so…. derivative. And if you are going to copy something, there’s no excuse for not doing an AMAZING copy. This ok game with an ok story line, ok writing, ok humor, and somewhat ok voice acting (except for the lead, but I’ll get to that in a moment) is a reasonable pastime, but it feels, uh…
Well, I guess it doesn’t make me feel much of anything. I don’t hate it, it’s sort-of fun. I don’t love it. It’s just there. Taking up space on my hard drive and occasionally keeping me entertained for short stretches of time.
But realizing there is a subset of the readership that has never played a game like this – again, because they haven’t been made for quite a while – let me start with the game mechanics.
GameplayIt’s near impossible to describe the gameplay without using the word “Lucasarts” in every other sentence. So here’s an intermediate sentence without the aforementioned word, to allow us to continue using it once more. In the 1990’s, Lucasarts released a string of fun, clever, point-and-click adventure games that combined almost side-scrolling type graphics with Infocom-like storylines.
Oh, boy. Another term to explain.
OK, Infocom was one of the first ever adventure game publishing companies. They created games like the Zork series, Infidel, a version of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and all their games were completely text-based. At the time these games were made – they started in the early 1980’s, I told you this goes back a while – graphics were pretty crude and couldn’t really convey what the Infocom programmers could imagine, so they created games in a text-based environment. Kind of like an interactive “choose your own adventure” book. The game described what was going on, and you replied in complete sentences. “Go north, pick up the book, throw it at the programmer.” That sort of thing.
Lucasarts took these games and made them graphical. (By the ‘90’s, graphics had improved dramatically.) These games included the Monkey Island franchise, Full Throttle, the Indiana Jones games, and several other titles, many of which made it over to the Mac as well as the PC base.
You’d walk into a room, check out the surroundings, use the mouse to move your character around to examine objects, and basically pick up any knickknacks the game allowed you to collect in your inventory. You’d then use these items to solve puzzles. Need to open a manhole cover? Make sure you pick up that crowbar. But the crowbar is hidden deep inside the center of a massive spider web, so you’ll need to find a way to get rid of that spider first.
The games were usually a lot of fun and filled with strong writing and storytelling. And then, they went away. I suppose it’s more accurate to say they evolved a bit. I can’t think of any perfect examples on home computers, but today’s consoles have similar style games. Except that now the same game type is created in a 3D interactive world and action elements are usually added. Like the Ratchet and Clank series. Kind of.