Version tested: PC
Push your finger here. No, it's ok. Just give it a little poke. That's my soft spot for Ankh. German developer Deck 13 showed a genuine love for the classic 90s adventures, and for once demonstrated an understanding of how they worked. It was imperfect in many ways, but for a bright, cartoon point-and-click adventure, it stood out from the crowd by not sucking out loud. We got a slightly inferior sequel, and now we have Jack Keane.
Maybe it's over-confidence. Maybe we celebrated Ankh's not-awfulness too much. But Jack Keane is a depressingly poor game. A big, elaborate, beautifully drawn game. But one that just doesn't make a satisfying result.
Jack Keane is an Indy-style adventurer (with a bit of pirate thrown in), who begins his adventure tied to a chair in the clock room at the top of Big Ben. That's a bloomin' brilliant place to start an adventure game! He has to talk his way into being punched until he can reach his handy penknife. That's a really good puzzle! He then has to go through a series of incredibly dull procedures to clean some bird poo using a rag and a bucket in order to, er, get his knife again, and then escape by making Big Ben strike 3, which would be a superb puzzle if only you realised that was what you were doing before it happened... It starts to crack.
Jack is then charged with the task of aiding a British spy in making his way from Capetown to an obscure Indian island, which all leads to a peculiar story about saving the world from tea-eating plants. Describing it like that, it all sounds rather good. It really could have been. But, well, it isn't.
A big part of this is due to the puzzle structure. There are two types present. The one where you've got a key, and a keyhole, and the puzzle is to figure out which to put into which. And then there's the ones where you're supposed to know that if you use the knife on the clock you'll remove the hands which can of course be used to pick the lock on a wardrobe.
Then there's the voice acting. Jack's voice isn't too bad. He sounds a bit like Bruce Campbell, and delivers his lines with gusto (but when he gets drunk - oh boy, it's awful). But he sticks out from a dodgy crowd. This is made far worse by a clear lack of voice direction, and lines recorded in isolation. You get those really awkward moments where someone's intonation is completely wrong. A moment that was supposed to go,
"I eat goons like you for breakfast."
"You're about to LOSE your breakfast, mate."
Comes out as,
"You're about to lose your BREAKFAST, mate."