Jack's back, and he's intent on giving his grey matter as good a workout as his muscles
For a man who never smiles and talks like a baby robot, Jack Bauer sure knows how to attract the ladies. With his unflinching resolve to fend off terrorists, he manages to save the World (otherwise known as America) and protect civilisation itself from the pesky bad guys all while maintaining that trademark scowl the female characters find so alluring.
24 the mobile game follows in the same vein as the TV series upon which it's based; there's a rolling timeline, where events occur and information is uncovered that needs to be acted upon immediately in order to progress. With the help of colleagues from the Counter Terrorist Unit, as Jack you'll explore, decode patterns, shoot people, isolate targets and look deep and moody in the process.
He could probably stare any ne'er-do-wells to death in this manner, but instead he's been given a not-so-standard issue stun-gun to aid him in his quest. Quite why Jack wasn't trusted with a proper firearm is a matter for another day; the result is he must do his thing before the enemy wakes up and shoots him properly. Such is the ethos behind the game: in everything you do, time is against you.
Running through 24 is a storyline with more thought and intrigue than is typical, where the dialogue between operatives and secret agent officials is used to progress the plot. This provides a good level of depth to the game, and immerses you into its environments. Without this rich storyline, 24 would have been little more than a vague arrangement of sub-standard games, but thankfully it pulls them all together in a fairly satisfying way.
There are only a few varieties of level, each of which evolve slightly as the game gets harder. The first you'll encounter is the strolling around part of the game. This is where you get to use your non-deadly, non-lethal, stun-gun. Watch out baddies, Jack's heading your way, though the control set-up means they'll see him coming from a long way off. It's here that the unique visual style of the game kicks into gear. It looks very interesting, with a vertical and horizontal white line following Jack around as you track him via a heat-sensitive camera. But while the white lines are actually useful for lining up your shot with the stun-gun, they do make it difficult on occasion to spot any bullets heading in your direction.
Equally hamfisted is the driving part of the game - more levels viewed from above using a night-vision camera system. These levels find you heading from point to point with such an inexplicable technique for acceleration that it becomes quite tedious within seconds.
What work best in 24 are the puzzle and triangulation levels, where you put your spying skills to the test and exercise the old grey matter. Imagine a Rubik's cube and the Wheel of Fortune, both simplified and put into the context of this game. You need to solve them in order to defuse bombs and unlock doors. After plenty of practice and head scratching you'll start working them out; they can be tough, but it's all for a good cause and they provide a worthy challenge.
Graphically, there isn't a great deal to shout about in terms of complexity, but the game has a visual style that's very close to that of the 24 TV show. Most of the levels are puzzle based, so simplicity is very much the order of the day, but it's a good look that sets it apart from other puzzle and TV tie-in games. The sound could have been more dramatic, and the absence of the iconic thumping countdown theme from the TV show is a bit disappointing.
But if you want a game that will give you something to work towards, then 24 is a good option. It isn't perfect and we question its replay value, but keep plugging away and the fulfilling puzzle challenges will save the day.