Jack Keane is the latest adventure from Deck13 Interactive, the German developer who released Ankh in 2006. I really liked Ankh. It was fun and it was witty and it brought back memories of the classic LucasArts adventures. However, Deck13 went one step further with Jack Keane. Not only did they borrow the look and feel of the LucasArts adventures, they pretty much stole the entire premise behind the Monkey Island games. That could work, I guess, since we haven’t seen a Monkey Island game in the last seven years, but Jack Keane feels too much like a warmed-over retread, and I think Deck13 would have been better off coming up with something new like they did with Ankh. Plus, this time around the writing just isn’t as colorful as it was before -- and at times it even seems downright lazy -- and it’s just tough to play a game where you keep being reminded of funnier and better-handled situations in other games.
Anyway, in Jack Keane you play as... Jack Keane, an intrepid but not exactly competent ship captain. You start out in England and in debt, and, after dodging some debt-collecting thugs, you agree to ferry a secret agent to a remote island, where supposedly an evil genius named Dr. T is plotting to destroy the British Empire. During the trip, an American named Amanda joins up with you, and, after discovering that the secret agent is somewhat less capable than James Bond, the two of you decide to work together to stop Dr. T and save the world. Along the way you battle man-eating plants, you visit an Indian village and facilitate a wedding, and you train with some unusual monks. All in a day’s work.
Obviously, Jack Keane isn’t a serious game. It’s just that it isn’t an especially funny game, either. Too often the dialogue doesn’t have any bite to it, and potentially funny situations are wasted. For example, at one point you ask the secret agent if he has any items that might help you, and he gives you a sewing kit. That exchange would be funny in a serious game, but in a funny game you’re expecting the secret agent to give you something odd, and so for it to be funny the secret agent has to have an elaborate explanation for why he carries it, or an insult for why he thinks you’d need it, or something like that, but Deck13 never takes the extra step.
Want other examples? At one point you have to wear a wedding dress, but nobody comments on it. At another point you have to use some pompoms to get a plane to take off, but you don’t get to see it (for some reason the game focuses on the plane rather than you). At still another point you manage to burn down an inn, but again, nobody says anything!
Or how about this? Most funny adventures deliver their best lines when you’re stuck, and you start trying out inventory objects in any old place where something might happen. But in Jack Keane, almost universally you get a stock “I can’t use that here” reply, which is boring. And then later in the game, it’s like the writers lost whatever small amount of steam they started with, and you get all sorts of responses like “It’s a chair” or “It’s not interesting.” For a funny adventure to be funny, you have to take great pains to make the dialogue work, and Deck13 just didn’t put in the effort.
Now, all of that being said, the adventure works well enough. The game uses a third-person perspective, where you click where you want Jack to go, and left-clicking on an item examines it while right-clicking on the item uses it. The puzzles are usually effective, and they usually make sense using adventure game logic (where, for example, anything even remotely oily can be used for lamp fuel or machine lubrication), but they’re also usually a little bit easy. You don’t find that many inventory objects, and you’re not given a lot of places to use them, and so trial and error can get you through any puzzles that you don’t figure out right away.
And so, overall, I’m giving Jack Keane an average score. It’s a pleasant enough adventure, and it’ll take you somewhere around 20 hours to complete it, which makes it a nice value, but the writing is a little lazy, and the game isn’t as funny as you might expect, and so it’s nowhere near being in the ballpark of the Monkey Island games, which is where it wants to be. If you’re looking for a funny adventure, you’re still better off playing the Sam & Max episodes.