DreamCatcher Interactive publishes about half the of adventure games that get released in the United States each year. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be overly picky about which games they decide to publish, and so while they publish a lot of games, they’ve created a situation where more definitely isn’t better. Consider, for example, Jekyll & Hyde, the latest creation from French- and Canadian-based developer In Utero. Jekyll and Hyde is just a bad game. It has all sorts of problems, and, to top it off, it’s not even an adventure. Instead, it’s a simplistic and badly conceived action game, and it’s the kind of game DreamCatcher definitely should have taken a pass on.
Jekyll & Hyde is loosely based on The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. In both cases the main character is Dr. Henry Jekyll, a man who can transform himself into Mr. Hyde by quaffing a special potion, but beyond that In Utero created everything from scratch. And so in the game Jekyll is a widower father who runs an insane asylum (rather than a bachelor chemist), and Hyde is a big monkey who can leap farther and hit harder than Jekyll (rather than just being Jekyll’s evil self).
As the game opens up, there is an uprising at the asylum, and, during the commotion, one of the inmates kidnaps Jekyll’s daughter. Soon it becomes clear that the uprising and kidnapping were staged, and that some mysterious group planned those deeds just to gain leverage over Jekyll -- and especially his abilities as Hyde. The reason? There is a powerful book out there, and only Jekyll can gain access to the book, plus track down the three keys necessary to unlock it.
As premises go, that’s not too bad. There’s a strange book and two strange groups (one wants the book, one has the book), and so there are all sorts of questions to be answered. What’s the book? Who are the groups? Which group is good, if either? Some developers might drop hints here and there to drive the player on through the game, so the player always wants to know what’s going to happen next, but In Utero doesn’t do that at all. And when they do supply answers to the questions, they do it all at once, and the answers they give are plain silly. For some reason In Utero decided to involve robots and vampires in the game, and all you can do is just shake your head once you discover where the game is going.
But then you’ll be shaking your head a lot during the game, and not just because of the story. For starters, the gameplay is pretty basic. As Jekyll, you get to run, jump, climb and fight, which is an acceptable base for action games, but In Utero forgot to add variety to make those activities interesting. Jekyll only gets to use his cane as a weapon, and Hyde only gets to use his fists, and although there are lots of different enemies in the game, they pretty much only come in three flavors -- punchers, shooters, and robots -- and fighting one type is exactly the same as fighting another. And so the only difference between fighting a lunatic and a vampire is that the vampire hits harder and has more hitpoints. Ho hum. Plus, while there are some puzzles to be solved, they all involve pulling levers, finding keys, or throwing rocks, and once that limitation becomes clear, the game doesn’t even require thinking to solve. It just requires patience and dexterity.
But even so, a basic action title might be fun enough to play. The problem with Jekyll & Hyde is that it’s a basic action title with two serious flaws that completely sink it. The first of these flaws is the camera. Jekyll & Hyde uses a third-person perspective, but instead of just fixing the camera above and behind the character like in other games, In Utero tried to make a “smart” camera that would adjust its position to the situation. However, the experiment failed in a major way, and the camera wanders all over the place. Sometimes it follows the player; sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it points the way the character is facing; sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it actually shows the character on the screen; sometimes it doesn’t. The result is that far too often there’s no way to tell what’s going on. In Utero did a good thing by also allowing players to use a first-person perspective -- except that you’re not allowed to move while using that perspective, and so it’s not enough help. About all it’s good for now is making sure you have your jumps lined up right.
The other major flaw with Jekyll & Hyde is the save system. Jekyll & Hyde uses a “checkpoint” system, where if you die you go back to the last checkpoint to try again. The problem is that saves also go back to the last checkpoint, so if you pass a checkpoint, kill two enemies, save, and then load, you’ll find yourself at the checkpoint with those enemies still alive. That means you have to do certain sequences over and over again until you get all the parts right, and that’s just aggravating, especially when a lot of them rely on luck rather than skill (like when dealing with shooters). Plus, Jekyll & Hyde doesn’t allow you to name your saved games, and it only allows six saved game slots. What’s up with that?
The graphics for Jekyll & Hyde are adequate. For some reason In Utero decided to have the game take place at night, and so locations that would have been bland and boring anyway get to be bland, boring, and dark. That’s just not a winning combination. Plus, the style of the graphics is too cartoony, and that just doesn’t fit in with the serious, somber tone of the game. But the graphics do show what they need to show, and In Utero at least provids several different types of locations to explore, from trains to dockyards to cemeteries.
The sound fares about the same as the graphics. Some of the voice acting is good (such as the guy playing Jekyll) but other people merely read their lines clearly, and they’re not convincing in their roles at all. The background music and ambient noises are also reasonable but nothing to write home about.
Overall, Jekyll & Hyde is a good game to avoid, even at the budget prices DreamCatcher charges for its releases. The problems are just too numerous and severe, and the core gameplay just isn’t good enough for me to recommend the game to anybody -- except for those interested in being severely aggravated and perhaps turned into their own version of Hyde, like I was when I kept making four jumps correctly and missing the fifth, and having to repeat the whole process over and over again.
[ 15/40 ] Gameplay
[ 11/15 ] Graphics
[ 11/15 ] Sound
[ 07/10 ] Interface
[ 05/10 ] Storyline
[ 03/05 ] Technical
[ 03/05 ] Documentation