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Every time I hear someone in my vicinity claim that the point and click adventure game genre is dead, I chuckle. Within the last year or so, I have played at least a dozen point and click adventure games, most of which have been at least above average. This leads me to my second point and click adventure game review within the last month, as Deck13 has released a sequel to their 2007 game, Jack Keane. Set during the turn of the 19th Century in Shanghai, Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within is a solid and fun to play point and click adventure game. Unfortunately, it also had the poor timing to come out after Night of the Rabbit. While a solid point and click adventure game in its own right, Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within does not quite reach the same heights that Night of the Rabbit does.

Story

Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within is centered around the exploits of Jack Keane. Jack is an adventurer in the same vein of an Indiana Jones or a Doc Savage, that finds himself in horrendous situations, mostly due to his own lack of planning. The game begins in Shanghai in 1899, with our hero Jack in a Chinese prison, looking for clues to lead him to another fabled pile of gold. Unfortunately, getting into the prison was easier then getting out. After Jack has gotten pieces of the information he was after from a fellow prisoner, he must escape from the prison with the aid of his companion, Amanda. Unknown to either Jack or Amanda, they have a rival that is also in pursuit of the fabled lost gold in Professor Umbati. The rest of the story becomes a race to find all the pieces to an amulet and to discover the final location of the treasure.

The story progresses quite nicely through various locals around the world. Jack will also pick up other characters along the way, including a woman named Eve. Eve becomes a rival for Amanda for Jack’s attention, and adds a little love triangle to the story line. The story-telling itself is solid and the characters stay interesting, but the overall plot is a little too generic for my taste. The story feels borrowed from many different sources that told the same style of story better then what Deck13 is doing in this game. Even the beginning of the game feels like it was borrowed too heavily from “Pirates of the Caribbean 2” with the prison sequence. Ultimately, Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within is a solid game that feels just a bit too generic because of where the developers pulled their story ideas from.

Game Play

This game falls squarely into the generic point and click adventure model, with nothing much new to make the experience feel different from other games on the market. The player uses the mouse to hover around the screen, looking for clues and pieces to interact with to progress the story further. The heads up display/UI is very minimal and shows just a few icons, one of which will help identify what items you can pick up on the screen. There is not a separate inventory screen in the game, which is an odd choice. Instead, items you pick up will appear at the top of your screen. You can just click and drag the items onto the screen to interact with your environment, or right click them for a closer view.

The puzzles are fairly standard fare for a point and click adventure game. Most of your time will be spent hunting down the right item and using it on the right environment piece. Most of these puzzles are straight forward and logical, but take some time to get used to not having a separate inventory screen. For example, it took me a good five minutes in the beginning to realize that my rifle icon was at the top before I could figure out how to shoot out the barrels to escape the gunmen on the ship. Once you get used to the locations of these icons, then the game becomes much easier to interact with.

The game does everything it needs to in order to work as a point and click adventure game, but that is not enough these days. In conjunction with a solid, but generic story line, the game play does nothing to raise Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within above the other generic point and click adventure games on the market.

Aesthetics

Definitely the strongest feature of the game, its overall visual style and the character’s voice acting bring life to an otherwise generic experience. The game’s visual style is slightly cartoonish, reminiscent of The Secrets of Monkey Island. The environments are interesting to look at as you progress through the game, and I love the color palette that the developers chose to use. The colors help to increase the cartoon feel of the game, making the environments stand out and makes the world of Jack Keane a place you feel like you want to explore.

The sound and voice acting also do a great job in making this world come alive. The voice acting lends itself to rounding out the characters quite well. I never played the first Jack Keane game, so I was fairly surprised when Jack came across as a little more whiny and weak in his speech then I was expecting. This choice of voice acting, though, changed the character of Jack Keane from a typical pulp hero to someone who gets in way over his head more times then not.

The game’s visual and aural experience is enough to make it interesting and fun to play, but not enough to really set it aside from other games of the same genre. While I love the color palette that the developers chose to use and feel that the environments are very interesting to look at, I feel that it just isn’t enough to raise it above other games, such as Night of the Rabbit or last year’s Sam and Max series.

Final Thoughts

Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within by Deck13 is a solid and fun point and click adventure game to play. While the story line and game play mechanics feel rather generic and used, the visuals and voice acting help deliver that story line in an interesting way. This game, unfortunately, cannot compare to the other point and click adventure games on the market in terms of story and game play, and ultimately ends up being a fairly average and mediocre point and click adventure game. If you played the first Jack Keane game, then the second one would be worth checking out. However, if you are searching for a new point and click adventure game to play, I would highly recommend checking out Night of the Rabbit instead of Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within for its original story and different game play mechanics.

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Judgeman