The beauty of a game with humorous and involving characters is that no matter where the characters take you, you'll always feel at home. Such is an attribute of Jack Keane, a pure adventure title brought to the table by developer Deck 13 and publisher 10tacle Studios. Set in London in the early stages of the colonialism age, this adventure begins with the ironically-named Jack Keane fleeing from a duo of ill-spirited thugs. As it continues, the game instantly makes it clear that its intention is to provide a few cheap laughs through its characters, and nothing makes a greater imprint of that than these first couple of bumbling interactions. A few scenes down the line and Jack becomes involved with a variety of other fate-bound folks, including an alluring woman named Amanda. Before long, Jack finds himself voyaging towards a mysterious island in hopes of attaining a goodly chunk of change in return for his services, and it is here that the real scope of the title reveals itself.
Like most other adventure games that focus on third-person-oriented item usage, Jack Keane provides the player with a few simple mouse maneuvers and a top-screen inventory bar. Since actually playing the game involves a simple premise, anyone old enough to reach the keyboard can fluidly catch on to the world that Keane offers. This is pretty significant considering that once settled into the story, most adventure game familiars will be hooked.
As mentioned before, one of the notable highlights that makes this game worth coming home to is the spirit of its characters. Except for the few irritable ones here and there, the majority of this world's inhabitants are spry and willing to help out. While this is excellent news to the ears of an exhausted adventurer, the real fun to be had is by manipulating the grumps that put great effort into holding Jack back. As the game progresses, other characters that Jack has met on his adventures will have their own role to play, and some will even become controllable. Since there are many behind-the-scenes subplots developing throughout the story of Jack Keane, this expanded level of player control cuts back on the amount of in-game cinemas that might be necessary to convey such plots. Such is an honorable aspect, especially when all you may want to do is get to the exploration.
The style of the environments and citizens of Jack Keane will be familiar to anyone who has had a sweet tooth for PC adventure games for some time. Each area of the game is divided into sectors, and as Jack moves he will cross into different scenes and static environments, picking up and utilizing items that are scattered throughout. Where the backgrounds themselves are merely for traversing, certain highlight points and characters can be examined and interacted with. Despite its proverbial animation basics, Keane has its own look, almost like a television cartoon ported into a three-dimensional representation. What only furthers this illusion is the sound of the actors that provide the voices for Keane's characters - playful and almost childish. Surprisingly, the characters hardly ever become annoying, and their actions on-screen match perfectly with what they are saying.
One aspect of the game that may require its players to be like the phonetically-correct version of Jack's surname is the increasing difficulty level. While the beginning stages of the game set up the basics of the inventory and how the player can interact with the world, the middle and beyond areas of the game require a good amount of trial and error. Even though struggling to solve a puzzle and eventually pulling through is rewarding, running from area to area searching for a rhyme or reason is not as fun, and some of Keane is marred by this mode of adventuring. Fortunately, listening to what the characters have to say and choosing multiple conversation paths is an excellent way to leave no stone unturned.
As any worthwhile adventure game should, Jack Keane strives to provide a history for its main hero, and not in the wall-of-text prologue manner that some games employ. Exploring the world that Keane has to offer will provide the player with a deeper understanding of who Jack is, and the complete rendition of the game will surely reveal even more truths. Despite not unmasking the story in its entirety, the preview version looks and feels ready to publish as it is, and the developers have only a few minor hiccups to smooth out before the game can enter the mainstream. Jack Keane may not hit stores until the middle of 2008, but any adventure game lover longing for another escapade should keep this one in mind.