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Review: Jack Keane 2 - The Fire Within / Developer: Deck 13 / Publisher: Nordic Games / Platform: PC / Release Date: Out Now

As the name would suggest, Jack Keane 2: The Fire Within is the second outing for German developer Deck 13’s titular hero, and, in defiance of national stereotypes, it’s bloody funny. Which is a good job too as the game is not without its faults…

The start of the game finds Jack (think Guybrush Threepwood crossed with Indiana Jones) in a Shanghai prison, shacked up with an African Shaman who proceeds to plant the map to a great treasure within his mind before inconveniently karking it. Also given part of an amulet, Jack must venture the globe locating the remaining pieces in order to find his prize.

The story itself is engaging and well written and along the way you meet a host of over the top characters, some of whom you get to control at certain points. These include feisty Amanda (Jack’s main squeeze), seductive Eve (if you fancy something different for Jack), Teutonically efficient Carl, the mortally challenged Shaman (who you repeatedly encounter in Jack’s delightfully surreal subconscious) and the villainous Professor Umbati. Another favourite is the literate, gourmet(ish) chef ape that you first come across in a wonderful homage to Donkey Kong.

The voice actors generally do a good job but, as with most point and click adventure games, there’s the odd dud delivery or contextually inappropriate phrase uttered. Fortunately the writers have given each character enough ‘failed attempt’ responses that your innards won’t curl in despair at the sound of the actor’s voice as you attempt to use a pineapple with an umbrella for the tenth time (older readers will no doubt still get twinges of this every time they hear Eric Idle’s dulcet tones). There’s a neat little fighting sub-game that is utilised throughout and the puzzles are pretty logical so they don’t leave you wanting to put your fist through the screen. Unfortunately, and once again in defiance of national stereotypes, the same cannot be said for the controls…

Jack can be controlled by using the mouse, except that he can’t, not really. You’re supposed to be able to hold the left button down and Jack will follow wherever you may lead, but due to the perverse camera angles (fixed as well, to add insult to injury) this is nigh on impossible to use. Fortunately you can also use WASD to walk Jack around the screen, which is much easier (though not flawless). If only they would control the damn camera angle as well.

The game also features pseudo platform elements where Jack must jump onto, around, and off various objects. However, using the jump in conjunction with the controls, and the seemingly always awful camera angles, is infuriating and results in huge amounts of unnecessary time lost. There are also a number of bugs in the game such as objects not responding to being clicked on (depending where the player is stood) and the occasional fall through scenery (requiring you to reload your last save). Given the German version’s release was in 2012 this really should have been tidied up by now.

Despite these flaws, this is a fun game and is worth persevering with, especially if you’re a fan of the point and click adventure genre. It’s a well written, beautiful looking game with a wicked, surreal sense of humour. It just could have done with a bit more ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’.

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