Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery: episode 1 review

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Jacob Jones is made by Lucid Games, a phoenix which rose from the ashes of Bizarre Creations. On writing duties we have George Poles, an experienced scriptwriter whose impressive CV includes contributions to Horrible Histories and Mock The Week. All this talent has been used to stitch together an episodic point & click adventure which relies solely on the Vita’s large, pin-sharp, perfectly suited touchscreen. The question therefore is: What went wrong?

A cursory glance suggests that this is a game aimed at children and, while there’s much to support that idea, it seems most likely that this is a failed attempt to appeal to the whole family. The eponymous Jacob is a young lad reluctantly shuttled off to camp in an attempt to encourage him to mix with other children (presumably in an attempt to prevent him becoming a murderous psychopath in later life). Needless to say a Bigfoot is soon thrown into the mix, which leads to various shenanigans and, indeed, japes as Jacob determines to track it down.

The intro asks you to swing the camera around this car to find something, a neat idea that is forgotten for the rest of the episode.

One of the main problems this game suffers from is that it steals common ideas left, right and centre in a desperate attempt to maximise its appeal. Not only is the art design undeniably influenced by Double Fine (particularly Costume Quest), the Professor Layton games are aped to an embarrassing degree. People you come across will more often than not hand you a puzzle to solve as soon as you meet them; instead of coins, you’ll be scouring environments for rubbish to buy hints; and whenever you’ve finished a puzzle, there’s even a “dramatic” pause of three seconds or so before you find out if you’ve answered correctly.

The cast, too, is as uninspiring and overly familiar as the Saturday-morning-American-cartoon voices. There’s a gruff, stocky male teacher constantly suspicious of the children; a young, blonde, skinny female teacher suffering from prozac levels of relentless cheeriness; an unrealistically stupid boy whose depiction borders on mocking the mentally disabled; a young girl who’s a social outcast and proud of it; and so on. Thus far, the story is an amalgamation of all the most forgettable cartoon episodes this generation has ever seen. Despite the singing Bigfoot.

Worst of all, the script is crammed full of jokes that simply aren’t funny. The delivery is never particularly good, but in all honesty the vast majority of material never had any potential anyway. To rub salt in the gaping wounds of the writing, there are colossally clumsy attempts to provide pop culture nods and winks for older players. These lines are hammered into the middle of a scene with cringe-inducing bluntness, their incongruity aggravated by the fact that the game insists on highlighting the fact that kids won’t get the references.

One of the better puzzles.

Aforementioned rubbish hunting and basic environment navigation aside, the actual gameplay is puzzle solving. Said puzzles are definitely not patronisingly easy, but the difficulty level is actually in danger of pushing a younger audience away; the younger the player, the quicker they’ll get frustrated with the vast majority of puzzles. Kids are smarter than adults tend to give them credit for, but some puzzles are poorly presented to the point that it’s not even immediately obvious exactly what you’re being asked to do. Worse than this, perhaps, many of the puzzles have all the charm of an exam question. You can at least immediately spend credits on the third and most in-depth hint, should you wish to get the puzzle out of the way as quickly as possible.

We certainly hope that the idea isn’t to give some kind of educational or developmental quality to the game, given that the first episode alone contains two grammatical mistakes.

It’s early days for this episodic series, with plenty of time and room to improve. For the time being however, this is a game which seems determined to shoot itself in the foot (geddit?!!?).

critical score 4

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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