It’s the dance of the furrowed eyes, a tense, tightly edited exchange between puzzler and puzzlegiver, and it’s not the only time Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery echoes the ubiquitous Professor Layton. Except here, in this PlayStation Vita (and iOS) game, the back and forth post-submission interactions are funny, unpredictable and a delight to watch.
The tale’s a whimsical one, starting with young Jacob being dumped at Summer Camp by his slightly awkward parents and ending abruptly when you realise, two hours later, that this is just the first episode of who-knows-how-many. There’s a bit of meat on the bones of a story, but we’re only getting the first chapter, and a lot of what happens feels like a slightly floaty set up procedure.
British development studio
First in a series
Runs on Unreal Engine
Also available on iOS
The idea’s simple enough, and the mechanics are largely handled smartly. Movement around the camp is a mixture of swipes on the Vita’s touchscreen to turn to points of interest, and specific taps to move Jacob (and his partner, unlocked approximately half way through the game) through to the next pre-set area.
You can backtrack and explore, but it’s more Myst than Morrowind, despite being entirely 3D.
Any inter-character discussion is coloured with decent voice acting (with some nice deliveries) and the camp’s students and staff all animate well enough. One particular scene during the first night in the game is really well done, with some great interaction between Jacob and his new found friends. It’s lighthearted, sure, but it’s engaging and plays out rather nicely.
So whilst the game is fairly linear with its structure, it’s possible to reach the end of the game without having completed (or even discovered) every puzzle during your playthrough. Indeed, there’s only one concession to the usual progress gates, and it’s right at the end, the game needing a minimum of 18 completed puzzles to progress – an easy task.
It’s worth mentioning that the Trophies are well designed to encourage players to go back (the game doesn’t save after the final cut-scene) and pick up some missing collectables or re-do some of the puzzlers faster for virtual silverware, which is a smart design choice. This adds a little challenge where its needed – post-game – and makes a ‘harder’ difficulty setting something entirely optional.
The various puzzles – arguably the game’s single most important aspect, given the genre – all have their own distinct controls, depending on the puzzle style, and in the most part are intuitive and self explanatory. There’s at least two that didn’t really make a great deal of sense, though, crucial when there’re only 20 or so in total, and some of them are a little fiddly.
To developer Lucid Games’ credit though, the puzzles are all coherent to the story. That is, they’re integrated properly and don’t feel like they’re just thrown in for padding. Anyone stuck can call upon three different hint methods too (the Facebook riff is cute) with the credit system for these gentle guides also cleverly weaved into the over-arching storyline.
And whilst the puzzles don’t always look particularly impressive visually, the rest of the game is gorgeous. Powered by Unreal (although you wouldn’t know) this patchwork, cardboard-styled world looks richly textured and paradoxically rather solid, with barely a misstep with the aesthetics.
It’s a joy to see such vivid, strong graphics on the Vita, and for a game of this scope there are few complaints to be had with how the game looks.
I enjoyed Jacob Jones. There’s not a huge amount to the game and some areas of the camp are left mostly untouched (along with the respective staff members) but it’s clear that the second episode at least won’t be abandoning the location too quickly, so hopefully we can find out more about the slightly odd situation that some of the characters have found themselves in.
- Great graphics
- Decent voice acting
- Some clever puzzles
- Ends too soon, and is mostly too easy for seasoned puzzlers
- At least one jarring typo in the puzzle text
- A couple of slightly iffy puzzles
Penned by TV’s own George Poles, this charming sequence of interspersed brainteasers, point-to-go navigation and child-like exposition never really threatens to wow, but still manages to keep you hooked until the end, if only to find out where that admittedly brief storyline is heading. There’s a definite ending, of course, but it’s reached all too soon. More please.
Note: the game will be available very soon for $2.99, or thereabouts.