metzomagic.com Review

Jack Orlando: A Cinematic Adventure (Director's Cut)

Developer:  Zuxxez Entertainment
Publisher:  JoWood Productions
Year Released:  2001

Review by Gordon Aplin (November, 2001)

The original version of Jack Orlando was released a few years ago right at the time when most computer game commentators were gleefully proclaiming the death of adventure games so it is perhaps not too surprising that this game didn't receive much publicity back then. We certainly never saw it here in Australia. The recent release of the expanded Director's Cut version will at least enable those adventurers who missed it the first time around to sample this tale of mystery.

Mean Streets
The story opens just as the Prohibition era in America is about to end. Jack Orlando, Private Investigator and former all-round good guy who used to be 'somebody', has gone to seed and, in the established PI tradition, now finds solace in the bottle. As he weaves his way home from the bar one night he witnesses an altercation between two men in a dark alley and attempts to intervene. Next morning he awakens in the alley to find one of the men dead beside him. The police arrive and Jack is the obvious suspect. Fortunately, the local police chief, mindful of Jack's previous good character, gives him 48 hours to crack the case.

So you take control of the trench-coated Jack Orlando in this traditional 2D point and click adventure game where you can pick up numerous items including many red herrings, talk to characters, hunt down clues and progress through the story.

One of the first things that struck me was the amount of small detail in many locations, the items you could click on for description or even pick up, such as pieces of broken glass or a roof nail. Even if many of these details subsequently turned out to be irrelevant it felt good that I was being allowed to interact within the game world and contributed greatly to my feeling of 'being there'.

For some players there is a possible flipside to this, of course, so many items quickly fill up your inventory and you can never be completely sure (until the end) whether you will need them or not. However, you should adopt the tried and true adventure game strategy and pick up everything you come across; sometimes extra items will appear in a location after events unfold, pick them up too. Also you will need to combine items in your inventory though the few things that will combine are fairly obvious.

Some things to note
Being able to fill my inventory to the brim, red herrings and all, has never been a problem for me in adventure games as it gives me more to think about, but I do have to make one point as far as Jack Orlando is concerned. Two or three of the characters are not sufficiently communicative and don't give even a hint as to what might encourage their cooperation. This means that there will be times when you must resort to offering such characters every inventory item to see what might persuade them. The inclusion of some visual or conversational clues would have eliminated this problem.

Another point to note is that there is the possibility of being stuck in a 'dead end' in this game. Judicious saving will overcome this problem and I shouldn't need to remind experienced adventurers to save often and to give your save game a new name frequently. The biggest blunder would be to keep saving over the same save game and having to repeat a large chunk of previously played action, but you wouldn't do that, would you? You can save as often as you like and you are not restricted by limited save game slots so you have no excuse not to save efficiently. Also Jack can make mistakes and die when you play the game in 'normal' as opposed to 'easy' mode so regular saving is a must.

Easy does it
The point and click interface is very easy to use and navigation is not a problem in 2D games. A click of the right mouse button brings up a bullet graphic from where you can choose the icon for the action you wish to carry out. Pressing the F1 key accesses the inventory and from there you can also access the game options to save, load, enable subtitles and speed up Jack's walking pace, etc. The use of this single keyboard command felt odd to begin with and would have been easier had it been incorporated into the action menu, but you do get used to it after a while.

The graphics are excellent with beautifully drawn and detailed locations and smooth animations. The voice acting is fairly average but the music, by Harold Faltermeyer (Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop) is suitably atmospheric and evocative of the 1930s. It only needed a Walter Winchell narration for the mood to be complete. This is the tough, uncompromising era of the Great Depression and Jack's world is populated with mobsters, derelicts and call girls so the dialogue does contain a couple of mild expletives and occasional 'suggestive' comments but these add a touch of 'authenticity' without being overdone. On that note Jack is also able to 'rough up' certain deserving characters during the course of his interrogations though once again this is not overused.

As I haven't played the original version I can't be sure what has been updated, but I believe extra scenes and puzzles have been added and that the game has been tweaked to run in Windows. On my system I had only a couple of lock ups, but I did have to remove audio acceleration from DirectX to hear the dialogue and music properly. The game comes on one CD so there is no disk swapping to worry about.

Even with its few blemishes Jack Orlando is an enjoyable adventure game for detective fans and for those of you who, like me, have a soft spot for third-person perspective, inventory-based games. It isn't mind-numbingly difficult so experienced players may feel that it could have been longer and a little more complex, but those new to adventuring shouldn't feel too daunted by it. Either way it has a good few hours of entertainment to offer.

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Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2001. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Windows 95/98/2000/ME, DirectX8.0 or higher, Pentium II 266 Mhz (PIII 450 Mhz or faster recommended) 64MB RAM (128MB recommended) 8x or faster CD ROM (12x or faster recommended) mouse or keyboard.