Developers Lucid Games bring Jacob Jones and his family orientated puzzling to the PS Vita. Packaged in episodic segments and touting collaborations with award winning musicians and BAFTA nominated writers, many might wonder why this type of game hasn’t surfaced already for Sony’s handheld – but how does it hold up? Read on to find out.
Game: Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery
Developer: Lucid Games
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Reviewed on: PS Vita
Jacob Jones; bestowed with a hippo-hood jacket and a lust for outdoor adventuring. He’s not your average kid, however. The idea of being dragged off to summer camp to hang with a bunch of kids his own age is Jacob’s worst nightmare. Fortunately, amidst Camp Eagle Feather’s plethora of eccentric staff and fellow youths lies a mystery of Bigfoot proportions and suddenly ‘Camp Evil-Feather’ doesn’t seem like such an awful place afterall.
The game plays out in similar vein to the popular Professor Layton series on Nintendo handhelds – thin segments of story and exploring with brain teasers and puzzles thrown into the mix. You’ll be into the puzzling quickly, too. Before you’ve even been fully introduced to the characters you’ll be deciphering GPS gadgets and trying to squeeze your backpack out a tightly packed car boot. As with the aforementioned Layton games, every puzzle ties in and holds certain relevance to what’s happening within the story itself.
Even though the beautifully crafted cartoon visuals and light hearted (sometimes a little too try-hard) dialogue might suggest that the title is aimed at a younger crowd, there are some cheeky adult undertones at times and the puzzling difficulty can certainly be challenging as well as varied. To balance things somewhat, you’ll be able to skip some puzzles and get different levels of hints. Credits are earned from completing puzzles and can be spent on the three tier hint system that varies in degrees of helpfulness from mild hinting amidst some comical writing, to contacting Jacob’s older brother for more in depth tips. Skipping altogether is limited though, so younger gamers attracted to the visuals might struggle to grasp some of the brain teasers without a little help from others.
Similarities to the Professor Layton series rings true even more with the ability to find extra puzzle hints whilst exploring. There’s even a clever use of the Vita, because you’ll have to tilt the screen in some cases to find them. Same goes for the point and click feel that encourages you to swipe and tap the screen to move from one screen to the next – it all works pretty faultlessly for the most part so there’s little to complain about control wise.
The only real bugbear to be found with Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery is you’ll never really shake the ‘have I done this before?’ feeling. Despite a few challenges being fiendishly clever and original, most will feel like rehashes of traditional puzzles you’ve played in other games. The presentation is certainly fresh, vibrant and immersive, but unless you’ve dodged this genre all your life just don’t expect anything too mind blowingly original in its gameplay – it conforms admirably would be the fairest thing to say.
The overly child-like writing might turn off some but it reins itself in via decent voice acting enough to warrant persevering. What this game does bring to the table more than anything else, however, is a considerable amount of charm. With a ton of challenge and player engagement, the colourful world Lucid depict is one you’ll want to continue playing until the end. The fact that this is only the first episodic instalment of the series means that for those who are engaged by its light hearted puzzling, there’s certainly plenty to look forward to.