Having further exposed myself into other game “genres” the last month or so, I’ve gained a better appreciation of different kinds of game design, and its various methods.* Just before I got back to sampling other game types, I swerved back a bit into the point-and-click adventure genre, but this time I took a look into one of those that are considered “classics” of the Flash adventure game: the Jack French mystery series.
For those who aren’t familiar, players assume the role of Jack French, a detective who looks almost like James Dean but sounds more like Arsene Lupin. He is tasked with solving the mysterious deaths that happen in each of the so-called “webisodes” of the game. Within the game, players are given the opportunity to, of course, question the witnesses and examine the crime scene for any clues that will help solve the case.
Unlike most adventure games made with the likes of AGS or Wintermute, Flash adventure games tend to keep the plot short and have lesser objects to interact with, probably to keep the size small and make the game load faster on browsers. There are less menus to deal with, and inventory menus are made as simple as necessary as there’s usually no need to save games.
The Jack French mystery games are no exception to this. Each of the webisodes’ plots are kept tight and short (“web episodes”). Though there are less objects in each location to interact with, each game is well-clued enough for beginning players not to get lost in pixel-hunting. The puzzles are not really that hard to begin with, and these mostly consist of getting one item after another and using it when interrogating characters, or when getting a quick lab report.
The art is quite decent and almost life-like, which helps lend the game its somber, sober mood. I’m guessing the author’s artist (I’m not sure if it’s the same person or not) used actual photographs of staged murder scenes (fake blood with models, etc.), then rendered to be more cartoon-like for the game. Nudity grew less with each passing episode, but the art became better, especially with the last one, Jack French and the 7 Dwarfs[sic], which featured more abstract art than the others.
Music is well-used only in some parts of the games, contributing a lot to the atmosphere and the tension brought about by the murders. In others, such as the ending cutscenes, music was altogether not present. Take for example, the ones where the actual murderer confesses to their crime. The speech is there, with subtitles and all, but no scary or haunting music. Just the voices of the different characters. (The author finally decided to add music at the end on the last webisode, whch is a bit disappointing.)
Overall, the Jack French series should serve as a good introduction to point-and-click adventures, and should be included in anyone’s list of games for newbie players. Those also looking for a short game to play with over breaktimes should be well-satisfied with this one as well. Heartily recommended for the “quick” adventurer.
*Or at least I appear to be. It helps if you just play and play these games – whether I understand more design concepts or not, one thing’s clear: I’m having fun 😉