Jazz and Faust Review
By Chris Commodore |
I'm not completely jaded. This game has not totally abolished the remainder of my frail soul. I still have a shred of decency, a sliver of compassion, a quark of understanding. I am still objective and fair enough to admit that there are two good things to be said about Jazz and Faust. Good thing #1: It's relatively short. And as I'm sure we can all attest to, short pain is far preferable to long pain. Good thing #2: The title is written out with an "and" instead of an ampersand (&). I hate ampersands. After these two shining moments, testaments to the game's underachieving nature, the rest of this article is just a long list of complaints and shortcomings.
If only technology would advance to where I could gently weep in agony through a microphone and the millions of readers could feel the sensation. Once science reaches that point I can forego this lengthy pontification on mediocrity and still everyone would understand the truth behind my voice and see, without having to discern pedantic paragraphs and the wit of a 21 year old editor, that this game is simultaneously sorry, pitiful, and abhorrent in so many different ways that it simply fails...miserably.
Double click to run, single click to walk, pound face against keyboard to wake up. Jazz and Faust is a point and click adventure without the adventure. It is horrid dialog derived from a terrible storyline thrown into an illogical game and delivered with truly substandard audio and video.
A lot of the path finding is clumsy and broken. If the game is a point and click, pointing and clicking should then result in immediate and smooth results. Responsiveness is critical to enjoyment.
"Please Jazz, don't get stuck behind the stupid step and the potted plant. Jazz, please just move to the edge of the screen so that I don't shatter the face of my mouse with clicks so powerful they could destroy Galactus. Jazz...? Why aren't you listening to me? Jazz?"
And all this tedious pointing and clicking that leads to slow and improbably inconsistent movement only helps to unravel a storyline best left wrapped. So there's this murder and this red haired beauty who actually has black hair and then there are these ports, see... Everything is lumped together unchecked and then gets poorly edited. It's like a lot of lame story with little cohesion. Someone at some point knew what they wanted, but then had no idea how to get from point A to point B and still fill the space in-between. And that's a problem, since aside from puzzles, quality adventure game's require a solid storyline be present to retain interest.
But that's not the worst of it. As bad as the actual plot is, it's the delivery that irks, tortures, embarrasses, and even amuses (in the embarrassingly tortuous, pitifully irking way). No story is good unless it's acted well, and this, this is not good acting. It's clear that the unwilling and disgruntled American relatives of a lot of the game's developers have done their part. This is the kind of acting that gets turned up so that people in the office can gather around and laugh at the game and you for playing it. In conjunction with free donuts, unified mocking of an F grade PC title is a surefire way to get into the office "in" crowd. Never mind that every voice is a lame stereotype, and never mind that they are all attached to inappropriate people in inappropriate places (every shopkeeper, even the Persian, seems to be some form of Chinese), it's the uninspired, tired, and lifeless voicing that truly ruins the already sloppy whole. Faust is a dunce so boring and monotonous that it's hilarious.
Not to be outdone by speech, the music is equally bad. Some songs are the same as those that played when Miami Vice's Crocket was in a love scene. While others are the ones that accentuated the background when he would stand on the bow of a boat feeling guilty and contemplating the seriousness of the death of one of his favorite street snitches at the hand of a nefarious drug cartel. I can see his hair flapping in the orange breeze, his shades reflecting the water below, his grim demeanor tainted by his clownish wardrobe. And then I click and tell Faust to do something stupid that will anger me. And boy will he and his buddy skinny ever do stupid things.
We don't need this. We need logical puzzles that can be solved with observation, common sense, and a little detective work. Yes, I realize that they are completely different games, Mother, but this is what I loved about Project Eden, another title spooned into the larger "adventure" genre. That game's entirely environment based puzzles, even the really hard ones, could be solved by looking around and knowing the abilities and inabilities of your team and how they played together with one another. That game was about analyzing situations and using your brain to solve them. This game is all about walking back and forth like a gimpy ape searching for a randomly placed banana that he can use on a fire engine to unleash some hornets that will clear the cave of unwieldy and surly midgets. It doesn't make any damn sense! Some of the puzzles are so illogical or have so many other illogical prerequisites, that it's simply inane.
See that barrel near the puppy and the kitty? You can't do anything with it now, but as soon as you talk to the boy near the garbage pit, you can go back and click on it again to unplug the cork to cover the puppy with the barrel to get the kitty, which will eventually lead you to getting the snake charmer's bottle to hold wine, provided of course you exchange the hookah with him, drop off the pistol at the money changer's, and put the snake bottle in the fire pit at the opium den.
It's the absolute worst the adventure genre has to offer: random clicking of every held item on every environmental object to initiate some kind of illogical series of responses that eventually lead to a nonsensical goal.
Often, new areas will spring forth from nowhere at all. One screen might have two exits for instance: North and South. Suddenly, speaking to one of the world's inhabitants, the West area will be opened up. Unfortunately, the only way it's possible to know this is by going back to this hub screen and searching about for a new exit. An exercise in tedium that I suppose wouldn't be so dreadful if the game weren't so ugly.
2D prerendered, static backdrops are just that, 2D, static, and prerendered. This means they are all naturally pretty, but also very dull. Nothing happens in them. Day changes to night (not dynamically), some water glistens, and some fire flickers (which lets rather cool shadows drape from the 3D characters that populate the game), but that's where the 2D buck stops.
Blocky, old, ugly, dated characters with no animations, slow animations, and crap animations comprise the 3D aspect of the game. Don't worry, it can be fixed by turning on some of the smoothing features that'll crank your unchangeable resolution up to N64 blur levels in no time. But watch out, the game gets choppy. On a gigahertz machine with a GeForce 3 and 384MB RAM, it still stutters, a lot. I suppose it's to be expected, daring to crank performance degrading things like the N64 blur can be rough on the framerate in a game with characters that look so bad they could probably pass for Quake 1 models.