I heard that Bigfoot is a pro at solving puzzles.
I think that life around camp just got a whole lot more hairy! Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery borrows from the narrative-puzzle style of gameplay that’s seen in the Professor Layton series on the Nintendo DS, but has some cool ideas and concepts that are all to its own. In the first episode of a planned five, we see Jacob arrive for his first stay at summer camp, after passing by something that looks suspiciously like Bigfoot on the side of the road. What follows is a light adventure with some clever puzzling to be found, but a lot of dead air and wasted potential all around.
The game’s story and visuals are easily the strongest part of the experience, and the cool cardboard-cutout style of artwork that’s implemented during menu screens and certain puzzles is an especially nice touch. Every voice actor does an incredible job of bringing Jacob’s family and the other camp characters to life: although Jacob himself does come across as a little annoying at times, and is not exactly the most likeable of lead characters. The story itself is nice with some lighthearted humor, but it definitely caters more to the younger crowd; which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Episode 1 contains a total of 24 puzzles for Jacob to find and complete, and these all range from fun to mildly frustrating. But what’s great about these puzzles is that they all make sense given the context of the game world and the story. Unlike the randomness of a Professor Layton game, the puzzles in Jacob Jones run the gamut from stacking everyone’s belongings in the right order on the bunk shelf, to ordering a pizza that every camper will enjoy. However, a few of these puzzles are simply re-dressed versions of puzzles that you’ve probably seen a hundred times before, like line tracing or “which one doesn’t belong” brain teasers.
Every time you complete a puzzle, the game will tell you about that respective puzzle’s best possible outcome, along the lines of: “That puzzle can be completed in 8 moves! How many moves did it take you?” This is interesting to know, I guess, but there’s really no incentive to replay any of these puzzles to try and earn those top scores. Solving each puzzle correctly on the first try will reward you with the highest possible score, represented in the game as Merit Points.
I was a little surprised to learn that Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery was not exactly the point-and-click adventure I originally thought it would be – and if it is a point-and-click adventure, then it’s a very simple one. Moving around the game is a little awkward at first, as everything about its setup encourages you to point at different places on the screen and instruct Jacob where to go. However, you are only limited to swiping left and right on the screen, to change perspectives and have Jacob move in front of a different background in his current location. You can tilt your device to look around a little bit, but that’s really about it, and the movement never gets past this rigid and restricted feeling.
For the most part, you’ll simply be moving through the story from one puzzle to the next and little else. The only real collecting you can do is in the empty soda cans that are littered around camp, which really aren’t all that difficult to spot, and which you’ll be able to cash in for cell phone credits to phone your relatives and receive puzzle hints. Sometimes these soda cans will be right on the edge of the screen, and tilting your device still puts it just out of your finger’s reach; swiping the screen to go to the next viewpoint perspective obscures the soda can even further.
The hint system would be a lot cooler if the hints weren’t vague to the point of causing more confusion. For instance, during one particularly tricky puzzle early on in the game, which has you pushing buttons to light up every button on a busted circuit board, Jacob’s uncle calls with the following advice: “Tap 1st on the left on the top row little dude, then tap 2nd on the next row, 3rd on the next and both bottom corners.” Uh, what? There’s also a neat memo feature which lets you jot down notes or make little diagrams on the actual puzzles themselves to help you along. However, these hints are restricted to the memo, and you can’t keep them on the screen when you actually go to solve the puzzle itself, which seems like a bit of a tease and wasted potential.
But with that being said, Jacob Jones and the Bigfoot Mystery is certainly not a bad game: it’s just a little too much on the simple side. It has a shining presentation and beautiful visuals, but the lack of things to do can quickly sour the total experience. If you’re a fan of simple puzzle games and visual storytelling, then I definitely recommend you give this one a try. But for those of you looking for a more substantive and challenging romp through camp life, you’d probably have more luck finding Bigfoot first instead.