I was really looking forward to playing Jazz and Faust, but the actual experience was a disappointment.
Warning to the reader: By the time I wrote this review, I had started playing Syberia, so this review is probably coloured by the comparison of these two games. I won't be providing many "compare and contrast" comments, but a perusal of my Syberia review would probably shed more light on this game.
Graphics (quality, animations, cut scenes)
The graphics weren't bad, but there were enough problems and deficiencies to detract from the game.
There was no gamma or contrast settings within the game, and they were badly needed. Daylight scenes were washed out, with the clouds invisible in the glare of the sky. If I turned down my video card gamma and/or brightness enough to see the daylight clouds, then the shadows and nighttime scenes became impenetrably black. I was unable to find any combination of gamma, brightness and contrast settings in my video card and monitor that fixed this problem.
The subtitles didn't have a background (or surround) on each letter, so they got completely lost and unreadable when the game's colour was too close to that of the lettering.
Some polygons didn't match up exactly, so gaps would show through. I found this especially noticeable on the ships in the harbour; when they rocked back and forth, strange colours appeared on the mast.
Any attempt to turn on anti-aliasing features in my video card (GeForce II MX) caused Jazz and Faust to become completely invisible.
The characters of Jazz and Faust suffered from the usual clunky and awkward movements common to almost all 3D characters.
The pictures of the characters on the game box have absolutely no resemblence to the blocky characters you encounter when actually playing the game. I know that marketing people want to make the game look attractive, but the difference approaches the level of false advertising.
Sound (music, voices, special effects)
Before playing this game, I had read reviews praising the voice acting, and some reviews completely trashing the voice acting, so I was quite curious to see what could cause this sort of discrepancy. What I found was a large dollop of mediocrity; none of the voice acting was very good, but very few of the voice actors made me cringe in embarrassment.
The music was pleasant, innocuous, and mostly ignorable; this isn't a game that will become noted for its soundtrack, but it definitely didn't grate on my nerves.
Environmental sounds were quite good, and definitely helped set the mood: creaking wood, footsteps, clanking metal, and so on.
The game controls themselves had sounds, and this was a mixed blessing. If you moved your cursor over something that could be picked up, a clicking sound would start playing. This actually helped me find something at one point, so I guess this is a positive feature. On the negative side, every time you brought up the inventory window, a clang would sound, and this became very irritating over the course of the game.
Story (plot, theme, depth)
I think the major failing of Jazz and Faust was the poor storytelling. A good game should make you feel part of the story (and adventure), but this game just didn't manage to do that. At one point in the game, a character talks for several minutes telling me the story, when I wanted to be part of the story. The end result was a game that had me doing things for immediate reasons (like getting out of jail), but there was little overall theme to provide any further motivation.
Characters (depth, development, interaction)
The characters didn't really live and breathe, and felt rather two-dimensional in nature. As an example, one character was supposed to be a thief, but I noticed that both characters would steal things as required. Again, I didn't feel that I was actually living as those characters, but more that I was just guiding them around.
Other characters in the game were mostly place holders, with little to say or do except as part of your puzzles to be solved.
Puzzles (difficulty, uniqueness, suitability, ugliness, linearity)
The puzzles were quite easy throughout the game, and almost entirely inventory-based. If you get stuck in this game, it's almost always because you missed a dialog item or an inventory item. Missing items could be quite easy at times, because a hot spot may not even exist until you have triggered it via the correct dialog selection with another character.
There were no mazes, no timed sequences, and no sound-based puzzles.
Some of the puzzles were quite silly, forcing you to do things that were distasteful, or requiring the use of an inventory item that isn't logical. I did find myself periodically using every inventory item on a hotspot, which is more tedium than fun.
Controls (user interface, save/restore, sound/video adjustments)
The game is completely mouse-controlled, and was quite well behaved. There were a few spots where my character would get stuck and required some judicious mouse prodding to get him moving again, but it never locked things up completely.
The most annoying feature was the inventory pop-up: it was this big, gaudy thing that would only display one inventory item at a time, had relatively tiny arrows for cycling through the inventory items, and insisted on emitting this loud clang every time it popped up.
The save game dialog had an unfortunate choice of font and background colours; reading the names of the saved games was quite difficult.
Bugs or problems
A patch is available (version #2) which fixes "known problems".
Turning on hardware anti-aliasing in my video card caused the characters to become completely invisible. I encountered no other problems during the game.
No problems, and nothing nasty left behind after uninstalling.
- Pretty graphics
- Graphics gamma impossible to set correctly for all screens
- Amateurish voice acting
- Subtitles unreadable at times
- Some silly puzzles
- Extremely linear
- Poor storytelling
- Capricious hot spots and inventory items
I guess my final score for this game would be "mediocre". It was good enough that I finished the game without any great willpower required, but it left me feeling rather flat at the end of it all.
I was looking for an adventure, but all I got was a game.
This article copyright © 2002, Murray Peterson