JACK ORLANDO / ToonTrax / PC



Adventure games were pretty much dead and buried by 2001, but somehow that didn't stop this formerly unknown little Polish outfit from scrapping a decent budget together for one with full-screen animation reminiscent of that in Willy Beamish, but much more detailed.

We play as Sam Spade-esque private detective Jack Orlando, two-fisted hard-drinking etc. etc. etc. It's your standard hardboiled detective noir routine. No dizzy dames coming to your office though, instead Jack happens to witness a murder in an alley while stumbling home after his nightly bender at the local bar, then gets knocked out by the killer and left at the scene. Somehow he's blamed for the murder even though he was found unconcious at the scene with a head wound, but his old buddy the DA gives him 48 hours to clear his name.



There's a few things that derail Jack Orlando, and one big one is weak writing. The initial setup is a bunch of unbelievable premises -- Orlando is arrested despite no real evidence except for his physical presence, there was obviously a third party at the scene given that he couldn't have knocked himself out with anything present, the cops have no real motivation to pin the blame on him nor do they have a motivation to arbitrarily give him 48 hours wandering about free to solve the case himself after they do, etc. and so on. Polish cutural differences about how law enforcement works (it was a communist country prone to bouts of martial law until 1989) might explain some of this, but it's also quite possibly just sloppy amateur writing.

One problem that's more clear is that nobody who spoke English as a first language was involved in the localization. This weakness actually ends up being something of a strength, however, giving the game a goofy charm where it might have been just another dry Sam Spade knockoff otherwise. Characters are full of weird non sequiturs, in fact sometimes your dialogue options are nothing but three or four of them. Exacerbating all this is the very unprofessional voice acting, where it seems like the designers just went into a random hostel and got backpackers from all over Europe to do the voices. You'll get bad Irish voice acting, then bad Italian voice acting, then bad German voice acting, then some accent you can't even place, then apparently the guy who played Docta Wight in Mega Man 8 got in there somehow too. And Orlando himself sounds more like a two-bit goon from an old Mafia movie than a leading man. Like the dialogue, though, somehow this is charmingly goofy and actually gives the game a unique identity where otherwise it probably would have just been flat and boring. It's almost like a parody of noir, unintentional though it may be.



The greatest strength, of course, is the art and animation. It's not amazingly detailed, with characters kinda looking like something off the CDI sometimes, but the backgrounds are pretty sharp and laid out in such a way that you actually buy the environment as a 1920s-30s American city. Jack actually moves about the screens freely rather than jumping between preset points, and there's a little comic panel close-up when you perform even minor actions.

Another major positive is that they tracked down the guy who did the Lethal Weapon soundtracks to compose, and the Redbook Audio recordings are markedly a cut above a lot of games as he really does it up with the Sleazy Saxumophone style that the movies were known for (but in a more 1920s jazz sort of way).

Unfortunately, all you're left with to appreciate is the animation, music and goofy dialogue, however, because the gameplay is a round failure. The game uses a sort of simplified "context cursor" system (as most post-1994 adventure games did), and like so many others the puzzles range from either blindingly obvious to maddeningly obtuse with very little middle ground. The janky conversations do lose their charm here and there too, as they can occasionally be responsible for game-ending Sierra Hang-Ups. Early on in the game you'll find a matchbook near the crime scene with the name of a nightclub. Obviously, you're going to make a beeline for the place at first opportunity to start asking questions. But the bouncer won't let you in, and it's obvious you have to bribe him, but what's not so obvious is that you first have to exhaust his whole conversation tree. Otherwise, you don't find out about a female character inside who then never appears and is crucial to the story's progress. So if you bribe him too early, you're screwed, but you'll never know it unless you read a walkthrough (or this, I guess). There's a couple more similar showstoppers later in the game.

So what you're left with is a game that has impressive presentation and unintenional comedy value, but not so much anything else. I would love to see someone on Youtube like retsupurae or egg3rd take this one on, but as for actually playing it as a serious adventure game, it's likely to leave you cold.



Videos :

* Gameplay Video
This is a PC game, but it ain't a P.C. game (It's really not THAT funny, though, calm down wheezy dude)






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