Genre: Point & click adventure
Release Date: 11/06/13
TheIndieJar: Jack Haunt: Old Haunting Grounds Review
From the dawn of the genre, there have been certain hurdles one needs to cross to enjoy most point-and-click adventure games. For many, the biggest issue in the way is the often obtuse puzzles that plagued earlier adventure titles. Or, even if you have the time and patience for such nonsense, you may not always have the time to play them to completion, leaving poor Sam and Max to wander the byways of America without you, never finding their way home. Indie upstart EvolvingPoet Games has a charming (if not slightly flawed) solution to both of those issues: Jack Haunt!
Jack Haunt: Old Haunting Grounds is intended to be a worry-free and brief point-and-click experience for those curious about the genre but are scared to commit to a full-sized title, or for lapsed adventurers too busy with the accursed real world to indulge their pointing/clicking needs. The game takes place in a single location, doesn’t feature a huge cast of characters, and presents a handful of puzzles that challenge without being taxing. EvolvingPoet states the game is designed to be played in six hours or less (it took me two sittings of an hour to an hour-and-a-half), and almost anyone can work the puzzles out without losing their patience or sanity. And for the most part, it does exactly that!
The game’s clearest strong suit is the setting and plot. You play as Jack, an adorable classic Halloween candy-pail ghost who is stuck living in the house he died in with his roommates: the shambling corpse pile Frank; Love, the rejected fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, and an unnamed Lovecraftian multi-dimensional starbeast. The entire cast (as well as the house itself) oozes with charm. Love keeps an appropriately melodramatic diary and decorates his (her? its?) room with the same kind of anime and video game junk any angsty pseudo-goth teenager would keep around. Frank mostly grumbles and moans, but Jack’s one-sided conversations with him play out like some kind of zombie-themed Bob Newhart routine. The third roommate is the source of some of the game’s best visual effects, as well as the only truly creepy segments of the whole game, and actually helps to move the plot along (unlike the other two).
The art style hovers somewhere between (hear me out!) Homestar Runner and Courage the Cowardly Dog, and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the absolutely fantastic noir-meets-Danny-Elfman soundtrack. Despite the supernatural trappings, the dialogue provided more chuckle-worthy moments than most games even bother to try for these days, and you’ll find the circumstances surrounding Jack’s demise to be more interesting than you may expect.
Jack Haunt, impressively enough, was created using popular HTML5 game creation software Construct, and according to lead programmer Kyle (who was kind enough to answer my various emails), the parts too complicated for Construct’s drag-and-drop interface were put together using Java, which is quickly becoming a favourite amongst indie developers. You won’t encounter any real load times to speak of, and although I did encounter one game-stopping bug (and another issue I thought was a bug, until it turned out I was just approaching a puzzle wrong), the game is put together well enough to not suffer any real issues. The interface is smooth, allowing flexibility in both environmental and character interactions, and any choice that doesn’t progress the story at least results in entertainingly quirky inner monologues from Jack.
Overall, I would whole heartedly recommend Jack Haunt to anyone who likes a bit of style and charm in their games, and doesn’t require every game to be a 40-hour epic with obtuse puzzles and labyrinthine layouts. If you think ghosts can be cute sometimes, enjoy a good mystery, and can deal with the fact you may very well beat this game the first night you try it, then why not help out a friendly neighborhood independent developer and solve some crimes with Jack Haunt: Old Haunting Grounds.
- Charming and well-done art style
- Fantastic musical score
- Should serve as a perfect 'entry-level' adventure game
- Ending will leave you wanting more of both the plot and the actual gameplay