Sometimes a puzzle game will come out where the entire purpose is to solve puzzles. While I could be perfectly happy solving puzzles all day long, I crave some atmosphere and story and characterization intermingled with good puzzles. Fortunately for me, there are games like Jazz & Faust.
Jazz & Faust is a puzzle/adventure game set in a fantasy environment with medieval and Arabian Nights -style elements. In it you play one of the two title characters as you try to unravel a mystery and achieve an ancient treasure. The trick is, once you have solved one of the character’s quests, you start again playing the other character.
At first, when the game started, I thought I was being treated to a movie that started off with the two main characters, Jazz and Faust, playing dice. After a few throws of the dice, I started to think that this was the most boring intro movie I had ever seen in a game. When they started waving at me, I realized that there was a cursor on the screen, and the two characters would each light up as they got moused over. Oh! This is just the select your character screen! Well, don t I feel stupid. I clicked on Jazz and got the real intro movie.
The first thing that stuck me about the game was the impressive graphics. The backgrounds are detailed and beautiful, and the character textures are quite real-looking, with only a minimal amount of objects going through other objects, etc. It s pretty easy to become engrossed with the game when you are looking at screens this wonderfully done.
The soundtrack was just as good as the graphics, if not better. The music really created the atmosphere of a medieval fantasy world. The voice acting was not the best I ve seen, but it was far from the worst. I only got tired of hearing one character s voice, but unfortunately, it’s one of the two main characters. (Of course, I may have only gotten tired of him because he is a main character and you hear him talk so much…now my head hurts.)
The control interface is simple enough. You just click on the area you want him to go to, item you want him to take, thing you want to see, or person you want to talk to. There were also keyboard controls to rotate left or right, or move forward or backward, but I found those to be unnecessary when it was easier to use the mouse. You move about within a screen in a sort of 3-D motion, and when you exit, it will load the next screen. I ve seen this sort of interface before, and it always works pretty well.
The story line is entertaining, and the settings drew me in at a glance. To be able to play the two main characters interacting with the same people and scenes was clever enough, but to make the reasoning behind it a part of the ongoing story was pretty brilliant. I have to say I was confused a bit by the end, but then I remembered that the development house is in Russia, and that Russian fairy tales are…well…different from the Disney-fied Western versions most of us know. It is just as enjoyable, but like I said, different.
The path you take is very linear, almost to the point of being painful. You can t pick certain items up, even if you know what you ll need it for, until you look at something else or perform a certain action. All the while there is a quite annoying grasping hand cursor when you mouse over it. Early in the game, I spotted a jug hiding in the bushes on one screen, and, thinking it might be useful, tried to grab it, with the results described above. Later, when I found a large quantity of oil, I figured I would need something to carry it in and tried to get the jug again, but no luck. It was only when I discovered what I needed the oil for was I able to get the jug followed by the oil. This definitely goes against the grain of my adventure game mentality, which is pick everything up, because it might be useful later .
Also, occasionally, after interacting with a character, I would find myself in possession of certain items that will be needed later, but there was no logical reason for that character to give me that item. Mostly, they made an incredible effort to integrate items into the scenery and story, but a few times I end up thinking, Huh? Why would he give me that?
Jazz and Faust is a very well put-together game, with fantastic graphics and sound, and an intricate and well-written fairy tale storyline. It quite easily earns a 4-Gem rating.