Jekyll and Hyde
Publisher: The Adventure Company
Genre: 3D Adventure / Platformer
Release Date: 09/10/2010
As stated in my review of Dream Chronicles, I’m a bit of a sucker for the PC adventure game genre. The old Indiana Jones games, Day of the Tentacle, all the old Sierra classics… I played most of them, good and bad. And of course, I’m a big supporter of the “platformer” genre. From Megaman to Montezuma’s Revenge to Mario to Sonic, I’ve played platformers on every system that’s had them. Therefore, I was quite intrigued when I received Jekyll and Hyde in the mail, as it promised to to deliver on both fronts.
Instead it handed me double doses of frustration and downright disgust.
Jekyll and Hyde takes Robert Louis Stevenson’s original novel and takes a lot of liberties with it. Dr. Jekyll and his infamous alter ego more resemble his interpretation from The League of Extraordinary Gentleman than the original work upon which its based.
Jekyll is working to find a cure for a strange disease that’s taking the lives of numerous Londoners (oddly enough, some of the documentation for the game states the disease only kills children, but the cut scenes state it only kills adults, then turns right around and shows another cut scene where Jekyll and his bride-to-be speak of all the ill children in the hospital, so from early on it became clear that the storyline was being played with so loosely that even the developers couldn’t keep track of it). Jekyll works himself to the point of exhaustion and finally comes up with what he feels is a workable vaccine, but of course, has to test it on himself first (since he doesn’t have the disease I’m not sure what he hoped to learn from this move).
The game opens as he takes the potion for the first time, and briefly turns into Hyde before almost instantly reverting to his former self. From here the game proper begins, with Jekyll using Hyde is a sort of reluctant partner as he explores the London underworld pursuing the root cause of the mysterious disease.
Of course, a secret cult conspiracy of sorts is uncovered, mixed with mysticism and a touch of Greek mythology. This contrivance fell far below what I was looking forward to as far as narrative is concerned. I was hoping for something dark and foreboding, with a sort of From Hell feel. Instead I got what felt more like the 1980s film The Adventures of Young Sherlock Holmes, which simply didn’t do the source material justice.
This game looks old. By that, I mean the graphics look like a PS2 game ported up to a higher definition. It’s too bright and shiny for a Jekyll and Hyde game. Imagine watching Se7en, but with a color palette more like Warren Beatty’s take on Dick Tracy and you’ll start to get a feel for how wrong the visuals look. There’s also a really odd disconnect between the cut scenes and the actual game. The cut scenes are done in a dark, disturbing pop-up book style that reminded me of the some of the effects work from the recent independent film I Sell the Dead, with a bit of Clive Barker’s sketch work thrown in for good measure. But the graphics themselves has a look that more resembles a game licensed on a kid’s movie. Throw wacky blonde hair on Jekyll and he wouldn’t look much different than Lewis’s adult self in Meet The Robinsons. It’s not that it’s all that ugly to look at (though the polygon count looks way lower than what you’d expect from a 2010 PC game), it’s just too cartoony and hearkens back to the look of the older LucasArts games, which is all wrong for Jekyll and Hyde, especially in comparisons to its own cut scenes.
The sound effects are serviceable and provide an appropriate level of creepniess, as does the music, though it feels decidedly lacking in theme and seems to be more for general ambiance than telling a story through the music. Plus its painfully obvious that it was done through a synthesizer, that or the fakest sounding orchestra this side of Muppet Theater.
The voice acting ranges from competent to atrocious. The narrator, Jekyll’s butler, is wonderful, and sets just right right mood of despair and foreboding. But Jekyll and his fiancée are extraordinarily bad, almost early 90’s FMV game bad, and sound for all the world like what they are: two people reading dialog off a page.
Control and Gameplay
You move Jekyll around with the arrow keys and use the mouse to manipulate objects in his environment. In other words, pretty standard stuff here. I do not know if the game is compatible with a gamepad, as I didn’t try it, but I rather doubt it.
Items and Hyde’s abilities can be stored and selected in a sort of inventory wheel that permanently resides in the lower left corner of the screen. The wheel is rather large, taking up a good chunk of the game screen’s real estate, so the ability to bring this up only when needed would have been a welcome addition.
You move Jekyll through various rooms, each with a mostly fixed camera angle, which often makes maneuvering a chore, though it never results in blocking your view of what’s going on. Jekyll has to use items and clues he finds to make his way past several puzzles inspired by Greek mythology (which I won’t explain as I don’t want to spoil the story for those who actually shell out twenty bucks for it. Just take the Egyptian cult stuff from The Adventures of Young Sherlock Holmes and replace it with Greek and you’ll get the idea.) Jekyll must occasionally must jump from platform to platform, climb up walls, crawl through narrow openings, and change into Hyde with a quick drink of his potion to handle the more physically challenging obstacles with abilities you unlock through the course of the game by way of a cumbersome and mildly frustrating potion making mechanic, whereby you can upgrade your Hyde potion by finding various recipes with overly vague instructions and mixing them with a portable laboratory using ingredients found through the game. The obtuse nature of the recipes causes you to have to really play around with the amounts that you put in, and basically keep trying over and over again until you luck into a combination that works. What could have been an interesting additional mechanic ends up being a mouse-tossing pain in the ass.
The “action” consists primarily of the aforementioned platforming elements. Every few chapters there is a “boss” you have to defeat, but you do so by way of light puzzle solving and quick thinking rather than actual combat, giving it even more of a kiddie feel that it doesn’t need.
It’s the focus on platforming that really detracts from the experience. When you’re solving puzzles, the game is firing on all cylinders. The moment you have to jump across what appears to be a very short distance and end up falling to an instant death (which is pretty much the main way you’ll die in this game so its inclusion of a life bar is somewhat mystifying to me) you’ll really start to wish they’d left it out. There seems to be a good half second delay between when you execute a jump and Jekyll/Hyde actually does it, and that’s a failure that this far along in gaming history simply shouldn’t exist anymore.
I didn’t find any unlockables, and there doesn’t appear to be any New Game+ to be found. Like most games in this genre, once you’re done, you’re done. There’s no concept art, making of docs, commentaries, bonus levels, nothing. The credits roll, and then you get to put it on the shelf and never think about it ever again, which is one reason why I hate the fact that Gamestop no longer takes PC trade-ins, as they’d already have this one by now if they did.
The puzzles are well done but not overly difficult or ingenuous. You’re moving sliding tiles, rearranging statues, pretty standard stuff. But it works. Then you get into the god awful platforming, and the difficulty ranges from mind numbingly easy to stroke-enducing fits of rage. Thankfully it has a very forgiving checkpoint system that rarely leaves you more than a few steps from where you died, which you will. A lot.
The puzzles are, for the most part, borrowed from older games. The platforming feels like a broken shareware rip off of the older PC Prince of Persia titles. Switching between Jekyll and Hyde is the only really original mechanic, and even that has arguably been done before, as it really amounts to little more than changing costumes to give you different abilities, which Megaman‘s been doing for twenty five years.
The story idea of Jekyll and Hyde working together was already done in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and the whole “secret cult working beneath the streets of London” plot was done in both The Adventures of Young Sherlock Holmes AND last year’s Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey Jr. In short, there’s not really anything here that you haven’t seen or played before.
For reasons I’ll get to shortly, I really had to force myself to play this game. But even so, there’s nothing inherent in the story or gameplay that will keep you interested to the point of wanting more after you’ve finished it. You will forget this title the very moment it’s pulled from your DVD-ROM.
Considering the total visuals-to-story-to gameplay mishmash of this title, I can’t for the life of me figure out what audience Bit-Composer was going for here. Ten year old lovers of The Great Mouse Detective who read the Golden Books version of Jekyll and Hyde, and enjoy nightmares, which the visuals from the cut scenes will no doubt give them, perhaps? It won’t appeal to platforming fans because the mechanics are broken. It won’t appeal to fans of horror games because the look is too cutesy and simple. It won’t appeal to puzzle fans because of the simplicity and generic nature of the puzzles, and the amount of horrible platformer they’ll have to slog through to get to them. It won’t appeal to fans of the book because the story is is a pile of crap spewed from the ass of Scooby-Doo after watching Young Sherlock Holmes. This game was not destined to be a best seller, and judging by their bargain bin entry price of 19.95, I’d say they know it.
As if the rest of the game wasn’t bad enough, I had a hell of a time even getting it to run for this review. My primary machine is a laptop with an AMD dual core processor running at 2.5 ghz, four gigs of RAM, and a ATI Radeon graphics accelerator, and this game run at somewhere around 15 frames per second with all the effects turned off and the quality set to low. This on a laptop that can run games with similar requirements such as Doom 3, War of the Ring, Tron 2, Gears of War, Battle For Middle Earth 2 and Mass Effect on high. This laptop can run Crysis on (mostly) recommended settings but it won’t run Jekyll and Hyde a damn. I went to Bit-Composer’s website and saw there were no patches, not recommended settings adjustments, no issues of incompatability with my chipsets, nothing. In fact, their “support” section is just a form to request help via email, with a promise of a reply within 24 hours. I sent my request 7 days ago. I’m still waiting.
In the end, I had to dig out an old PC from my storage unit running Windows XP service pack 3 (I tried setting Windows 7 to use the compatibility feature but that didn’t help, though its supposedly Windows 7 64 bit compatible, despite it being stored in the 586 32 bit apps folder) with the same amount of RAM, an older Intel dual core processor, and a 4 year old Nvidia 256 meg graphics card, and what do you know, it ran like a charm. But after seeing the game the way it was meant to be seen, I felt stupid for putting forth all the effort.
Control and Gameplay: Worthless
Appeal Factor: Worthless
FINAL SCORE: AWFUL GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
This is a sub-par bargain bin title that was so poorly thought out that a machine that’s got well over the recommended specs will barely run it. It feels like it was designed by committee, with each team having a totally different concept of what the game should be like, and with a very limited budget to pull it all off at that. I’ve played ten dollar PC games from Virgin Mastertronics twenty years ago that were more fun than this. Leave Jekyll and Hyde on on the shelf, folks. For the same price you can buy a LucasArts adventure games collection that you’ll find much more satisfying.
Tags: bitcomposer, jekyll and hyde, platforming, the adventure company