Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles - hands-on

Text-y point-and-click adventure games are making a comeback on Nintendo's can-do handheld. With hits like Ace Attorney and Hotel Dusk along with lesser titles like Touch Detective, the time is right for solving mysteries on the DS, which makes room for some very obscure, if long running, titles to be localized for the first time. That brings us to Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles, the first US release of a Japanese detective series that is more than 20 years old (it premiered on the Famicom Disk System!), which we recently took for a spin.

First things first, the game is about reading - so get your bifocals ready, bookworms. Jake Hunter features three separate mysteries that can be played through in any order. Think of it like a collection of short stories. You can start with whichever you like; some are just longer than others.

In all of the episodes, Jake's the main character and each mystery is told through his first person narration. You know as much as he does and you tell him where to go and what to ask. As personalities go, Jake is pretty low-key. He's all business, not particularly sociable, and he just walks through life with little going on outside the case. Here is an actual response of his: "I give her a generic reply..." That's so plain, he probably loves vanilla ice cream.

If he has one thing setting him apart from most characters in gaming, it's that Jake smokes. A lot. This may seem unnecessary, but it actually is a key part of the game. Say you're out of ideas on where to go or what to do? Just press the L button, or the lighter icon on the touch screen, to pull out a death stick and let the smooth flavor envelop Jake; it helps him think. Once he's done, he gives a moderate hint to the player on what needs to be done next.

Though the first story didn't give any hints on how to play the game, it's easy enough to figure out. Jake goes from place to place, collect clues, and talk to suspicious characters. Once a day's work is done, and Jake usually states that he is finished, we go back to the office to regroup. Once there, he starts smoking again and then the player answers a quick series of questions based mostly on memory of the facts he collected that day. Get 'em all correct and Jake has an epiphany and the section ends with a cliffhanger that leads into the next part of the story.

Each case is composed of several smaller parts that make it easy to play the game in chapter-sized chunks that can be picked up readily later on. Though we hope to see more character from this title, Detective Chronicles looks really solid and it's always nice to see such small and cultish games given a chance in the home of the brave. Even if concerned mothers will almost certainly blame it for causing their kids to take up smoking.

Apr 29, 2008