the writings of a mind

Title: Jazz and Faust
Genre: Adventure
Big Word: fizzled
Strap: Don your lab coats, ensure your safety goggles are on, and no running.

I’ve been up all night, running some extraordinarily complicated scientific experiments. My house now looks like a laboratory from one of those 1950 horror movies, each and every surface covered in bubbling flasks, over-spilling test tubes, and enormous, pointless, Vander graph generators. There’s even a large, colourful periodic table hanging from the wall. I’ve spent my time analysing, heating and titrating, all for you, trying to discover the specific ingredient that makes adventure games great.

Eventually, after a series of results from my new mass spectrometer, I got the print-out that answered all my questions: The special addition, the thing that makes one adventure so wonderful and another so abysmal, is… magical fairy dust (MFD). Jazz and Faust has no magical fairy dust.

The reason these experiments began was because at first appearance, Jazz and Faust contains everything a good point and click should – nicely painted backgrounds, a constant stream of puzzles, a competent voice cast, the correct balance of dialogue, a simple mouse interface, and no death scenes – and yet at no point did I find myself enjoying it.

The premise is disturbingly familiar – your character is involved in pirating, looking for treasure, and getting hold of a boat to solve a mystery. So we’re all thinking the same thing… But yet this immediate comparison doesn’t hold up. Lucasarts’ classics contained the highest concentrations of magical fairy dust my tests have found – and it is this difference that renders them so many leagues apart.

Jazz and Faust lets you play the game as either of the eponymous characters, meaning that there are two completely separate approaches to playing through. But each is plagued with the exact same problems. MFD appears to have the property of ensuring the puzzles can be ridiculous, but yet on some level, intuitive. Without its presence, puzzles are left meaningless – the agony of clicking everything on everything until something happens, never clear why. But the problems go so much deeper, with the lazy manner in which items that were at one point unusable, are suddenly supposed to be clicked upon, with no warning that things might have changed. So now you’re clicking everything on everything, every time you go past it. It’s a third dimension of annoyance.

The other chemical imbalances resulting from a deficiency of MFD are less simple to write down. They are that "certain something" that means you completely engage. It’s the reason you loved being Manny in Grim Fandango, even though he was a skeleton. It’s why it was fun to be a PI dog and a sociopathic rabbit in Sam & Max. And it’s the reason why it’s so incredibly mediocre to be either Jazz or Faust in, er, Jazz and Faust.

But like missing out yeast when making bread, forgetting to add the magical fairy dust to your adventure game, leaves you with a flat, unrisen, lump of gaming ingredients.

Margin Note:
Is this still English?

Some of the most confusing mistranslations in gaming history can be found hidden inside this puddle of mediocrity. My personal favourite was the referring to a ladder as "a staircase". Find out your own personal favourites, and send them in on a postcard to PC Zone before 2008 to win an amazing prize.

 Mediocrity in its purest form, missing vital chemical ingredients. C-. See me.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Saturn Plus
Developer: 1C Company
Price: £30
Minimum System: PII 300, 32 Mb RAM, 4Mb 3D card, 750 Mb HD space
Recommended: PII 400, 64 Mb RAM, 16 Mb 3D card
Multi-player: No
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