There are some children’s shows that are aimed purely at kids. You’d struggle to find many adults that willingly watch Peppa Pig, Dora the Explorer or The Tweenies. I’m not counting parents of hyperactive children here incidentally; I know that you are too exhausted when they go to bed to turn CBeebies off, so you are exempt from the previous statement. Anyway, the point is that some programmes for kids are only aimed at kids and there’s little to attract adults: Adventure Time is not one of those shows. Like many of the great kids shows from Danger Mouse to Spongebob Squarepants, Pendleton Ward’s masterpiece is fun for all the family, with just enough double entendres and clever writing to make it fun for adults alongside brightly coloured, silly humour for the kids to enjoy.
The trouble with videogames based on these kinds of shows with crossover appeal is that it can be difficult to please both sets of fans. Unlike television, there’s a requirement for a challenge of some kind in videogames, and generally, people require that challenge to be appropriate to their level. If you make a game too hard then kids will struggle but if you make it too easy then adults won’t be engaged. This is why you don’t find that many kids playing Bloodborne or adults playing Pony World 2.
It’s certainly possible to create games that are perfect for all ages: the LEGO games are testament to this for example. Previous Adventure Time games though have fallen foul of the problem and been too childish for many people’s tastes. There was a feeling that the developers didn’t fully understand the appeal of the source material to all ages. With the reins now handed to Vicious Cycle Games, can Finn & Jake Investigations end this poor run of form?
The previous games were largely action platformers but this time round a change in genre is on the cards. This is a 3D point and click adventure, very much in the same vein as games like The Wolf Among us. It sees our titular heroes investigating crimes in the land of Ooo. The format is based on the 5 Short Graybles episodes of the series. Like those episodes, the game is split into a series of stories (or “graybles”) introduced by recurring cameo character Cuber, played by comedian Emo Phillips.
From the outset, this is a game that packs a graphical punch. Like the TV show itself, the aim is to give us a vibrant cartoon world that feels alive with activity. This is exactly what you get. Everything is bright and colourful with a sense of purpose. The backgrounds are neatly animated with plenty to see going on behind you. It makes the world feel more alive as there’s always something going on. Step into Princess Bubblegum’s kitchen and you see scientific apparatus bubbling, pop into Tree Trunks’ house and the kettle is boiling in the background. It’s a representation of the cartoon in full 3D and it does a remarkable job of capturing the feel perfectly.
The puzzles aren’t too hard but they do offer a challenge. It seems to strike the balance that I mentioned earlier in that it isn’t too hard for the youngsters or too easy for oldies like me. A few puzzles will leave you scratching your head long enough to feel that sense of achievement when you finally solve them but if you’re expecting a massive cerebral workout, this won’t be the game for you. There’s certainly nothing overly obtuse and complicated here so it’s not going to win you any kudos from your mates to get the platinum trophy, but it won’t look like you just got it for an easy trophy either.
There is a Devil May Cry style combat system in the game as well. It felt a little tacked on and unnecessary for me. Generally, point and click adventures don’t have much combat in them if any, and it tends to be superfluous. Indeed, that is the case here: it’s not enough of a spectacle to compete with the likes of Bayonetta or Ninja Gaiden and doesn’t really seem to add much to the game. You can unlock swords through it, but you only need them for the combat anyway. There’s also loot awarded at the end of these sections but there doesn’t seem to be any specific list of what loot you got, only if it was good or bad at the end of the fight. After three of the five stories were completed, I still hadn’t done anything with aforementioned loot, leaving me wondering why they bothered with it at all. Fortunately, it only makes up a small portion of the game and therefore didn’t detract too much.
I did have a few gripes with the game other than the combat. For starters the controls have a tendency to be a little fiddly. Sometimes Jake gets in the way and you have to shove him until he moves. Also, some objects have a really small activity zone, meaning you have to be in just the right position to be able to interact with them. The game will tell you at the press of a button which objects are interactive so it’s not a major issue as long as you remember to check. This issue did cause me to miss one vital object at a point in the game though, leading to a puzzle becoming much more difficult than it should have been and me having to Google the answer for a puzzle in a game aimed at kids! There’s also no save function, just an autosave with sparsely spread out savepoints. This means that sometimes it’s not possible to just stop playing when you wish.
The main reason to play this if you’re a fan of the show is the storyline. Each short story really does feel like a mini episode with you in the driving seat. Lines are generally delivered really well, with some terrific voice-acting throughout. This is largely because all of the original voice actors of the show reprise their roles here. As well as ensuring that the quality of voice acting is high, it helps the game feel more familiar. John DiMaggio in particular puts in his usual excellent delivery as Jake, continually dancing along that line between acerbic and adorably cheeky.
Overall, I felt that the game was a brilliant piece of fanservice. It breaks the chain of fairly poor Adventure Time games and it’s a great game bar a few small niggles here and there. There’s a lot of depth and engaging storylines to follow. If you’re not a fan of the series, then you may not get all the references and humour. Some of the story assumes a prior knowledge of the characters and there are many references to events in particular episodes. Be prepared to have a few jokes fly over your head if you’ve not seen much of the show. If you are a fan of course, then you’ll have a great time in the land of Ooo with the best Adventure Time game to date.
Adventure Time: Finn & Jake Investigations (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
A strong point-and-click game that strikes a good balance between being family-friendly and not too easy as to be no challenge. The game is led by a strong storyline, delivered with great voice acting. If you’re a fan of the TV show then you’ll love it, but be aware that it may not be that engaging if you haven’t seen it.