An Adventure for the Whole Family
The golden days of the adventure game have come and gone. Now, an underground reemergence has been underway for a number of years: smaller studios and indie designers publishing the occasional adventure title, usually aimed at those players pining for a comeback of their once-loved gaming genre. This subset of gamers likely consists mainly of adults on their way into their thirties and above – younger gamers may not remember the point-and-click interfaces, inventory puzzles, or (going back even further) text-based input.
But then there’s Alawar’s The Jolly Gang’s Misadventures in Africa, a short but sweet stint into the adventure gaming days of yore. By all appearances, Jolly Gang is squarely aimed at the younger market, perhaps 13 and under, to experience a competent adventure game with some of what we old-timers refer to as “classic” gameplay. This time around, the three members that make up the Jolly Gang – three androgynous and misshapenly-animated kids named Moxxie, Boar, and Shaggy – are on a the tracks of a treasure of great value, hidden by a professor for his daughter to one day find. While Moxxie and co. look like a disquieting cross between characters from children’s cartoon shows Rugrats and Hey Arnold, it’s easy to forgive them their odd appearances soon enough, and even come to care about the ugly little buggers.
On the gameplay side, there’s all the item gathering, puzzle solving, and environment manipulating that you could want. Though also incorporating some lackluster hidden object scenarios, the game does not equate brevity with simplicity, offering enough of a challenge to keep even jaded adventurers busy for a bit. Whether it’s finding a way to hotwire an SUV while armed kidnappers stand only a few feet away or having to dig up a treasure in the dead of night behind an abandoned spooky mansion, the game’s classic adventure-style segments offer up a level of think-on-your-feet challenge that might be too much for young, inexperienced gamers. Thus, JGMiA could serve as an entertaining way for the whole family to enjoy a game and engage in some puzzle-solving together.
The hidden object scenes are a disappointment, though. Not only do they require in general only one or two items to be found in each (with a few exceptions), but the game holds your hand a little too much during these moments – throughout the entire game, mousing over any item will display its name. This is fine when proceeding through the environments on your quest, but its presence makes the seek-n-find segments a simple matter of just scrolling your mouse around the screen until you see the name of the object you’re looking for; in essence, it defeats the purpose of having hidden object puzzles.
Puzzles for the remainder of the game are fairly engaging and clever, and there’s a wide variety of codes to crack and hidden meanings to uncover. A rechargeable help button is available during the entirety of the game, which will direct you to where your next clue can be found. Seasoned veterans will likely not want to use this, but it is included in any case for the twitch gamer who doesn’t want to pore over what to do next. Overall, the game does strike that balance to appeal to multiple play styles; help is available, or you can choose to tough it out and go it alone.
The Final Verdict
Overall, The Jolly Gang’s Misadventures in Africa offers appealing adventuring and puzzle-solving for junior gamers or an evening of gaming as a family. If you were a fan of the first game in the series, The Jolly Gang’s Spooky Adventure, this will be right up your alley. Those looking for a darker story or an adventure to sink their teeth into for days won’t find what they’re looking for here, though.