Camping can be fun!
Jacob Jones doesn't particularly want to go camping but mom and dad are off on another expedition, so young Jacob has to go camping as this trip by mom and dad is going to take more time than normal.
But heck, such adventures as summer camp are the kind of things that helped his parents get a taste for adventure, a taste that they hope Jacob will acquire. So our slightly reluctant hero agrees, thinking things are going to be dull, dull, dull. But then he catches sight of a creature by the side of the road. Maybe things are not going to be so dull after all.
This summarizes the story behind the game, to some extent. I won't reveal any more of the plot because as you know by now, this site is a spoiler free zone.
Riddle me this, riddle me that...
It doesn't take long for the player to realize that this is a puzzle driven game, and you'll be using the Vita's touch screen facilities to solve the challenges that lie ahead. The first one being tracing a route on a sort of circuit board to get Dad's GPS system working, the next task is to clear a road block.
The opening puzzles take you along a set route but once you get to the camp and have settled in, you can explore to your hearts content, interact with the staff and the other kids in the group. Most of these chats and interactions lead to other puzzles to solve, though I won't reveal anymore about the puzzles themselves.
The puzzles range from the relatively simple to the quite perplexing. Fear not though, there is a hint system. By ringing three associates on your mobile phone, you can get help that costs 1 phone credit for a basic hint, 2 for a hint that's a little more helpful and 3 for a 'puzzle buster'. Run out of credits though, and you won't be able to get any help.
This is where the 'soda can hunt' comes in handy. Soda cans can be found scattered around the campsite. Look for a little sparkling icon, and with a touch of the screen you'll collect a can. However they don't initialy tell you that cans add to your phone credit until later in the game, which does seem odd. If you can't see any soda cans, then tilt the screen and you may be able to see a soda can peeking out from behind a fence post, or a bush. The Vita has a nice clear screen so you shouldn't have too much trouble locating them.
Each time you try a puzzle, you will earn merit points. But the point value reduces if you leave the puzzle and come back to it later. These merit points are separate from the phone credit system. You also can earn trophies for solving the case and for generally progressing through the story.
You could abandon one puzzle and have a go at a new one then return to the one you have left if you so desire. But if you want that perfect credit score then you'll want to be solving them first time round. Using the hints do not affect the phone credits, but they will affect the final rating.
Yes it is casual gaming, it's a game that you can dip in and out of as much as you like. It's pace is nice and easy, but then again this is no action title. It will exercise the brain but here is where one little gripe comes in. For an adult some of the puzzles can be quite tricky. Now when you consider that it's pitched at 7 year olds and higher, then frustration could well set in for the youngster and mom and dad could well be pestered for help!
I'm not saying that it should all be so nice and easy; sure it should be a challenge but some of the puzzles could well lead to some kids patience being tested.
Graphically this game is charming and works very nicely indeed. The near 3D graphics are crisp and clear and remind me of the 'cut out' style of Little Big Planet and the scenery shifts as you tilt the screen (useful for finding those soda cans) though it does take them some time to tell you that you can do it. . Character animations are nice and smooth and for the most part, the interaction between the player and the touchscreen controls work well. Swipe to the left and right to move Joseph to new areas or point right at the gate/door you want him to go through. Most of the time moving Joseph is not a problem.
However I found that unusually for the Vita, moving smaller items in the puzzle screen could be a problem. Maybe my fingertips are too large for the screen, but I found that in trying to move one item on the screen, I sometimes ended up dragging another one entirely undoing the work I had already done. Annoying to a degree but then again it could have been down to me and my adult sized fingers. The kid's may not find it so tricky though. The game has a good sense of humour running through it, and there are references to such media like Friday the 13th to make the adults smile. There is no gratuitous violence or swear words here, it's family friendly fun, above all else, it's kiddie friendly and after all that is the key market it's aimed at.
But that does not mean that adults should not try it, indeed the puzzles are challenging enough for the kids so the adults will find their brains taxed by them too.
It's nice to see that this has all been voice acted, and very well too. The lip sync is spot on and the dialogue is humorous and should raise a smile. The music fits the mood very well and is quite endearing.
The Big Footed Summary
Jacob Jones provides an amusing and brain stretching exercise for both young and old. This is only part 1, and as of yet, no news when part 2 is due out. Will it induce me to get part 2? It stands a good chance that it will!
As of writing this, there are some puzzles I have not solved, due to the fact that I need to go back into camp, and find the kids connected to those puzzles. Now this is in itself is going to be a challenge as they seem to have vanished into thin air!
Maybe these challenges can only be done when Part 2 comes out? That in itself is a mystery! But I have enjoyed guiding Joseph and his pal through this journey and am looking forward to part 2.