Join the Jolly Gang
Developed by Stargaze, The Jolly Gang’s Misadventures in Africa is a new cartoon-style game from Alawar. The game’s title gives a clear indication that this is an adventure game with a strong fun influence to keep you amused as you join the Jolly Gang in their escapade to track down treasure.
The game’s opening screen gives you a variety of choices although a couple of them only come into their own once you have started playing your Africa adventure. These are the options to view the awards you have received and replaying any of the chapters and cut-scenes making up this game that you have completed previously. You can immediately adjust the volume level for background music and sound effects plus create your own game profile with a choice of Casual or Expert mode. The main difference between the two modes is that Casual will display the names of items that you should be looking out for in each scene.
The Jolly Gang consists of Moxxie and her pals Shaggy and Boar. Featuring retro-style cartoon graphics, the game opens with a mini tutorial to help you get use to the style of play which is based on a task format. This tutorial includes feeding a cat, making breakfast and a puzzle to select the correct CD for inserting into an optical drive. This puzzle is very easy and does not really prepare you for some of the mind twisting examples that occur later in the game – no help whatsoever is offered with the puzzles and some do not give you the option to skip them.
During the tutorial you will discover that conversations (really just chatter) abound during this game. However you will not hear a single word of these conversations (despite Alawar’s website stating there are voice-overs) as all I got was a text-only approach although the lips of the various characters do tend to move as the dialogue is delivered. Forget about trying to lip read otherwise you could easily miss out on great chunks of dialogue as it does tend to disappear quickly (often before you have had time to read it) to be replaced by the next section of the conversation. This is especially noticeable in the cut-scenes which motor along at a pace – maybe one reason why you may want to replay some of the scenes.
Following the discovery of a map, Moxxie believes that there is a fortune in diamonds to be found in Africa and so the adventure begins. A great deal of searching will be required as you move back and forth between the scenes making up each chapter. As your cursor touches items, a one-word or brief description will appear above it and, in certain cases, the cursor will change shape to indicate that closer examination or interaction is possible. A bar running across the top of the screen will list any items in the current scene that you need to collect. This does save you the bother of looking elsewhere for a piece of kit you might require. You can loose this feature by playing in Expert mode.
Once an item has been picked up, it will appear in the inventory positioned at the bottom of the screen where it will be available for use when required. The inventory sits next to the Hint feature that needs time to recharge after it has been used, other than to point you in the right direction in which to move. As indicated earlier, the Hint feature offers no assistance in the solving of puzzles where you are left to your own devices. There is a good mixture of challenging puzzles. The game does make use of one or two innovative techniques. In one case you need to use a camera that you find to take photos that will be required to solve a puzzle while another scene is initially viewed as if through half-opened eyes as your character recovers consciousness.
The Jolly Gang’s Misadventures in Africa does have a couple of faults. As already mentioned, the text dialogue does not give you enough time to take in its content before it disappears to be replaced by the next dialogue. I also came across what could be a simple spelling mistake or the mislabelling of an item. In one scene you are asked to block a window using boards. However instead of being referred to as a board, the word boar (the name of one of the characters) is used.
The game makes use of 44 locations spread over 10 chapters. It is not to my taste but others could well enjoy playing the game. System requirements call for a 1GHz processor with 512MB of RAM and 150MB of hard disk space running Windows 2000 and later. You can download a 60-minute trial version before deciding whether to purchase the unrestricted version.
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