Ask any child what their favorite cartoon is right now and there's a very good chance that they'll tell you it's Cartoon Network's bizarre Adventure Time
. Ask any adult the same question and they're still quite likely to say the same. Jake (the dog) and Finn (the human) have been adored as favorite characters among people of all ages for a half-decade now. Their gaming exploits have never been huge hits but this latest attempt marks, maybe surprisingly, the third annual autumn release on consoles. So far, each game has tried its hand at a different genre. Adventure Time: Finn and Jake Investigations
, most appropriately, is a classic point-and-click adventure. With a great deal of respect for the series, fans should enjoy what is to be had in Vicious Cycle's Investigations
, but for everyone else it's less than algebraic.
Come on, grab your friend.
Before Telltale reimagined adventure games by emphasizing role playing and branching conversations, the genre was more heavily focused on things like item hunting and using those items in combinations to solve puzzles. That retro aesthetic is the emphasis in Investigations
again. Playing as Finn with Jake by your side, the story mode plays out across five different cases, each of them broken up into three parts. You'll explore the many kingdoms of the series - Fire, Ice, Candy, etc. - and meet each of their famously strange inhabitants, like fire wolves, Ice Kings, and anthropomorphic cinnamon buns. As soon as you drop into the land of Ooo, you'll find one of the game's best features: the voice acting. During the roughly 8-10 hour game, you'll meet more characters from the series than you can keep count and they're all voiced by their television counterparts. This kind of dedication to the show immediately hints at the respect that Vicious Cycle has for it. Jeremy Shada and John DiMaggio are iconic as the main characters and the rest of the cast all gets the same treatment. Visually the game isn't in the same 2D style, but even in 3D every character looks just like their Cartoon Network versions. Unfortunately, many of the textures are lacking greatly and would seem more at home on a Wii U.
The actual genre gameplay holds up pretty well too, although at times it feels a bit uneven. Employing a classic trope of the genre, Finn and Jake often hint or fully reveal what step should be taken next, but there are times when you can be stuck in between their next conversational clues. Sometimes the puzzles were adequately challenging for the young people who will likely flock to the game, but at other times you hit a wall when you can't find the right items or solve certain puzzles. This made me, a 26 year old lifelong gamer, wonder if some kids will be in over their heads with inconsistent moments of difficulty in a genre that mostly disappeared before they might have even been born.
The Candy Kingdom, where every day is a party.
Like we said, though, there are plenty of adult fans of Adventure Time
too. For them, the key aspects of the game are built to challenge but never to defeat. You never have more than a few locations per episode to explore, and you can enable a glimmering visual hint that shows you with what can be interacted in your vicinity. Speaking to everyone and finding everything that you're meant to find still might not advance the story, though. In those times, it's when critical thinking is needed by combining items and remembering hints that other residents of Ooo might have mentioned. This can slow the game to a halt, which is maybe a reminder of why this genre disappeared.
Offsetting the mostly successful point-and-click gameplay are frequent and tiresome combat sequences. Using Finn's impressive collection of swords as well as Jake's shape-shifting ability, the game draws you into conflict with various villains about one to three times per level. These moments boil down to nothing but mashing the strike button until all enemies are defeated. Each combat sequence takes less than two or three minutes and you wonder if you can even lose these events. The power-ups available during these parts are fun at first, but grow tedious before the first case is even over.
When they aren't working a case, Finn and Jake can explore their own envy-of-children-everywhere treehouse.
If you're not a fan of the property, there were countless scenes that can fly over your head. Callbacks to episodes and story arcs were aplenty; the internet clued us in on some of them. This type of fan service will be welcome among those well versed in the eccentric lore of the show, but for others they serve as reminders that you are uninitiated. The show itself can be very clever but we didn't think of the game in this way very often. Certainly sometimes we did, but maybe we've just been giving the show too much credit.Investigations
also constantly reminded us of what feels like either a low budget or inattention to detail. Sometimes characters' mouths move during dialogue, sometimes they don't. When they're using any items, they never actually hold it, but still motion as if they are. You occasionally choose what to say, but those talks can't end until you say all the lines that are there anyway, making them feel like cheap ways to involve the player in what would have otherwise been long, unskippable dialogue sequences. It was also disappointing to see the reusing of areas throughout the game. Some cases visit unique parts of Ooo, but you'll have retreaded certain areas multiple times by the end of the game. For a series whose theme song invites us to go to "very distant lands", it was sadly ironic to boomerang among just a small handful of locales. Thanks to the core gameplay and commitment to the IP, it avoids the shovelware tag, but it's far from polished.
The combat gameplay was meant to break up the pointing and clicking, but it ends up being a low point in the game.
If you're looking for easy gamerscore and an easy completion, Investigations
is a great fit. Had a guide been available, we would have finished off the list instead of missing two achievements. With no level select, you'll want to look out for several missable achievements, like each
of the pair we're left
without. 15 of the game's 24 achievements come naturally through a full story playthrough and each of them are good for 40 G. A few others are linked to the combat sequences, but since they require
nothing but the truest definition of button mashing, you'll have no issues unlocking them. With guides, this 8-10 hour game can easily be cut down to 5 or 6 and you'll have no issues completing the list along the way.
Like a lot of licensed games, there are very distinct levels of enjoyment to be had. If you're a fan of adventure gaming, pointing and clicking through puzzles and looking for clues, Investigations
is a respectable callback to that era and whose fault might be in leaving the IP's younger fans behind. If you're a fan of the series, it's an inelegant trip into the peculiar land of Ooo that saves itself by adoring the series as much as the fans who might play it. Surely the folks in the middle of that Venn Diagram will get the most out of Finn and Jake Investigations
and those who fall completely outside of it can save their dosh and skip the game entirely.
- Features a huge portion of the show's characters, all voiced by their original actors
- Frequent moments of fan service, callbacks, and inside jokes
- Uneven gameplay can't decide if it's for kids or adults
- Button-mashy combat sequences
- Lacks polish in nearly all areas
The reviewer spent ten hours in the land of Ooo, meeting its many strange inhabitants and earning all but two of the game's 24 achievements. An Xbox One digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher for this review.