Bury the Shovelware: Jake Hunter Detective Chronicles


Well, we've found one of the weirdest game company names in existence: Aksys Games. It's right up there with "Infogrames" and "Camerica." I was surprised to learn that they're not as obscure as their name would lead one to imagine: they're the folks behind the Guilty Gear series.

Jake Hunter was developed by Arc System Works, which is a large Japanese developer and publisher who publishes overseas via Aksys Games. That'll be something I've gotta keep an eye on in the future: the same-developer-same-publisher factor. I'd probably have to talk to a few people who work for a development team or a publisher to learn more about that one. Any such folks reading this who'd like to help me out? Come on, I know you're out there.

The Critics Said ...

IGN was quick to note that this is a Phoenix Wright-inspired adventure, but also added that "Jake is a stereotype, and the stories are straight forward, humorless affairs." Game Informer followed suit, stating that the game "takes itself way too seriously." So ... the game is being criticized for not being closer to what inspired it? This leaves me a bit befuddled. If Jake Hunter copied Phoenix Wright to a T, it would be criticized for not being original. But when it decides to take a serious approach (as opposed to PW's humorous presentation), it's criticized for not being enough like the original. Poor Jake Hunter can't do anything right.

Criticism of critics aside, the two reviews were basically on-par with their peers: the game holds a 47% aggregate score at Metacritic.

Rap Sheet

  • Oooooh ... the title screen contains stereotypical 1940's detective music being strangled by MIDI. So far, so unbearable.

  • After beginning a new game, I'm given the choice of an episode to start with. Why wouldn't I start with episode 1?

  • I choose episode 1 and my selection is registered by the game ... but then I'm taken to a screen that says "Press A or tap the screen to start." Why wouldn't the episode just, you know, start? This isn't an "are you sure?" screen, as there isn't any clear way to go back. Why create extra steps for no reason?

  • Well, things have gotten very weird very quickly. I find my first murder victim, and she's lying face-down on the grass. Now, you'll have to forgive me: I scoured all of the Internet but could not find a direct-feed screenshot of this scene of the game, so I had to hold my DS up in front of my computer's not-quite-stellar webcam. Please excuse the quality. Regardless, take a look at this woman. Notice anything unusual? Wait, I've solved the mystery: she tripped, fell, and was choked to death by her own chest. I'm aware that both males and females are often built disproportionately in gaming, but couldn't this one woman die with a little decency? She looks like a tipped-over Barbie doll.

  • I feel like I'm just kind of ... doing nothing. The only control I seem to have over the events of the game is of the speed, like choosing to quickly or slowly turn the pages of a book. Major events happen regardless of my actions. But then again ...

Silver Lining

... is that such a bad thing? This generation has seen a reevaluation of the word "game," particularly with the abundance of innovative software found on the DS and Wii. Is there anything really wrong with a story being told in which you are not much more than a spectator? Apparently not.

Our Deduction

From ancient theater to classic novels to modern television, we've had no problem simply sitting back and being entertained. Jake Hunter: Detective Chronicles seems more like a slight enhancement of that: I have the ability to learn more if I please, but the events are pre-determined. I don't see that as such a problem (even though most of the critics did).

I haven't played through the game in its entirety to say whether or not the story is actually decent and thus validate or attack the critical reception this game has received, but their main complaint was this notion: that you don't get to do enough. I'll admit that I haven't played much of the Phoenix Wright series, but I assume that the player has a large effect on what happens. Reiterating what I said earlier, it's pretty unfair to criticize Jake Hunter for not being the same. In the future, we will have to keep an open mind when reviewing games. When the definition changes, so must the process of evaluating it.

In gaming, the term shovelware refers to any game in which time and effort were eschewed in favor of turning a quick profit. Bury the Shovelware takes a closer look at these titles, typically those that inhabit the lower end of metascores. It attempts to: 1) find out where and how the developer went wrong 2) identify common traits present in most shovelware 3) measure how long the game can be suffered.