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Review by: Josh Horowitz
Published: July 6, 2002
Most long-time gamers up on their titles will tell you that adventure gaming is a fading genre. Shedding a tear of nostalgia as they don their old blue-ringed Sierra Online t-shirt and Zork baseball cap, they mutter bitterly that the days of King’s Quest and Monkey Island have gone the way of the dodo, replaced by newer, more graphically impressive real-time strategy games or first-person shooters. While weekly sales figures back up this claim, there will still be developers out there who continue to have a desire to tell interactive stories despite what the current gaming environment may dictate. Such spirit is still alive and well in Russia, a country known for its rich literary works by such names as Chekov, Turgenev, and Pushkin. It is here that a small development company called Saturn Plus has pooled resources with Russia’s largest publisher, 1C, to create a new gaming release geared towards those yearning for the adventures of the past. They present the unusually titled Jazz and Faust, Saturn Plus’ first release outside of Russia that promises the necessary adventure elements of intrigue, foreign lands, mystery, and treasure.
The story begins in the peaceful desert land of Red Sands, far away. One day, the land is attacked and conquered by a horde of evil forces led by the nefarious Alkaim and his nephew, Selim. Alkaim kills the Supreme Ruler and takes his daughter, the princess Lousa, as his wife. Soon the land is plunged into despair, which eventually boils over into heated rebellion. His troops routed, Alkaim is forced to flee to the desert, taking with him Selim, Lousa, and a bunch of treasure looted from the land. While on the run, Lousa tries to convince Selim to kill Alkaim, thus avenging her father’s death and letting Selim keep the treasure for himself. Unable to do it, Selim instead leaves Alkaim in the desert while he and Lousa run away with the treasure. Now on the run from Alkaim, Selim and Lousa flee for the port town of Er-Elp, home of smugglers, sailors, and other interesting characters. Once there, Selim disguises himself as a merchant and tries to get the police’s protection by exaggerating his story to seem like a madman. Meanwhile, Lousa convinces Selim to lure Alkaim to Er-Elp with the aim of beheading him and going free. That night, decapitation does occur, only it happens twice, with one head missing and the other belonging to Selima.
Enter the characters, Jazz and Faust. Jazz is a brash and sarcastic rogue smuggler out to make a profit and lead a life of high adventure. He happens to be smuggling gin into Er-Elp around the same time as the gory murders, and overhears Selim’s mad rantings to the police captain while locked up in a jail cell. Faust, on the other hand, is the strong, soft-spoken sea captain of the “Invisible” in the business of chartering trips to and from Er-Elp. The night of the murders, he becomes taken with a mysterious woman he can’t charter and resolves to follow her to the ends of the Earth. During the game, players can choose to control the destinies of either of these two characters, and will visit the same locations while having different interactions with the various people and places. The people are a motley assortment of corrupt officials, drunks, wizards, slavers, traders, and a few non-humans to boot, while the places range from trading outposts and taverns to caravansaries and harems.
Jazz and Faust‘s gameplay works with the classic parserless “point and click” interface first popularized in early LucasArts offerings like Sam and Max Hit the Road and Full Throttle. Players navigate Jazz or Faust through various pre-rendered 2D backgrounds by clicking along certain acceptable areas, with the 3D character walking or running based on a single or double click. By passing the cursor over active “hotspots,” players are able to perform actions on the environment. These actions can include talking, picking up, examining, or using an inventory item on someone or something. Unlike Sierra adventures, which had players manually switching their cursor’s functionality, Jazz and Faust simply assigns the cursor action depending on the hotspot. Any items picked up are placed in your character’s bottomless inventory. These items can be brought up by right clicking, and scrolled through by clicking arrow buttons.
Much of the game consists of conversations with non-player characters that further the storyline and unlock new areas to explore. Usually, NPCs won’t provide useful information unless you perform a task or give them an item, which is the majority of the title’s adventure aspect. The conversations themselves are pre-scripted and occur automatically upon clicking on a NPC. Much of the story’s background is explained in the manual, though talking to characters later in the game fleshes it out.
One of Jazz and Faust‘s novelties is that it offers two different perspectives of the same story. Players can only finish the game after completing the adventures of both the wily Jazz and the noble captain Faust, each under different circumstances in the same locales. Both Jazz and Faust’s destinies are linked, and each story involves interactions between the two from different perspectives. For example, at one point in the story as Jazz, players must escape the bonds of slavery by signaling Faust to steal the slaver’s keys. As Faust in the same scene, players end up trading Jazz for a camel. It’s important to note that many of the actions performed by the two characters go along with their nature, making it necessary for players to think like their character to complete the adventure. Jazz, the gin runner, is more likely to “borrow” items from people and stretch the truth, whereas the soft-spoken, physical Faust will often perform more direct actions.
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