The Short And Boring Road.
You gotta love box quotes, those ecstatic snippets of support from previews and reviews. Essentially, a box quote is a last ditch advertising effort with a veil of legitimacy to lure in the uneducated shopper. It's hard to trust 'em, because they're there to sell the product, not tell you the truth. "I thought the game was dull and soulless. An effort in tedium!" Good luck selling copies that way.
Well, that's exactly what I thought of the point and click adventure game, Jazz and Faust. And you sure won't find that opinion anywhere on the box.
If you judged this game solely on the quotes, Jazz and Faust looks like Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha rolled up in a 5 by 8 box (Man, that'd be cramped). But in reality, it's a false prophet, providing bland puzzles, a boring, uninvolving story, and old-school design that's TOO old-school. Just because you miss the adventure genre doesn't mean you should force yourself through this one.
Jazz is an edgy smuggler. Faust is a good boy sea captain. Somehow this odd pairing find themselves embroiled in a criss-crossing adventure that made me want to jump jump right out of my chair to do something else.
Instead of worthwhile logic puzzles that require you to rely on your own ingenuity, you play the fetching boy to lazy NPCs. Some guy wants something. You have to go find it. Conversations will reveal the necessary items, but instead of dialogue trees that allow you to befriend and interrogate NPC's, you have straight blocks of text that just tell you what to do. It's poorly written dialogue at that. Maybe a great deal of heart was lost in the translation, but there's no energy in the words. The characters are limp, wooden puppets. The plot is a dreary romp through a textbook adventure story.
At the core of Jazz and Faust is programming mired in archaic, sharply linear thought. There are triggers throughout the game that will cause subsequent events or objects to be introduced. You can't go to a certain area until you've had a conversation with Mr. X, or you can't pick up an object until listening to Ms. Y kvetch. Really kills any sense of world continuity.
At least the user interface tries to be helpful. If an object can be looked at or picked up, the cursor will change appropriately. But finding the designated area that changes your cursor can be a pixel hunt. Acquired items go into your inventory, where tiny, nondescript arrows on the left and right allow you to slowly scroll through your list.
The graphics are not good. The character models are excessively ugly with low polygon counts and awkward animation. They look nothing like the fully-rendered characters emblazoned on the box. Some of the backgrounds capture an interesting style that merges digital and painterly expressions, which is well and good for framed art, but within a game feel too static to envelope the player. Sure, there are little touches like little puffs of smoke or glimmers of light in the water, but not enough to generate the aura of life.
The game is also somewhat buggy. The characters have the mystical ability to walk through solid objects. Chalk that up to the "objects" never being solid to begin with. The backgrounds are pre-renders, and the characters are merely overlaid on top. So why isn't my system masking the characters so Jazz looks like he's walking BEHIND the table instead of on top of it? Well... that's their problem, which is likely solved in a patch somewhere.
The voice acting is awful. Faust speaks in a monotone that's as dull as the rest of the game. Jazz isn't quite as bad, with a macho attitude that sounds like a watered down version of Snake from The Simpsons. The rest of the characters are a bevy of poorly acted, out of place misanthropes - programmers and their parents.
Jazz and Faust yearns to return to a time when adventuring gaming ruled the charts. Unfortunately, it only succeeds in cementing the common belief that the genre is woefully out of touch. Take my written word for it - leave this one at the store.