They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Charles Caleb Colton apparently coined this phrase, and he was pretty darn bang on the money with it. The world of videogames is littered with many, er, let’s call them ‘homages’ to the greats. Tetris clones for example, are ten a penny and there have been many imitations of Super Mario.
Considering the success of the Professor Layton games on Nintendo’s DS, it’s something of a surprise that so long has been taken for someone to create a similar styled game for the iPhone. 99 Games and Chillingo have finally spotted the glaring gap in the market and delivered The Jim and Frank Mysteries: The Blood River Files for your favourite Apple touch-screen device.
To say that The Jim and Frank Mysteries: TBRF has been inspired by the Layton games is something of an understatement. The art style and gameplay are very similar as are the puzzles and tasks. That said, if the game is good fun to play, then that really doesn’t matter a jot. And thankfully it is good fun - very good fun, in fact.
The story follows friends Jim and Frank as they embark on Jim’s traditional birthday quest set out by his grandfather. The quest sees them take on a constant barrage of puzzles that include logical, mathematical and physical in order to progress. Puzzles usually tie in with doing a helpful deed for someone and thus sometimes can be a little tenuously linked. For instance, helping a policeman work out the order a thief has robbed a 4x4 grid of houses, by tracing six contiguous lines over them all.
There are plenty of story puzzles to wrap your noggin around. From classic block sliding to mathematical equations they are presented nicely and often imaginatively. It’s very satisfying when you work out a puzzle quickly and more so when you stream off 4 or 5 in succession. There are a couple of negatives that I should point out though. Sometimes the wording of a puzzle’s information can be a little vague but a dash common sense is usually the simple answer to that problem. A little less forgivable comes when a puzzle has more than one solution. The aforementioned house thief for example has 15 (according to a quick Google search, anyway) possible solutions. When I worked out my first answer, the game frustratingly told me it was wrong and docked points. This really shouldn’t happen in a game of this nature. Thankfully, these situations are very few and far between.
To assist in working out puzzles, you have access to a blank notes page where you can scribble down anything you think might be useful. I also found a lot of enjoyment from using other real life methods to work out answers. Such as setting up a spreadsheet to work out a mother and daughter’s ages or cutting out a cardboard cube to work out how the symbols on each side line up.
Even Layton veterans are likely to get stumped at some point and this is where ‘Eureka’ hints come into play. Hidden amongst each beautifully hand drawn scene are two eurekas. To collect, you simply tap them and they are added to the collection in your satchel. You can then spend Eurekas on hints or you can buy your way past a puzzle completely. There are more than enough hidden Eurekas to get you through the game, but if you run out, more can be brought via an in-app purchase.
Aside from the story puzzles, you will occasionally be awarded with a cue card. These feature a cartoon scene with a short phrase. The final word is blanked out and you must fill it in by firstly unscrambling 4 short words and then using the highlighted letters to un-jumble the missing word.
The Jim and Frank Mysteries is an excellent game in its own right, no matter what the similarities are to a certain Professor Layton. Whilst there are a few frustrating moments that can cause a grumble, the good parts easily outweigh them. With over 60 puzzles to set your mind into action, the game will keep you occupied for many hours and at the current launch price of 59p, is a complete no-brainer purchase.