I recently reviewed the iPad version of Jack of All Tribes, a ‘casual time management meets sim meets strategy’ game. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, so when I was able to review the newly released Mac version, I immediately jumped at the chance! Let’s see how the game did in the transition from tablet to computer!
Travel to the past with Jack and rule a prehistoric tribe in this fun time management game with puzzle elements! Help fellow tribesmen set up their homes and create thriving villages. Keep villagers happy with food, drinks and entertainment; protect them from natural disasters and aggressive barbarians. Introduce new technology and become friends with the chief’s beautiful daughter. Find artifacts from the future to help Jack return to his time. Help the lovable tribesmen prosper and master your time management and task prioritizing skills in this charming and challenging game!
40 Mesmerizing levels
12 Types of buildings to construct
18 Artifacts to collect
As I said in my iPad review, it used to be so simple to categorize so-called ‘casual games’. These games have been on computers and handheld devices for ages: trivial time wasters, like a Match-3 puzzler like Bejeweled, or other fun little games like Zuma or Peggle. Or there were hidden object games or puzzles that would last a couple of hours. But suddenly we have a game where we need to gather resources, build and upgrade bases, stave off invading forces, meet objectives from quest-givers and time constraints … and suddenly you realize that Jack of All Tribes is NOT your ordinary casual game!
Jack of All Tribes from the Mac App Store downloads quickly and easily either to your Launcher (for those using Lion) or just to your Applications folder. Starting up the game is quick and efficient, with no added complexity or extra support files needed or anything else to make the process slower. It is very much like playing on the iPad in terms of the look and feel. I will discuss the technical details later.
At the start of Jack of All Tribes jack finds himself flung back in time where he is taken as a chief who can help others settle their problems. He gets aided by the young and beautiful Rainbow to find his way through the world. From the very beginning this game feels more like a RTS (real-time strategy) or ‘city builder’ than a ‘casual’ time-management game. Certainly there are levels and time constraints, and whether or not you get a time bonus depends on meeting a target time – those are all time management game qualities.
But you are gathering up resources like wood and gold in order to build and upgrade huts and houses. As you build and upgrade you get more gold to allow you to further develop to meet the needs of the villagers. This includes cutting down trees, making a woodsman hut and a theater and a pig pen and a bath house and even a nice little area for dinosaur rides! These are all traits of a RTS or ‘city builder’ game.
But the game is also handled in a ‘city builder’-like manner in that the villagers have needs you are responsible for meeting, but cannot do so at the expense of achieving your goals. Each area needs something significant, whether it is help with housing or crop production or dealing with enemies who will steal your wood and destroy homes!
The graphics are pretty much identical to those on the iPad, though it scales well enough to look great on my 15″ Macbook Pro with a 1680-by-1050 screen. However, the game plays in a non-widescreen format, which tells me that the developers did simply upscale the graphics. Either way it looks great, but it would have been even better to have SOMETHING fill out the sidebars.
The controls are simple and straightforward – you click on a house to build, click on a tree to chop it down, click on a house again to upgrade, and so on. If your villagers are hungry, click the cauldron to send them to eat. If they need entertainment, click the dinosaur or theater or bath to send them on their way.
The only difference is when enemy raiders attack – you get exclamation marks as they approach, and after the third one they arrive. You click on them quickly to scare them off – but if you are too slow they regain confidence and keep charging. They require time and can steal resources – so it is important to deal with them quickly – and to have a dinosaur if possible since it will scare off enemies for you. So it is click, click, click until they are gone!
The way the timer system works, you need to make sure that you are doing exactly what is required and nothing more in order to get a bonus time award, which will net you a trophy! You can always go back and maximize gold or happiness or production later.
Each area requires you to learn new things and make use of what you have learned before, and there are many times when you will find it challenging to reach the goals in the allotted time even when focusing on all the right things. To help, along the way you can discover hidden chests (not TOO hidden) containing items that will allow you to do things like put out fires more quickly and so on. They are very helpful and make a huge difference.
The one inconsistency that I found was that some of the trophies were very explicit on requirements, but others were more murky. As a result there was more backtracking to different areas to try to gain trophies than was necessary.
The final thing to mention is that this is a HUGE game! There are 40 areas, each of which will take a minimum of 15 minutes including cutscenes, retries and so on. That puts this game at close to 10 hours – which is HUGE for a ‘casual’ game at this price!
It seems like since the introduction of the Nintendo DS the casual game market has been in constant flux, and now with the iPhone and iPad and Android devices taking a huge chunk of the gaming market gamers want casual games that deliver a more satisfying experience. Jack of All Tribes is such a game – it is a high quality experience, a huge game, and offers features that will appeal to just about every kind of gamer!
Here is a trailer for Jack of All Tribes for the Mac:
Review: Jack of All Tribes HD
Where to Buy: iTunes App Store
What I Like: Engaging characters; loads of challenges; surprising depth; keeps you coming back for more!
What Needs Improvement: Requirements not clearly noted for all trophies; Game doesn’t use widescreen resolutions
Source: Review code provided by publisher