Version Reviewed: 1.2
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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A killer stalks the city, ensconced within the dark cloak of its midnight shadows. Fog rises to cloud the vision, and the somber toll of the distant clock tower echoes the quiet, gnawing fear in the populace – the streets of Whitechapel once again belong to Jack. But they are not alone – this night, there are those who would hunt the hunter and end his reign of terror. Holmes, Watson, and their faithful dog Toby must be quick about their task, though, because should Jack escape them tonight, there will be no finding him.
A digital conversion of a board game, which is itself already a quick-play distillation of a larger, more complex game, Mr. Jack Pocket is a sublimely simple two-player game of deduction - with Jack attempting to remain hidden for eight turns and the investigators desperately trying to narrow down the suspect list within that time. Players can play as either side, either solo against an AI or against each other. Multiplayer is strictly pass-and-play. Being a fan of the board game, there was no learning curve for me to pick up and play this one. However, the tutorials are well-designed and teach the mechanics of the game as well as a bit of the strategy behind planning both one’s own moves as well as anticipating those of an opponent.
The presentation is very strong, with intuitive controls and good ambient music. From a graphics perspective, it is definitely a ‘board game’ – tiles and tokens look like their real-world counterparts, without any embellishment. However, the animation and controls are smooth and intuitive, leaving players free to focus on the central element of Mr. Jack – the deduction. In each game, as detectives and killer took their turns moving pieces and rotating tiles, I found myself mentally crossing my fingers, hoping I hadn’t missed something and that I had predicted my opponent’s actions correctly.
As a solo game it provides a great puzzle to be solved, either in tense contemplation or as quickly as humanly possible - the Blitz mode even adds a timer and scorekeeping to increase the challenge considerably. But where Mr. Jack really shines is as a two-player experience, delivering that same tension one gets from a good game of chess in a fraction of the time.
My only real complaints are fairly minor. The tolling of the bell that denotes the end of a turn was comparably quite loud against the music, and made me regret how high I had turned up the sound every time it sounded. Also, while the tutorial summary video is comprehensive and clear, it also glitches if one accidentally taps the wrong place; it starts over again, right on top of itself. Finally, while the simplicity of its design is one of the game's strongest aspects, it's also its greatest weakness. Having played the game once, one has experienced all it has to offer, mechanically.
Overall, Mr. Jack Pocket does an excellent job of bringing a solid little board game to iOS. With excellent presentation, a smart AI, and perfect pass-and-play potential, it delivers on its promise – that of a challenging cat-and-mouse game that will keep players coming back for "just one more round." And maybe one more after that.