Jekyll and Hyde

Even twisting the original story to suit a game mechanic can't turn Jekyll and Hyde into something worth playing.

Publisher: bitComposer
Title: Jekyll and Hyde
Price: $19.99
Format: PC
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: Teen
Developer: Pixelcage
Release Date: 2010-09-13

No. No, no no no, no. You play a game like Jekyll and Hyde and two little letters keep coming out of your mouth.

No, no, no.

There's nothing fun about this. The world of PC-exclusive games can so often be a source of hidden gems, of games that might not have the production value of the triple-A releases but offer good stories, thoughtful gameplay, and a sense of intimacy that a game trying to reach the entire world will never achieve. When a PC game falls into my lap that I only have a vague awareness of, I can't wait to play it, to find in it the opportunity to talk about something that whoever is reading this might not have heard of.

The difficult thing here is that I'm also supposed to be honest. So honestly, there is nothing about Jekyll and Hyde to recommend. I want to tell you that it's a diamond in a sea of coal, that it's another entry in a line of recent PC adventure games that hearken back to the halcyon days of exploring, puzzling, pointing, and clicking, but it's not. It's simply a poorly made game that is only noteworthy for design choices that were bad ideas decades before its release.

Example: Checkpoints. No, checkpoints in and of themselves are not bad things. Checkpoints keep us from going crazy; they keep us from punching our screens and throwing our keyboards the way that King's Quest did or Super Mario Bros. did when we fell unwittingly and suddenly out of a tree or into a bottomless pit. Get this, though: checkpoints are the only way to save your game in Jekyll and Hyde. You might find a new path, pick up a key item, or solve one of the game's many fairly basic puzzles, but once you do, you can't save your game. If you have to turn it off or the battery runs out or you just don't feel like going on, well, you'd better hope you remember what you did because you're going to be doing it again.

How can an adventure game -- while admittedly designed with a surprising focus on action and platforming -- get away with checkpoints being its only save mechanism? By being a shockingly linear experience. The player actually feels the checkpoints as play progresses because the game is so utterly linear. You need to obtain all of the relevant items and explore all of the relevant areas to progress to a new set of items and areas. When you start a game, you can start from any of the checkpoints that you've already reached. They appear in order, in a single order, and if you start from an earlier checkpoint, you will progress exactly as you did the last time that you played. There is no experimentation; there is no trying things in a different order to see if anything new can happen. It's always the same.

I know that adventure games are often like this -- that there is typically a fixed set of things that needs to be done in order to progress the plot. Still, most adventure games at least afford the feeling of exploration, of tinkering and playing with things until you hit upon a combination that works. There are a number of concurrent puzzles that can be solved, rather than a little bit of running and jumping combined with one or two menial little item-combination quandaries.

Even the game's primary venue for innovation, the ability for Jekyll to turn into Hyde (and vice versa) at will, is stilted. Jekyll can only turn into Hyde (and back) at the points where one or the other is absolutely required. Try and do it elsewhere, and the potion that triggers the transformation is disabled.

There are recipes to be followed to make potions, but the recipes are so vague that you spend five minutes trying to follow them until you just trial and error it into something that flashes and says you got it.

There is platforming that makes the original Prince of Persia's controls feel like pinpoint precision.

Yes. I am piling on at this point, but there was potential here and that makes the game's failings feel that much more unforgivable. This is a game called Jekyll and Hyde, but it's only loosely (very loosely) based on Stevenson's original text. While this would normally be a strike against the game, it's actually the one thing the game has going for it; by allowing Jekyll and Hyde to be controlled by the player, an outsider, it tweaks the legend for the sake of an appealing mechanic. It sets the stage for puzzles that require careful manipulation of which "side" of the Jekyll/Hyde character is being controlled. At any given time, it opens up the possibility of puzzles that could be solved in different ways by one character or the other.

By squandering a good idea with awful game design and ham-fisted attempts at creating a deep new story, though, the deviation from the original source material is cheapened. Jekyll and Hyde feels like yet another recent example of the mining of a classic piece of literature for the sake of a derivative and underdone game experience. That it is of such a low profile (and done on what must have been a rather low budget) does nothing to alleviate the let down feeling that playing it for any length of time inspires. Let it disappear.





By the Book

Jack Halberstam's 'Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire' (excerpt)

Enjoy this excerpt of Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire, wherein Jack Halberstam offers an alternative history of sexuality by tracing the ways in which wildness has been associated with queerness and queer bodies throughout the 20th century.

Jack Halberstam

Sotto Voce's 'Your Husband, the Governor' Is Beautifully Twisted DIY Indie Folk-rock

Singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ryan Gabos releases another odd, gorgeous home studio recording under the moniker Sotto Voce.


Numün's 'voyage au soleil' Is a Trippy, Ambient Ride and Ambitious Debut

Eclectic instrumental trio numün combine a wealth of influences to create a vibe that's both spacey and earthy on voyage au soleil.


L7's 'Smell the Magic' Is 30 and Packs a Feminist Punch

Abortion is under threat again, and there's a sex offender in the Oval Office. A fitting time, in short, to crank up the righteously angry vocals of feminist hard rock heavy hitters like L7.


Can Queer Studies Rescue American Universities?

Matt Brim's Poor Queer Studies underscores the impact of poorer disciplines and institutions, which often do more to translate and apply transformative intellectual ideas in the world than do their ivory-tower counterparts.


Jim White Offers a "Smart Ass Reply" (premiere)

Jesus and Alice Cooper are tighter than you think, but a young Jim White was taught to treat them as polar opposites. Then an eight-track saved his soul and maybe his life.


Ed Harcourt Paints From 'Monochrome to Colour'

British musician Ed Harcourt's instrumental music is full of turbulent swells and swirls that somehow maintain a dignified beauty on Monochrome to Colour.


West London's WheelUP Merges Broken Beat and Hip-Hop on "Stay For Long" (premiere)

West London producer WheelUP reached across the pond to Brint Story to bring some rapid-fire American hip-hop to his broken beat revival on "Stay For Long".


PM Picks Playlist 4: Stellie, The Brooks, Maude La​tour

Today's playlist features the premiere of Stellie's "Colours", some top-class funk from the Brooks, Berne's eco-conscious electropop, clever indie-pop from Maude Latour, Jaguar Jonze rocking the mic, and Meresha's "alien pop".


Plattetopia: The Prefabrication of Utopia in East Berlin

With the fall of the Berlin Wall came the licence to take a wrecking ball to its nightmare of repression. But there began the unwritten violence of Die Wende, the peaceful revolution that hides the Oedipal violence of one order killing another.


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Electrosoul's Flõstate Find "Home Ground" on Stunning Song (premiere)

Flõstate are an electrosoul duo comprised of producer MKSTN and singer-songwriter Avery Florence that create a mesmerizing downtempo number with "Home Ground".


Orchestra Baobab Celebrate 50 Years with Vinyl of '​Specialist in All Styles'

As Orchestra Baobab turn 50, their comeback album Specialist in All Styles gets a vinyl reissue.


Hot Chip Stay Up for 'Late Night Tales'

Hot Chip's contribution to the perennial compilation project Late Night Tales is a mixed bag, but its high points are consistent with the band's excellence.


The Budos Band Call for Action on "The Wrangler" (premiere)

The Budos Band call on their fans for action with the powerful new track "The Wrangler" that falls somewhere between '60s spy thriller soundtrack and '70s Ethiojazz.


Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" Ruminates on Our Second-Guesses (premiere)

A deep reflection on breaking up, Nashville indie rock/Americana outfit Creature Comfort's "Woke Up Drunk" is the most personal track from their new album, Home Team.


For Don DeLillo, 'The Silence' Is Deafening

In Don DeLillo's latest novel, The Silence, it is much like our post-pandemic life -- everything changed but nothing happened. Are we listening?


Brett Newski Plays Slacker Prankster on "What Are You Smoking?" (premiere)

Is social distancing something we've been doing, unwittingly, all along? Brett Newski pulls some pranks, raises some questions in "What Are You Smoking?".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.