From the start, it would have been appropriate to show cautious optimism by reason of track record, and following my time with Adventure Time: Finn & Jake Investigations, cautious optimism is still an appropriate course of action. Investigations doesn’t possess fresh ideas, but there are moments that make the experience an enjoyable one. It’s just too bad they aren’t the majority. While I would advise against spending top dollar, there’s an amusing but flawed experience to be had in Investigations that, if nothing else, will provide a few laughs.
- Investigations has a surprisingly sizable campaign, with five cases for a combined playtime of anywhere from 10 to 12 hours. Each case follows a three-act format, complete with quirky title cards that help ground the experience.
- Gameplay consistently involves a mix of completing quests for world inhabitants and combining items you’ve found on your search. Consequently, it’s rare for players to not know what’s expected of them on a surface level, even if the solutions themselves may require outside-the-box thinking.
- The game does a fair job of injecting dialogue sequences with what the franchise is known for — humour stemming from puns, jokes between characters and the way in which messages are delivered tonally. The best moments help diffuse focused quest-seeking behaviour that would transpire to the exclusion of a casual mindset.
- Many of Ice King’s expressions make the mood light (even while what he’s saying might not be described in the same way), and Investigations would certainly be worse off without him sourly vocalizing his “relationship inadequacy” and so on.
- The script isn’t disposable, often integrating Adventure Time lore as seasoning to already enjoyable interactions. That, plus well-done voice acting, makes for a great combination that strengthens the game’s whole.
- There’s a good mix of outdoor and indoor environments that players visit over the course of the campaign, including Bubblegum Kingdom, Ice King’s Palace and Castle Lemongrab. And the further you progress, the better the locations get, both visually and in terms of interaction opportunities.
- Considering this is the first Adventure Time game to explore 3D environments, Investigations presents pleasing environments that, while without notable effects or visual touches, effectively consider the source material and are arranged in such a way that even non-fans can explore without being taken out of the experience by visual drawbacks.
- There are several weak points in the script that counter moments of comedic build-up. Foremost of these is the default behaviour exhibited by the duo after completing quests, which becomes automatic to the point that it rarely adds and in fact sometimes detracts from moments that would otherwise be memorable.
- The interface used to interact with characters and the environment feels clunky in the initial stages. As you approach interaction points, a visual cue will appear on-screen next to Finn indicating which of the four face buttons can be used. L and R will change your active item, while pressing Left or Right on the +Control Pad will pull up your entire collection to facilitate combinations with Y and X. There’s a general feeling that the controls could have been more user-friendly, even though the visual cues were included with that aim.
- Some paths are hard to discern due to the position of the camera.
- Puzzle-solving is minimal and offers little else but a brief diversion in pace.
- Multiple instances of poorly-thought-out or illogical quest happenings that older and younger players alike will find insulting.
- Defeating enemy waves during combat segments can be mildly amusing with special powers like transforming into a catapult or being able to turn a foe against other enemies. But battle strategies end up following the same pattern with little variance, and the whole thing becomes monotonous. Oddly, at the conclusion of every battle, the two make comments about gathering treasure…but there is nothing material to gain. Was this a scrapped feature?
- Cuber is the game’s narrator, for all intents and purposes, and while you can skip his tutorials, it’s unfortunate that you can’t skip his monologues as he’s irksome to listen to.
- Framerate slowdown sometimes occurs during combat and while bouncing between scenes, and there is an early glitch (a small opening into an invisible wall outside Princess Bubblegum’s castle) that will force you to restart if you encounter it. As well, Lumpy Space Princess’ model isn’t much different in shade from Princess Bubblegum (in the 3DS version), which, in reality, she would not approve of.
- Script aside, the audio work might as well be nameless – it’s largely ambience with no stand-out music whatsoever. It’s especially disappointing because even though Adventure Time: Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know had its faults, the soundtrack had some memorable tracks. But with Investigations, music has taken a serious backseat and the experience is a lot less because of it.
- The development team needs to be called out for taking what seems like plenty of corners in the animation work. A lot of times, elements are missing and only referenced in the dialogue, including inventory items you use on the environment or give to an NPC. Elsewhere, there’s a part where you’re supposed to be followed by an NPC across multiple scenes, but rather than them physically walking alongside you, they appear stagnant in the next scene to give a false impression.
- The experience doesn’t end on the strongest note with an unremarkable finale.
It’s a frustrating position to be in, when you have a boisterous personality but for one reason or another can't make full use of your talents. It’s a situation that Adventure Time fans can relate to, for their beloved franchise — one rich with gameplay opportunities — hasn’t been given its due from a software perspective. Several attempts later, there has yet to be an Adventure Time game that effectively mirrors the imaginative and comedic powerhouse that the show is by reputation. This isn’t to say that good strides haven’t been made in the interim, but there have been missteps as well, with Explore the Dungeon Because I Don’t Know drawing much ire in particular.
The license has exchanged multiple hands, first with WayForward and now with Little Orbit, each having two Adventure Time projects to their name. Adventure Time: Finn & Jake Investigations is the second to come from the latter, and unlike preceding efforts, it’s the first time the series is telling a story in a 3D space — a move that normally would be exciting were it not for the uneven path seen in the foregoing. But without prematurely robbing it of an opportunity to impress, Finn & Jake Investigations is at the very least owed cautious optimism for such a departure. Whether or not it can offer course correction is the question.