Available on PC, Mac
We played on PC
Bluebox Interactive had big plans for Jerry McPartlin: Rebel With a Cause. Back in 2011, Bluebox, then under the moniker of EdVenture Studios, sought $5,000 to create a point-and-click adventure game that would sweep players back to the 1950s. Jerry McPartlin: Rebel With a Cause would be a nostalgia trip to America’s Golden Age, with some international travel and a demon apocalypse thrown into the mix for zest. Jerry McPartlin didn’t make its funding goal, and the game that has been released is a vastly different experience.
Jerry McPartlin: Rebel With a Cause tells the tale of the aforementioned Jerry, who has just returned to his hometown of Barnett Springs after a stint travelling the country as a “rock star,” although this information is only hinted at briefly. Jerry is welcomed back to a town plagued by a spate of murders that leave people trembling behind locked doors. The local Hopi shaman believes a demon is at the root of the problem, and it’s up to Jerry to prove him right. Armed with a cryptic letter from his MIA parents and a demon-killing recipe from the shaman, Jerry sets out to save the day.
Bluebox has a clear vision for this story, but the setting and the characters have trouble supporting it. Visually, Jerry McPartlin paints small-town America faithfully. The diner setting is lovingly crafted, and the town itself, from the movie theater to the gas pumps, are rendered realistically. Possibly due to the lack of funding, the town is sparsely populated. There are only 10 or so characters to interact with, and the town area only has two buildings you can enter. There are other areas accessible via a map, but these too are pretty desolate. The game does address this, explaining that the townsfolk are hiding in their homes for fear of the murderer lurking around, but it still feels a tad half-baked.
The writing is capable, especially considering the English-language version is a translation of the original German. For a murder mystery, Jerry McPartlin keeps things light with plenty of jokes. But the jokes often didn’t hit home for me. There are some references to the classic point-and-click adventure games of yore that some may appreciate, however. Character development is also lacking, considering this is a game that relies on the story. We’re supposed to feel sad for Jerry, whose parents have disappeared, but we’re not really given any reason to care. The characters feel more like faceless vessels that drive the story forward by talking to each other. We don’t know much about them, nor are there any compelling reasons for us to learn about their individual personalities.
Gameplay itself is standard for this brand of adventure game. Players get an inventory for items they collect. Those items can be combined to create new tools you may need to solve puzzles. The puzzles are challenging without being overwhelmingly frustrating.
Navigating the world is simple—just point and click. Double clicking allows you to run, and doing so on a new area marker will allow you to jump instantly to the next screen. There’s no time wasted watching Jerry run around needlessly, which is a nice touch. However, the loading screens in between areas are pretty long—even going from the diner to the outside takes a number of seconds that begins to drain on the player. I also witnessed an issue loading new areas just before cutscenes. Sometimes a scene will load, but the game will freeze awkwardly, with characters standing silently in place, before loading the scene again correctly. Little bugs like this take you out of the game and seem a little messy.
Jerry McPartlin: Rebel With a Cause is clearly a work of love for the developers. But whether due to a lack of funds or direction, the game falters and seems a bit empty. There aren’t many games set in the 1950s. Jerry McPartlin could have been something fresh we haven’t seen much of in the industry. You can see elements from the old trailer in the finished product that were never fully realized, and it makes one wonder what the game could have been if things had turned out a bit differently.