Review: Mr. Jack Pocket

By Dave Neumann 05 Jun 2014 0
Elementary, my dear W-not a ?#!!@ tile rotation! Elementary, my dear W-wait a minute, not another ?#!!@ tile rotation!

Many years ago, prior to having played Twilight Struggle, Mr. Jack was the greatest 2-player game I’d ever played. It had everything: hidden roles, deduction, different character powers and a 30-minute play time. To top it off, it did all this with a mish-mosh of fictional and historical characters circling around that most infamous of slayers, Jack the Ripper.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jack hasn’t been released as an app, and I doubt it ever will be. Instead, released last year for Android and just recently for iOS, we get Mr. Jack’s little cousin, Mr. Jack Pocket. Mr. Jack Pocket? What is that, some watered down variant of the masterpiece that is Mr. Jack? Yes, that’s exactly what it is. Fortunately, while watered down, Mr. Jack Pocket still manages to be a fantastic hidden-role/deduction game that stands, proudly, on its own. It is, quite simply, a fantastic 2-player game.

Mr. Jack Pocket pits two players against each other: one as Jack the Ripper and the other as the Investigator trying to track him down. There is a stack of 9 suspect cards from which the Jack player draws 1 card from at the beginning of the game indicating which character is the Ripper. Whitechapel is depicted as a maze of alleys on 9 tiles in a 3x3 pattern, each tile containing a picture of one of the suspects. During the game these tiles will rotate and switch positions, and as suspects are revealed to be innocent, their tiles are flipped so the number of suspects will drop. For the investigator to win, he needs to narrow down the number of suspects on the tiles to 1, which will be Jack. For Jack to win, he needs to stay hidden long enough to collect “hourglasses” which are gained by keeping Jack out of the sight of the 3 detective tokens that roam around the edge of the board. Gain enough hourglasses, and Jack escapes to kill another day.

This happens far more often than I'd like to admit. I'm not good enough to join Inspector Clouseau's team, much less Sherlock's.

Each round consists of four actions that are randomly determined from a pool of 8 possible actions. When those 4 actions are complete, then the 4 actions not taken are performed the next round. Each round both Jack and the Investigator will get 2 actions, but they are staggered. That is, one turn will look like this: Jack-Investigator-Investigator-Jack, and the next will be Investigator-Jack-Jack-Investigator. Trust me, you will learn to hate those turns when your opponent goes twice in a row. The actions consist of moving the detectives around the perimeter of the board, rotating tiles, swapping tiles, and drawing suspect cards which allows you to eliminate a suspect if your the Investigator, or potentially gain extra (hidden) hourglasses getting you closer to escaping if you’re Jack.

If all of this sounds confusing, it’s really not. In fact, the game is fairly straightforward. It also has a lengthy tutorial that runs you through several “challenges” which cover all the rules of the game.

From an app standpoint, Mr. Jack Pocket really does just about everything right. The game is very literally translated from the physical game, which normally isn’t my thing, but here it works. The game is simple enough that it really doesn’t need any bells or whistles during gameplay. Where the app falls is multiplayer. Mainly, the fact that there isn’t any online multiplayer at all. You’re limited to pass-and-play for multiplayer, but if you, like me, have no one in the house that wants to play a brain-melting puzzle game, you’re out of luck and are limited to only playing the AI. Luckily, the AI is very, very good and there is also a “blitz” mode in which you need to win consecutive timed games, the results of which can be shared via leaderboards. Still, playing against human opponents is really the way to play Mr. Jack Pocket and I can’t figure out why it wasn’t included.

There is nothing so frustrating as not eliminating any suspects on a turn. Truly a sign of complete incompetence (that happens all the time). There is nothing so frustrating as not eliminating any suspects on a turn. Truly a sign of complete incompetence (that happens all the time).

Other than that, Mr. Jack Pocket is a delight. There are 3 AI levels for both Jack and the Investigator, stats are tracked, and they have even included a suspect not included in the cardboard version (a diary-writing James Maybrick). Pass-and-play multiplayer is actually handled with each player sitting on one side of the iPad, and playing the game very similar to the physical game, and it’s a great implementation (if you can find an opponent).

Mr. Jack Pocket is a fantastic adaptation of the board game, and one of the best deduction games out there. Be warned, however, that this isn’t light fare. Be prepared to think, and think, and have your brain hurt each turn as you try to wring out the possbilities of each action that your opponent may take, and how to thwart them. It’s definitely not for everyone, but if you like thinky/puzzly games with deduction and hidden roles, I can’t think of one better. If they manage to add online multiplayer at some point, Mr. Jack Pocket could easily challenge some iOS giants for the best 2-player game on the App Store.

Review: Mr. Jack Pocket

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