In our view, one of the best Nintendo DS series is Professor Layton. In those games, each mystery requires you to solve a large variety of mind-bending puzzles provided by the people you meet. The Jim and Frank Mysteries – The Blood River Files tries to capitalize on this concept, but it falls short with odd artwork, poor dialogue, and controls that are often frustrating.
Your goal is to help Jim and Frank, two teenage puzzle connoisseurs, solve puzzles in order to uncover the mystery set out for them by Jim’s grandfather. The story involves putting an end to the criminal schemes of the governor and his henchmen. However, the dialogue, coupled with equally bad voice acting, is quite sub-par. It often consists of lots of back and forth between the two kids quarreling endlessly over nothing of importance.
What the game is really about are the puzzles, but even these are a mixed bag. We enjoyed most of the 60 available puzzles, which force you to think in abstract ways in order to solve them. However, other puzzles can be a bore, such as math problems or easy Rush Hour clones. There’s always the option to skip a puzzle and try it later, but where’s the fun in bypassing large parts of the game?
Jim and Frank and the Mystery of Saddam’s Spider Hole.
There are also occasional minigames to give things an action twist. However, most of these control poorly. For example, there’s a path-drawing game where cars bounce around the walls of a narrow playing field, often causing them to crash. Tilt controls are also often thrown into the mix, but every time they feel tacked-on and unnecessary or poorly calibrated.
Not everything about this puzzle collection is bad, though. For one, it has an ace hint system that’s very similar to that found in the Layton series. Hidden in each scene throughout the town are two eureka bills, one worth one eureka and the other worth two. While in the game, you can tap a scrolling menu on the side where you can access hints. Each puzzle has two hints, each of which cost one eureka. If you run out of eurekas, you can obtain more through an in-app purchase, but taking a few seconds to find them all in each scene will leave you with more than enough to unlock the hints of every puzzle in the game.
Riddle me this, Jim and Frank.
Another part of the game we liked were the special puzzles that unlock as you proceed. Completing some puzzles will award you a piece of a puzzle or a tile with a word scramble game attached. Completing the puzzle or finishing every word scramble will unlock concept art and six bonus puzzles.
One last thing we noticed is that the town seems directly ripped from Professor Layton and the Mysterious Village. This is most apparent in the clock tower scene, which is nearly identical to that of the DS game. Whether this is a con is debatable, but it is a little disappointing that the art designers weren’t a bit more original.
If you love puzzle collections, then there is at least some value in trying this game out. Otherwise, let Jim and Frank solve this one on their own.