Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past is a noir visual novel that has you tackling several cases as Jake Hunter, a gritty, hard-boiled detective who gets by solely on scotch and cigarettes, and who has a good-looking, smart and language-savvy assistant called Yulia Marks.
The pair may not sound like the most original combination, and in fact the entire premise of Jake Hunter is rather cliché (Jake is best friends with a high-ranking police inspector, and also with a high-ranking member of a mobster family, for instance). But despite the been-there-done-that set-up, it all works pretty well as a whole.
There are five cases to be solved, as well as the titular ‘Memories of the Past’ case (that can even serve as a framework for the other cases if you choose to play it that way). All these cases have a large amount of variation in them (murder, missing persons, theft, smuggling, fraud, etc.), and none of them fail to hit the mark.
One case in particular stands out above the rest, namely the fourth case, ‘As Time Goes By’. Coincidentally, this is also the first case where you not only play as Jake Hunter, but also as Yulia Marks. This particular case even manages to pack an emotional punch by its conclusion, which makes me compare it to the best that the Phoenix Wright games had to offer. This case alone is worth the price of the game, imo.
But of course, there’s more to Jake Hunter than just 6 cases that average at two to three hours of game time each. If the rather humourless, gritty and dark approach starts to get you down, you can easily switch to the *other* part of the game: Jake Hunter ‘Unleashed’.
Jake Hunter Unleashed is a series of cases with a distinctively different style: instead of the realistic graphics and the adult take on things, the Unleashed-cases are done in a very cartoony graphical style, and are a LOT more humourous. And in these cases you can actually fail and get a ‘game over’ (which is not possible in the main cases). Naturally, the shorter (30 minutes to an hour on average) Unleashed cases are little more than a fun distraction, but they’re a welcome addition. Some of them (like ‘Picture Perfect’ and ‘The Mysterious Hotel’) even manage to be both clever and fun…
Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past may be pretty low on actual gameplay (it’s a visual novel after all) and the translation could have done with a few less spelling mistakes and typos, but the total of six main cases, six ‘Unleashed’ cases, and 20 unlockables (which feature a variety of bonus content like designer/developer comments, concept art, and even some bonus puzzles) make this a pretty meaty game that’ll easily net you over 20 hours of gaming. Not too shabby, if you ask me…
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Time Played: Over 20 hours
Difficulty: Very Easy