The first hour of Adventure Time: Finn and Jake Investigations is a bit rocky. If you've played a classic adventure game before, you should have an understanding of the agenda almost immediately: search the environments as thoroughly as possible by talking to NPCs, interacting with objects, and collecting items that could be useful to solve puzzles and advance the story. The problem is, even with the option to engage in a bunch of tutorials throughout the first case that Finn and Jake embark upon, the game does a poor job communicating the button mapping and inputs tied to its mechanics. Once you've done the math and sorted it out yourself, however, it's a fairly smooth ride to the conclusion. But that doesn't necessarily mean Finn and Jake Investigations adds up to an absolutely algebraic equation.
Divided into five chapters, experiencing Finn and Jake Investigations kind of feels like acting out five episodes of the television show. The voice actors reprise their roles, and there's plenty of authentic dialog and interaction between characters. Sadly, the presentation suffers in a few notable ways. Watching the characters engage in conversation isn't quite as satisfying as it should be, as limited animations and wildly out-of-sync mouth movements can put a damper on the sterling voice work. For characters that usually exude such expressiveness, they're a bit limp here. Furthermore, while the environments are vibrant and thoroughly decorated, there's occasionally a sense of discord between the smooth, glossy textures of the characters and some flat, muddy surfaces in the surroundings. Thankfully, exploring 3D versions of the Land of Ooo's most recognizable locations still manages to be something of a treat.
Throughout the course of their stint as private eyes, Finn and Jake visit the Candy Kingdom, Wizard City, Lemongrab's Castle, Ice King's liar, and the Fire Kingdom, as well as trek through the forest and a couple other outdoor settings. In the first chapter, you'll be headed to the Candy Kingdom to find out who's framed Abracadaniel for a kidnapping. Next, it's off to the forest to track down a beast that's scared the heck out of Tree Trunks, which then leads the story in another direction entirely. In fact, the inciting incident of an investigation doesn't always represent the main theme of the chapter. The writing has a tendency of either sending you on a detour or shoving you in a direction you didn't expect the story to go. Sometimes this approach keeps things fresh, unpredictable, and weird, much like the nature of the cartoon; other times, it can be misleading and temporarily slow down progress.
It's a good thing, then, that the silly dialog often helps to offset the occasional plot issues. Characters embrace the same oddball vernacular present in the show, and, as we briefly touched upon above, the actors deliver convincing performances – LSP sings about her irresistible lumps, the Ice King sulks over his inability to successfully kidnap and woo a princess, and Lemongrab shrieks at Finn and Jake time after time. In the first couple of hours, the humor does fall a bit flat, but once LSP, Tree Trunks, and Lemongrab make their appearances, expect genuinely humorous moments – just wait until you dress BMO up to resemble Gunter or pull prank after prank on Lemongrab. The game isn't as continuously laugh-out-loud funny as, say, South Park: The Stick of Truth, but the wacky hijinks and amusing banter will elicit many chuckles as you go.
Interacting with the cast of characters and environments comes down to walking – or running – around and approaching anything that appears suspicious. Certain characters and objects only allow you to get a short observational description from Finn or Jake, while others can be interacted with, collected, or combined with an item. This is how problems are unearthed and story progress is made. For example, when Magic Man continually showcases his inherent ability for being a jerk by conjuring up traps and obstacles, the agenda boils down to cleaning up his mess before continuing forward. Maybe an army of fire ants block the path ahead, which means clearing them out of the way is essential. Maybe extracting honey from the beehive one screen back and placing it near an anthill would lure the obstructers away – but to do that, the bees that swarm the hive will first need to be dealt with. This is a fairly traditional procedure for an adventure game, but some of the solutions are slightly impractical, which can sometimes result in an unrewarding process of trial and error that cheapens the experience. Fortunately that scenario isn't overly common.
In what's a clear attempt to inject action into the format and break up the exploration, Finn and Jake engage in active combat with enemies throughout the game. These confrontations come in the form of arena battles that rely on mashing the X-button to string together attacks and earn special tag-team moves. For instance, Finn can hop onto a spinning-top version of Jake, whacking any opponents within proximity, or bombs can be dropped from the sky by moving a reticle across the ground to a desired target. With a handful of unlockable swords – each with a unique characteristic – and a simple roll mechanic for dodging hazards, the combat does have a dash of depth, but it's pedestrian more than anything. As a break from the norm, though, it does serve its function well enough.
But even through the best of times there are consistent reminders that you're playing a game that's not aiming for the stars. Nothing is in a broken state, but there's simply not as much polish or care as there should be when it comes to general refinement. The biggest examples of this include lack of options and settings, dialog that's prematurely cut off by another character, and finicky detection when trying to interact with NPCs/objects. And did we mention that the humdrum soundtrack can sometimes make the duller moments feel like they're dragging even more than they already are? All in all, there are just enough unpolished and unambitious edges to remind you that the game could be more than it is, which is an issue we've had with the previous three Adventure Time games.
Even so, Finn and Jake Investigations remains innocuous for majority of its 10-hour length. Like most adventure games, it simply feels good to solve puzzles and gain insight into the conflicts that plague the residents. It's just a shame that there's no culminating moment that unites the individual stories. This lack of ultimate narrative payoff certainly feels like a missed opportunity, and it lends to a flat finale. Thankfully, the loving use of the license, and the enjoyment of existing in a 3D representation of the Land of Ooo, softens the blow, making this a case that ardent Adventure Time fans might want to look into at some point – we suggest waiting on a price cut first.
While Adventure Time: Finn and Jake Investigations doesn't commit any felonies, a series of misdemeanors suggest you should approach with some caution. Exploring the Land of Ooo, seeing familiar locations in three dimensions, and interacting with the whimsical cast of characters will delight the most-invested fans of the series. Sadly, the effort that went into ensuring the license was handled with care wasn't applied to the entirety of the game, and the result is an experience that's often enjoyable but ultimately a bit flat.