Game Reviews

Jack of All Tribes

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| Jack of All Tribes
Jack of All Tribes
| Jack of All Tribes

Owing to a rather unnerving fascination with the third Final Destination movie, the thought of plunging to my death while riding a big roller coaster has crossed my mind more than once.

It's not hard to imagine losing a vital limb or two as the car screams around that final loop-de-loop, though, in reality, a visit to my local funfair is more likely to result in my dying of boredom than blood loss.

Never in my wildest (and they are wild) dreams have I considered a trip to the theme park could transport me back to a land time forgot.

That, however, is precisely the premise behind Jack of All Tribes: a game that allows you to first travel through time, before challenging you to master it.

Time to play

Jack's prime concern from the word go is to get back home. To do so, he takes charge of the clans that surround him, showing them how to farm, feed, and build their settlements up from the ground.

And this is where Jack of All Tribes's nonsensical plot thankfully gets thrown out of the window.

Stripped back to its roots, DivoGames has delivered a time-management sim in the Build-a-Lot mould. All that's required to direct the tribesman from one activity to another is a tap or two, with every object you touch prompting an action.

In theory, you're free to run the tribe at hand as you see fit: chopping down wood to erect houses, gathering fruit for sustenance, or even treating them to booze to keep their spirits up.

Each level is defined by a strict set of goals, though, which means your actions are directed to a degree. There's no time to slack off - each target has to be ticked off before the clock runs down for the next stage to be unlocked.

Step by step

As is the case with all simulation games of this ilk, what appear initially as simple goals demand a multitude of actions.

Jack of All Tribes requires, therefore, the piecing together of moves into chains: to upgrade the tribesmen's huts, for instance, you have to source the money and materials needed to fuel such building work, while regularly placating your workforce with both food and drink.

What Jack of All Tribes does brilliantly is introduce each of these elements in a staggered fashion. Early levels focus on menial tasks like picking fruit or gathering wood, but soon you'll find yourself putting out fires, serving up cocktails, or clearing rockfalls, all at a moment's notice.

Wisely, DivoGames employs a queue system to aid your progress, so it's possible to mark tasks off miles ahead of time, even when the tribe is fully engaged.

Divide and conquer

The developer's decision to break up the main bulk of play with mini-games proves equally shrewd. Where's Wally-style hunts, for instance, task you with seeking out objects from random crash sites away from the civilisation-building action.

It's a notable, and valuable, change of pace, and though it could hardly be described as taxing, some of the artefacts picked up unlock special abilities that the tribesmen can then neatly employ in play.

If anything, the only cogs in Jack of All Tribes's wheel that feel out of whack are the cutesy art style, the unnecessary focus on what is a rather barmy plot, and the tiresome script itself.

In terms of actual gameplay, Jack of All Tribes is a measured effort, offering an easy route into what soon becomes a brilliantly bonkers time-management sim.

As odd an opening act as it might seem, Jack's tumultuous ride on that fairground attraction serves as the perfect preview for the frenzied play that follows.

Jack of All Tribes

Though Jack's time-travelling tale is a touch bizarre, the gameplay it's built around serves as the idea model for a time-management sim, delivering a title that's as welcoming as it is engaging
Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.