Game Reviews

The Jim & Frank Mysteries: The Blood River Files

Star onStar onStar onStar offStar off
The Jim & Frank Mysteries: The Blood River Files

Can you imagine what it would be like if every facet of your everyday existence required you to solve frustratingly obtuse logic puzzles?

What if even the most mundane of tasks – crossing the road or pouring a drink – triggered an inescapable conundrum that must be rectified before you can progress?

This is the unfortunate reality in which juvenile buddies Jim and Frank find themselves. Jim’s wily, puzzle-loving masochistic uncle has set a series of brain-teasing puzzles for his grandson and friend, requiring the two heroes to travel to the sleepy hamlet of Tinyville in an attempt to get to the bottom of the mad old fool’s game and locate the titular Blood River Files in the process.

Testing the intellect

If you're a fan of the insanely popular Professor Layton adventures on Nintendo DS, you're no doubt muttering something about plagiarism at this point and the criticism is perfectly valid; The Jim & Frank Mysteries is a brazen copy of developer Level-5’s renowned series.

Comprised of illustrated story sequences that unite different puzzle challenges, the game is certain to push your grey matter to almost breaking point. Some of the tasks involve quick reactions, while others require solid mathematics skills and a keen problem-solving mentality.

Thankfully you’re not entirely helpless when you come up against a tricky dilemma. You can write rough notes using the scribble pad, which is invaluable when attempting to work out a difficult maths query.

Eureka moment

If you’re still stumped then you can use your stock of Eureka tickets – magical tokens which can be found in the multitude of different locations featured within the game – to purchase hints. These fall short of revealing the complete solution but if you’re willing to sacrifice enough of them you can bypass the puzzle completely and move onto the next one.

Naturally, the number of Eureka tickets is limited so you’re dissuaded from bluffing your way through the game and should only use them as a last resort. However, the developer is obviously aware that sometimes frustration can be a money-spinner because the game features in-app purchasing that allows you to use real cash to buy additional tokens.


Blood River Files does a decent enough job of providing an enjoyable atmosphere and style thanks to some attractive backdrops and soothing music, but in other ways it feels like a lacklustre facsimile of the Professor Layton series.

The characters are crudely drawn and awkwardly animated. It also doesn’t help that many of the people you bump into on your travels around Tinyville are little more than cardboard cut-outs created for no other reason than to offer up the next punishing brain-teaser. The townsfolk are uninteresting nobodies.

It may seem a minor issue, but it robs the story of any impact. Without those engaging links in place, Blood River Files becomes little more than an unconnected selection of conundrums, many of which are based on famous logic puzzles you've no doubt experienced before.

Copying an idea isn’t always to be frowned upon but The Jim & Frank Mysteries: Blood River Files completely fails to improve on the formula laid down by Professor Layton with paper-thin characters, a generally uninteresting plot, and lacklustre puzzles.

The Jim & Frank Mysteries: The Blood River Files

Shamelessly derivative and lacking likeable characters and an interesting storyline, The Jim & Frank Mysteries: Blood River Files is a well-intended but ultimately disappointing puzzle adventure
Damien  McFerran
Damien McFerran
Damien's mum hoped he would grow out of playing silly video games and gain respectable employment. Perhaps become a teacher or a scientist, that kind of thing. Needless to say she now weeps openly whenever anyone asks how her son's getting on these days.