Saturday, June 20, 2009

Mind's Eye of Jupiter Review


This one caught my eye because it's outside of the 'norm' in terms of what you find on Xbox Live Community Games (soon to be Xbox Live Indie Games, don't forget). And I don't mean to say that the norm is bad - just that we are seeing quite a few apps, shmups, and platformers - so this one seemed like a good way to mix it up.

Upon first impression, part of me thought I might have a poor man's Myst on my hands (which would be sweet) and I suppose I was not too far off with that - it's just a matter of how poor, so read on and then you can decide for yourself.

Mind's Eye of Jupiter drops you into a smallish 3D world and your primary agenda is exploration. You aren't given much in the way of an introduction or lead-in, but sometimes that can add to the allure if early visual/text clues are used well. (more on this below)

The 3D environment is okay for an indie - it's hard not to notice the lack of graphical polish in some areas, however. As you skim around the bumpy terrain (no footsteps SFX) it's a bit too easy to imagine the 3D editor creating small peaks and valleys. This is a reminder that polished 2D graphics can still outshine 3D. In fact, even lower end 2D graphics maintain some 'old school charm,' while lesser 3D graphics feel like you're tooling around a level editor.

That said, the initial immersion factor (with help from the ambient music) was high. Most everyone can appreciate the fun of exploring some old ruins and solving the mysteries within.

But to make that work, and keep the player immersed it's very important that any text/dialogue follows suit. This is where Mind's Eye lost me. As you explore the ruins, you come across dialogue cues - hitting a button let's you read what you'd expect to be flavor text - something that advances the plot or creates mood. And there is some flavor text, albeit nothing that really captured me. But some, whisk the player out of the game entirely and remind them that they are in fact on the couch stuffing their face with tortilla chips (and spicy salsa!).

When in game, on a [supposed] deep otherworldly exploration of some mysterious ruins, the text cue "This game is rated IM, for immature" pretty much takes a giant poop on believability, immersion, and all of the hard work that goes into releasing an indie game. The same goes for "Not another game where you need to find a key." Whoops, self-inflicted injury.

Unfortunately, I found this to be a rather fatal flaw, and I put the game down after a couple run-throughs of the demo. I didn't have enough time to complete a quest (because the first one just has you hunting down 15 clay jars, 15?!), so it's possible that later chapters are better.

For me, games of this nature rely heavily on believability and immersion. The player has to be captured by the world and that can hinge on every word they read. As soon as you read something that takes you out of that world and the game is being referenced within the game, the spell is lifted and you want to leave. With a serious and sophisticated set-up (created by the title, box-art, and premise), the self-deprecating humor within Mind's Eye of Jupiter feels entirely misplaced.

Gamers who are looking for a relaxing 3D adventure may still find some enjoyment here. I'd suggest trying the demo to see if you can get past what I could not. At 200MP, if the game can offer 3-4+ hours of gameplay, it might be a fair value.


  1. Hi,
    I like the way you are reviewing this games. I haven't play it though. But thanks for the review..
    If you have time, take a visit at my Addicting Games website :) Thank you

  2. This game caught my eye too, I would really like to try it, but where we can get this one?

  3. Unless it got taken off the service, you should be able to search in the Indie Games section (in the Marketplace) by title/letter in the Browse section.