Oh, you have an iOS device? You should buy this game.
With Fruit Ninja, Halfbrick Studios has proven that they can create a unique mobile gaming experience that is polished, addictive, and most importantly, FUN. That said, there are quite a few “one-hit wonder” developers out there. Rovio has their Angry Birds, Lima Sky has their Doodle Jump, and so on. I keep waiting for these guys to release a different game, but it seems they are quite content with making millions of dollars by milking a single product as far as they can get away with.
Good for them.
Jetpack Joyride (previously known as Machine Gun Jetpack) proves that Halfbrick Studios is far from a one-trick pony. In fact, not only can this pony learn new tricks, but it can fly through the air using the power of rainbows while simultaneously gunning down scientists and morphing into robots. Yes, Jetpack Joyride features all of this, minus the pony. Come to think of it, a pony jetpack sure would make for one hell of an unlockable item… or perhaps a unicorn!? Hey Halfbrick, DO IT… pretty please? Moving on…
Jetpack Joyride is a deceptively simple arcade game that puts you in control of Barry Steakfries as he steals a jetpack and flies through an underground lab, causing chaos as he tries to escape. You simply tap or hold on the screen to give Barry lift and remove your finger to allow gravity to do what it does best. All the while Barry is constantly moving to the right at an increasing speed. There are electrical barriers, incoming missiles, lasers to dodge, and massive amounts of coins to collect. Mixed in, there are a bunch of mechanical powerups that will turn Barry into an even bigger badass. One of them encases you in a “Lil’ Stomper” mech, and another puts you on a motorcyle so you can plow through scientists with your sawed-off shotgun. There are several others, and I’m sure you’ll find your favorite after a few rounds of playing.
This is a one-life game, meaning the game is over when you die. However, if you get into one of these powerups, you can take a hit without losing, as this simply returns Barry to his normal, jetpacking self. Even more importantly, as you progress through the random levels, special tokens will appear. If you get one or more of these, you can use them to play the end-game slot machine. This is an incredibly cool mini game, and I found myself almost looking forward to dying in the game. It’s completely random, but through the slot machine you can earn extra coins, second chances (to continue from where you died), and even bonuses for the next game you play. There are also different levels of explosives that can send your dead body flying even farther, boosting your score along the way. If you wish, you can ignore the slot machine and turn in your tokens for 50 coins each.
Once you collect enough coins you’ll have the ability to buy some goodies from “The Stash”. These items range from costumes for Barry to various types of jetpacks. I was really hoping to be able to actually upgrade various aspects of Barry and his jetpack, but the Stash was a bit lacking in those respects. The only ability that has a constant effect on gameplay is a magnet upgrade for the vehicles (purchased one at a time) that draws coins towards you. You can purchase single-use items like a boost that starts you off farther into the levels, or hearts that can revive you once you die, but they come at a fairly high price. I’m assuming this is to push avid players over to the in-app purchase area, which allows you to buy coin packs for your hard-earned cash. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as you can fully enjoy Jetpack Joyride without spending any more than 99 cents. That said, there is a “counterfeit machine” available that doubles all the coins you collect in a level. It was a buck, so I bought it. It was well worth it, and to be honest, pretty much a must-buy for this game. I suppose that means this is technically a $2 game then? Meh, still worth it!
The visual style of JJ is obvious from the screenshots and video below, so I won’t spend much time on it. I’ll sum it up in two words: Metal Slug. Ok, one more word: awesome. Moving on, I wanted to mention the enticing “mission” system built into JJ to keep the game from becoming monotonous. At any given time you are given three different objectives to complete, whether it’s to collect a certain amount of coins, fly a certain distance, or high five a certain number of scientists. These missions grow increasingly difficult as you progress, to the point I was obviously not going to be able to reach the end of them before writing this review. Each mission comes with a certain amount of stars that are used to “level up” Barry. I feel like Halfbrick missed a big opportunity with this leveling system, considering the levels are nothing more than titles. The only benefit I saw to leveling up was the bonus coins you get when it happens. It would have been good to see certain sections of the store unlock when certain levels were reached, or maybe even new environments or powerup vehicles. Sadly, this is not the case.
Much like Fruit Ninja, Jetpack Joyride is an absolutely perfect game to play in quick sessions while on the go, or for hours while you’re sitting at home with nothing to do. It appeals to the hardcore gamer who wants to collect everything, the glory-hungry gamer who wants to get the highest score possible, the retro-gamer who gets a kick out of sprite-based graphics, and the casual gamer who prefers easy-to-learn pick-up-and-play titles. There really is something here for everyone, and I expect that Halfbrick will continue to support and update the game as they have done with Fruit Ninja. Aside from the initial letdown for those expecting a deeper game, Jetpack Joyride is a delightfully challenging arcade romp that no iOS gamer should be without.