Tuesday, September 20

Jetpack Joyride Review (iOS): A dangerous, well-oiled machine

Brisbane-based developer Halfbrick Studios have a reputation for creating addictive, if not shallow, gaming experiences for smartphones and tablet devices. Fruit Ninja has already stolen hours from me already, and the Kinect-controlled port also gifted me with a surprise back injury. Age of Zombies was easily the best PlayStation Mini that I've ever played and looks wonderful when blown-up on an iPad. That game's protagonist, Barry Steakfries makes his return in Jetpack Joyride; which abandons the gratuitous Simpsons quotes in favour of the developer's own brand of machine gun-themed slapstick humour. Are Halfbrick's comic chops enough to literally carry Steakfries' latest adventure?

The Good
Just one more - Jetpack Joyride is score attack gaming at its finest. There's no pretence or story holding players back from the action. Simply touch the screen and Barry breaks through a laboratory wall to steal away to - what hopefully is - a new high score. Your score is measured in metres travelled, but there are other peripheral indicators of success. You can collect coins to unlock cosmetic upgrades and single-use power-ups, and you're also issued with sets of three "missions" which task you with anything from high fiving scientists to travelling a certain distance with any of the game's six vehicles. You may be confined to a singular, oft-recycled environment, but you'll often go back for "just one more" attempt.

Violent, vehicular whimsy - As you're avoiding obstacles in the titular jetpack - or any of the aforementioned vehicles - I'd challenge you to do so without a sadistic grin on your face. Raining bullets on hapless scientists, trampling them with the Lil' Stomper, or burning them with Mr Cuddles (a robotic dragon) is nothing short of a responsive joy. The retro-flavoured visuals were also cause for delight and - despite the lack of variety - only added to the game's charm. 

Deeper than your dollar's worth - Jetpack Joyride costs less than a dollar, and the many variables presented in any given playthrough is sure to give you more enjoyment than you deserve; given the asking price. The "Final Spin" also adds value to your current run or sets you up for the next one, with the macabre slot machine offering the ability (luck and spin tokens permitting) to be revived, earn extra coins, or cause a blast of varying intensity to carry your corpse a little bit further (thus adding to your score). When you run out of Spin Tokens and you're life comes to an end, you're presented with a happy snap from your latest adventure and statistics - both run-specific and lifetime - to chart your performance. There's also leaderboards for you to compare scores amongst friends and the community at large. That's a respectable amount of content and functionality given the asking price.

The Bad
Wretched score - The singular piece of original music in Jetpack Joyride is more exhausting than elevator music and doesn't really match the black comic sensibility of the action on screen. This can be made a null point by simply playing your own music while running the game, but still, fairly underwhelming considering the addictive qualities of the play and presentation.

The Ugly
Coursework - While the obstacle course you face on each attempt is dynamic, the lab facility motif is a constant, and I imagine that could grow tiresome in time. There is the potential for the developer to add new settings in the future, but you'll need to be happy with the subterranean lair for now.  

Get used to seeing the lab... a lot
The Verdict
Jetpack Joyride is another strong effort from Halfbrick, and even if you aren't sucked in by the addictive action and charming visuals, it costs less than a buck. Give it a go, people!

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