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Game Review: Jetpack Joyride

By / Posted on 19 September 2011

Jetpack JoyrideMobile games have always been a tricky thing, conceptually. The game needs to be compelling enough to make the player want to walk around with the game in their pocket, able to be played in quick sessions while riding the subway or waiting in line at the bank, have some sort of carrot-on-a-stick to keep the player hooked session after session so they’ll keep playing, and generally cool enough to want to show your friends who are all like “dude, you’re in public, stop playing videogames already.” Halfbrick have plenty of experience with portable games, having done a slew of licensed Nickelodeon games for the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS (most of which are expectedly bland, with the noteable exception of Avatar: The Last Airbender: Into the Inferno which plays out like a Nickelodeon version of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass) and recently experiencing great success with their smartphone sensation Fruit Ninja (so popular it’s even been ported to XBox Kinect!).

Halfbrick’s newest iOS game, Jetpack Joyride, hits all of the necessary points of successful mobile gaming on the head like it’s-the-easiest-thing-in-the-world-and-why-doesn’t-everybody-do-this? The game stars Halfbrick’s apparent mascot Barry Steakfries (previously seen in Age of Zombies and Monster Dash), a rugged action star who constantly find himself in unreal scenarios and just goes with it like a champion. Jetpack Joyride is another one-button game, the very best mechanic for quick and easy mobile gaming, and plays like a Michael Bay love letter to Canabalt. Barry steals a machine-gun-jetpack from a high tech lab and takes it for a spin in the never-ending caverns of the lab hallways. There are coins to be grabbed, lasers to be dodged, scientists to freak out and rockets to be avoided at all costs. Just touch the screen to activate the jetpack and fly up, release to fall back down. That’s it, couldn’t be simpler.

Oh yeah, then there’s the vehicles. A variety of power-ups change the way you fly through the world, from a mech that leaps through the air to a gravity suit that allows you to bend physics to your will and a “crazy freakin’ teleporter” that freakin’ teleports. Each still operates with one touch, though each vehicle has its own quirks and strategies. There are also bonus tokens to collect, which allow you to play a “final spin” game when Barry eventually crashes. Bonus prizes include more coins (which are used to buy upgrades, power ups, and skins for Barry or the jetpack), reincarnation so Barry can fly again, and other helpful boosts.

This secret weapon to Jetpack Joyride, though, is the in-game “missions,” additional challenges to be completed during gameplay that unlock higher player ranks. Missions can be just about anything, from “travel 1,000 km without collecting any coins” to “high-five 15 scientists in one game” or “narrowly miss five rockets.” These little challenges add a ton of replay value to the game, along with a constant drive to unlock the next level just as soon as possible. Completely addicted gamers could probably play through all of the missions in a day, but the game allows you to cash the wins in and start over on a higher level afterward.

Jetpack Joyride is shallow in the just the right ways, as deep storylines and in-depth mechanics are best left for home console experiences people set aside time for. As a mobile experience, Jetpack Joyride sets a new standard of stupid excellence, and despite its shortness in features, the team at Halfbrick has already released a free update with a new outfit, new jetpack, and new vehicle, with more promised in the future. It’s hard not to think Jetpack Joyride is the greatest bargain in modern gaming, with an addictive and silly sense of cacophony about it for a scant 99 cents on the App Store. Not a game changer, by any means, but damn fun.


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Derrick Sanskrit has produced critically-acclaimed work as an artist and writer for Nerve, Babble, Pitchfork, The Onion and the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, among others. He founded The Pop Aesthetic during the coldest months of his life in 2010.