The Game: Jetpack Joyride
The Device: iPad
The Price: Free for for iOS
The Basics: You steal a jetpack and go on a joyride. You’ll ride it for a while and then are killed, horribly.
The Review: Since I’ve been playing games on a borrowed iPad, I’ve been making my way through what’s considered the best of the bunch, and Jetpack Joyride might be the most addictive one yet. I simply can’t stop playing this game.
By necessity mobile games have to be simple and easily playable in minutes. HalfbrickStudios, the creators of the oddly fun Fruit Ninja, know this better than anyone, but they’ve completely outdone themselves with their latest title.
Tap the start screen and you’ll see our hero Barry Steakfries explode through a laboratory wall and steal an experimental jetpack, one that provides lift via a stream of automatic bullets. (What madness compels him to do it? His reasons are his own.) You’ll then take control of Barry as he runs to the right at a steadily increasing pace and your only input is to tap the screen, holding it down in order to launch him into the air with the jetpack’s bullets Your goal is to dodge various obstacles in the way, lasers and missiles and the like, in order to get as far as possible before getting fried or shot or exploded. Fortunately you can find a few vehicle powerups that will help speed you to the end, the coolest of which is undeniable a giant metal dragon called Mr. Cuddles. Along the way you’ll also find coins to collect and Spin Tokens floating around that let you play a game of slots after you’ve died. Both of these can net you powerful items to play with in subsequent games, and the slots game can also win you bombs of various sizes that are then dropped on your prone corpse, which is then blasted bonelessly into the air to increase your final distance.
Each time you play the positions of the obstacles and powerups change but you’re still running past the same backgrounds, facing the same challenges like lasers and missiles. There’s nothing new to experience and no real end to the game. The gameplay sounds incredibly repetitive, and it is. There’s really nothing in the way of variety.
So why can’t I stop playing this damn game?
Is it the throwback 16 bit graphics? The coin collecting aspect? The fact that you can jump right back in after you die and try again within seconds? The fact that the controls are perfect?
I think it’s actually the achievements that make you keep playing.
Ah yes, achievements, the single best feature to come out of the new generation of consoles. When you start the game, you’ll have three “missions” to accomplish, varying from running a certain distance and riding a certain vehicle to dodging x number of missiles or high-fiving this many scientists. Finish one and you’ll get stars that let you level up your character (which doesn’t do much besides give you a bunch of cash, which you can use for different clothes or jetpacks) but more importantly you’ll get a new mission for each one you’ve finished. Rather than just trying to travel more meters than you have before, the missions compel you to try different things each time. You’ll make an active goal to focus only on getting coins or rubbing your head against the ceiling or trying to narrowly avoid every missile that comes your way, and then die and immediately try again for some new goal, not even realize that hours have passed by and you’re still tapping away at the screen saying to yourself that this is the last time.
Whatever alchemy makes it work, it does. Absolutely one of the best iOS games you can pick up right now…and it’s free!
The Final Grade: A