It's the helicopter game with multiple twists that help keep the experience feeling fresh. You'll be hard pressed to find reasons not buy Jetpack Joyride at a mere $0.99.
For a long time we knew it as Machinegun Jetpack, but Halfbrick's latest game underwent a last-minute name change before its release earlier this month, so behold: Jetpack Joyride. I may not like the final title as much, but I forgot about that almost immediately as I got sucked into a game that is so addicting that it's worth every last one of its 99 cents.
The premise of Jetpack Joyride is a simple one. You play as Halfbrick's flagship character, Barry Steakfries, who, besides having the greatest name in the history of names, has stolen a machine gun-powered jetpack that allows him to fly at will. You are automatically propelled forward at increasingly fast speeds, but it's up to you to fly up and down to dodge the obstacles that threaten to electrocute or blow you up upon contact. It's the same idea as the helicopter game that many of you have undoubtedly played either during class or at work, but it's a much better time waster.
The controls work great, since there are only two things you ever have to do: Tap and hold to make Barry start flying up, and release when you want him to go down. I found that everything was very responsive (which is quite important once the speed really starts to pick up), and my strategy of feathering the throttle of the jetpack worked well, even when I was tapping very quickly to apply small, short boosts.
Turning the Idea on Its Head
Though perhaps not the most innovative core concept, what really impressed me is how much Halfbrick managed to expand on such a simplistic foundation to create a game that is surprisingly chock-full of content. The developers have put plenty of twists on an old-school game formula here, and between the massive amount of unlocks, leaderboards, score tracking, achievements, and all of the crazy obstacles you can encounter, the game doesn't seem to get stale. Well, if it does, I have yet to hit that point at roughly 4 or 5 hours of gameplay.
See, this isn't as simple as the helicopter game. Halfbrick keeps things feeling fresh by having more than just electric zappers thrown your way. You'll also have to dodge seeking missiles and laser beams as you zoom across the screen, but that's made even more interesting by the inclusion of vehicles, which are far and away my favorite part of the game.
Every now and then, you'll get the opportunity to fly over a pickup that will randomly grant you any one of the game's five vehicles. They all handle very differently, and each one is just as creative as the last -- though I definitely prefer some more than others -- with gems like the Lil' Stomper (a flying mech suit) and the Crazy Freaking Teleporter, which allows you to teleport from one location to another, but only based on the timing of your taps. There's also the Bad As Hog (trying to keep it family-friendly here, clearly), a speedy motorcycle that allows you to pull off sweet jumps, as well as the Gravity Suit, which has you magnetized towards either the ceiling or the ground, with every tap switching your orientation. But my favorite vehicle is the hilarious Profit Bird, which caws softly and opens its beak when you're near coins to pick up as many as possible.
And that's another reason why this is such a great game: it has an incredible sense of humor. A token of Halfbrick's previous titles -- which include Fruit Ninja and the equally humorous Age of Zombies -- Jetpack Joyride is a legitimately funny game. I found myself actually laughing out loud at the way the Profit Bird ungracefully dragged along the ground, leaving dollar bills in its wake when it wasn't airborne. The little scientists (whom you can high five) running around in a panic, occasionally tripping or electrocuting themselves when they ran into the zappers was great. Even the descriptors of the different items in the shop are clever, and I especially liked the achievement “Good Work, Sierra,” which is unlocked for staring at the main shop screen for 2 minutes. Virtually everything is designed to amuse you and that's a big factor in setting this game apart from others.
So Is There Anything Else?
There's also the fact that there are tons of “missions” and achievements that you can complete on the side during your runs, the former of which are good for earning stars that level up your rank. The rank isn't good for much more than bragging rights, but each level up comes with a nice coin bonus. As for the missions themselves, they range from challenging -- like having multiple narrow misses with missiles in a single run -- to bizarre, like high fiving 15 scientists. Some of them may be odd, but they're all fun and it's nice to have something new and different to work towards in virtually every run; every time you complete a mission, it's immediately replaced with a new one, so you never have a shortage of things to do.
Wait, there's more! Even after you crash, your body can fly, bounce, and slide with your excess momentum to grab a few last-minute coins or, better yet, slot tokens. Slot tokens are scattered around the environment, just like coins, and are for use after poor Barry is laid to rest, allowing you to participate in a post-run minigame of slots. The prizes range from extra coin/token bonuses and powerups good for your next run to second chances at life or, perhaps less gratifying, explosives to be dropped on your corpse to send you flying a few more feet for extra distance and possibly more coins. Dark.
But to unlock new items, you're going to need every last coin you can get. There are not nearly enough coins scattered around the environment when compared to how expensive the unlockables are. I suspect a big part of this is that Halfbrick wants impatient gamers to spend real-life cash to cut to the chase and buy coin booster packs via the in-game store. But whatever the reason, all of the unlocks cost multiple thousands of coins when you're only amassing three or four hundred (at the very best) per run. Still, they're generally worth the time and at the very least it's nice to have something to chase after.
For those who are into aesthetics, there are a bunch of different outfits and heads you can buy for Barry, gold skins for the vehicles, and various jetpacks like the Bubble Gun or Steam Powered jetpacks. On the flip side, to help with your coin-amassing grind you can unlock magnets for each of the different vehicles, which help pull in nearby coins, and there are a wealth of various one-time use power ups that can also be purchased.
Visually Jetpack Joyride isn't doing anything special, but on the other hand, I doubt that was much of a priority for Halfbrick. Considering the fact that the developer has had a penchant for cartoony, slightly pixelated graphics bordering on the style of old 8-bit games in its previous titles (and the fact that Barry speeds through the environment at a blistering pace) it was probably just trying to come up with something that allowed the game to run smoothly while still remaining charming. Assuming that's the case, consider that mission accomplished.
I think people are going to be polarized when it comes to the music in Jetpack Joyride. There is precisely one track that is constantly playing, with the exception of the clever mall/elevator-type “muzak” that plays when at the shop screen. While some people may get sick of the sustained tune, others may not…I admit that I fall in the latter camp. There's something that's just so damn catchy and even a little goofy about the jazzy, synth-filled tune that is always plunking away in the background. I keep finding myself humming it long after I've finished playing, but who knows, you may not be as in love with it as I am; maybe you'll prefer to just mute it and put on your own music.
What initially struck me as game reserved for 5- or 10-minute sessions on train rides turned out to be a real time consumer as I raced through again and again to not only experience the fun gameplay, but to also amass coins for the wealth of unlockable items. At a mere $0.99, Jetpack Joyride is an absolute steal and a no-brainer purchase. Just be aware that you may end up getting sucked into an addicting experience that will have you playing long after you've gotten off the train; this is very much one of those “just one more game” type of titles.
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