Review by horror_spooky

"Endless Flying"

It's no secret that Sony's PS Vita is struggling to gain a foothold in the crowding gaming market. It is unfortunate, too, because the handheld is capable of providing not only hardcore console-quality gaming experiences, but it is even friendly to the casual crowd thanks to its touchscreen, motion controls, and rear touchpad. The system is made to provide a wide variety of gaming experiences. Jetpack Joyride on the Vita, for example, is a free-to-play game that originated on iOS and Android devices. How does it hold up on Sony's handheld?

Well, it's the same game from those platforms, albeit with trophy support. Jetpack Joyride is an "endless runner", which is a new sub-genre of platformer that has become popular with the rise of mobile gaming. The screen is constantly scrolling, and players have to avoid obstacles with the goal of collecting coins and surpassing their high scores. The gimmick for this endless runner is that the main character Barry has access to a jetpack.

The jetpack can be controlled in virtually any way that is most comfortable for players. Pressing one of the d-pad buttons activates the jetpack, so does the touchscreen, touchpad, face buttons, triggers...basically any input method is acceptable in Jetpack Joyride. This makes the game hugely accessible and appealing to just about everyone. Jetpack Joyride is the ultimate "pick up and play" game on the Vita, and the gameplay itself is so addicting that it's tough to put it down.

Barry has to dodge obstacles such as laser beams and missiles. The environment can be interacted with in subtle ways, such as knocking down scientists and causing red alarm lights to flash by flying by them. The game extends its replayability by constantly providing players with missions, which basically act like in-game achievements. These missions are ranked based on their difficulty, and by completing them, players earn stars. Earning enough stars causes Barry to level up. Developers have been taking this simple RPG progression element and adding it to all sorts of games this last decade or so, and Jetpack Joyride proves it also works exceptionally well in the endless runner genre.

Barry's other goals are to earn coins and get as far in the facility as possible. The environments consist of weird volcanic areas, futuristic gardens, and scientific laboratories. Perhaps a little more level variety would've taken Jetpack Joyride to the next level, but the game is so simplistic that it doesn't really matter. Plus, the background is really just there for show because you're going to be fixated on Barry and avoiding obstacles and collecting coins the entire time.

Coins are spent in the store to buy upgrades and equipment for Barry as well as cosmetic items. Jetpack Joyride is a "freemium" game, which means that the game allows players to purchase these in-store items using real life money if they wish, but Jetpack Joyride ensures that this is totally unnecessarily by providing plenty of incentive to just keep playing the game and earning the coins the old fashioned way. There are a lot of items to buy in the store and a lot of them are actually really cool and change the game meaningfully.

Besides coins and hazards, Barry can also use vehicle power-ups that turn his jetpack into such imaginative vehicles as a teleportation machine, a mech, and a giant robot dragon. These vehicles control differently than the jetpack and they all have their own unique quirks that provide unique challenges. They change the game up quite nicely, and they also give Barry what is effectively an extra hit before he dies.

Spin tokens can also be collected. When Barry dies, players are able to either spend spin tokens at a slot machine or cash them in for coins. The slot machine lever is pulled using the touchscreen, which was a cool design choice by the developers. The possible slot machine outcomes include a bomb that sends Barry flying farther into the level for a higher score, a boost for the next time to go through, a free life, and more. Players will decide whether to cash in or spend the spin tokens based on the current mission objectives.

The art style of the game is cartoony. The music is okay, but there's not really anything to look at or listen to in the game that's noteworthy. The gameplay is impeccable, and that's why I've awarded it with such a high score, but Jetpack Joyride would've been better if it was more graphically impressive and featured a more memorable soundtrack. I feel like presentation is what's keeping a lot of these smaller games from breaking out into the mainstream of gaming, but Jetpack Joyride has such solid gameplay mechanics and is just so fun that it can overcome these issues.

Halfbrick Studios has shown that they know how to please casual and hardcore gamers alike with Fruit Ninja and now Jetpack Joyride. I can foresee them being a strong force in the gaming industry for years to come if they continue to release games that appeal to both sides of the spectrum so well. Gamers itching for a new title for their Vita shouldn't hesitate to download Jetpack Joyride, as it is a completely free game!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 02/26/13

Game Release: Jetpack Joyride (US, 12/31/12)

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