Developer: TreeFortress Games
Publisher: TreeFortress Games
Platform: PC (Steam)
Release Date: April 22nd, 2015
ESRB: Not rated (E recommended)
It probably has a lot to do with my inner-child, but... tell me a game has dinosaurs in it, and you“ll win me over pretty quickly. Whether we“re talking Adventure Island III, Radical Rex, or games with Yoshi as a central character, there are plenty of decent dino-platformers out there. So, when JumpJet Rex came my way—a game whose premise is â€œyou play as a cute 16-bit-looking dinosaur with a freaking jet-packâ€—it piqued my interest, to say the least.
This game has all kinds of subtle allusions to the kind of mascot platformers of the 90s. Its presentation will remind you of everything from noteworthy classics like Earthworm Jim to the more obscure variants like Zool or James Pond. Your T-Rex character puts on a pair of sunglasses and does a little victory pose when you beat a level. There are dinosaur-branded Mountain Dew and Doritos clones in the game“s hub world. TreeFortress have certainly given us a game chocked full of charm and old-school references. Even their logo that appears before you“re brought to the title screen does so with the Game Boy“s trademark â€œba-dingâ€.
The game“s story isn“t really worth expanding upon. Stop an asteroid from eradicating the dinosaur species by... taking to space, beating robots, and more—completely off-the-wall stuff. About what you“d expect, given the game“s premise. Beyond the very start of the game, there“s not much story to behold. I really dig the game“s aesthetic, though! It“s cute, and you can tell care and attention were given to the game“s characters and environments.
There“s nothing particularly memorable about the soundtrack, in my opinion, but it“s certainly catchy at times. And it“s consistent with the game“s identity. The â€œStage Clearâ€ music is this kind of rocking guitar riff that plays as the dino puts on his shades and congratulates you for completing the level. Levels that take place in space sound spacey. High-impact moments are accompanied with high-impact music. Overall, the presentation is good, maybe even great...and definitely consistent.
JumpJet Rex reminds me a lot of Silver Surfer from the NES era. Enemies are plentiful, and your movement (via the jet-pack) is pretty free-range, but you can“t really touch anything in most levels (walls are electrocuted or something similar, and they hurt you). Unlike Silver Surfer, though, you“re virtually defenseless. It“s kind of like going through a water level in a Mario game as a much more nimble, small Mario—over forty times. The objective of the game is to pass through these yellow hoops while avoiding both enemy obstacles and (usually) the walls themselves. You“re awarded three stars at the end of a level based on what you“re able to accomplish: one for beating a level, one for beating the level without dying, and... one for beating the level in a set time. Indeed, there is a time-trial twist to JumpJet Rex.
Getting all these stars adds a level of replay value to the game... when you“re not using the game“s currency to customize the heck out of your dinosaur, or trying to go through the game with a friend via co-op mode. There are various levels of difficulty, and even collectibles hidden in almost every level. Lots to do, and lots of achievements (even some super eclectic ones) to try and justify an intimidating $14.99 price-point.
For all the game“s charm and replay value though, there“s a little lack of polish that leaves me more inclined to call this game "good" versus "great." JumpJet Rex is a game whose cute exterior hides a diabolical difficulty level. It starts out easy enough and makes you think the whole game is going to be this fun, cute romp. But then—good gracious, does it get tough. It“s not too tough; don“t get me wrong. There are ample checkpoints to make sure beating a level is always possible, but beating it quickly or without dying is the tough part.
Still, some of the level design feels like it“s luck-based versus skill-based. In the later levels, there are these really tight squeezes that make me think whoever designed them wanted to frustrate the player intentionally towards the end. I get difficulty, but I think some of the later levels choose luck-based mechanics instead of a more polished platforming experience. It“s stuff like that, and the fact that your (highly customizable) model is sometimes replaced with the basic one... like on the world map, and in the ending screen, that make me think a little more polish would push this game from â€œgoodâ€ to â€œgreatâ€ territory. Also, I had to put down my controller every time I paused the game (a lot... because I wanted to restart levels to get the fastest time) to move my mouse and click in the menu.
Overall, JumpJet Rex is worth looking into. It does a lot well, and there“s plenty to try and get the most out of your purchase. I spent a good eight hours with the game from start to finish, learning its bells and whistles, and sometimes struggling with it. A bit more polish would have me recommend this experience to a lot more people. But for what it“s worth, I had fun.
+ Tons of charm, tons of customization, tons of gameplay modes, and tons of replay value bolster an otherwise simple premise
+ Gameplay mixes itself up enough to never get too boring. Sometimes getting two stars out of three is simple, while getting that third will take effort
- There is a noticeable lack of polish in terms of both design and presentation.
- The later levels and endgame felt more frustrating than functional.
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
JumpJet Rex offers a unique platforming experience with a lot of replay value. But it's a little held back by a lack of polish and some questionable design decisions.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable Steam code provided by the publisher