It’s not so crazy to expect good things from Halfbrick at this point, given their record of successful titles like Fruit Ninja. The studio’s latest title, Jetpack Joyride, is a fun diversion, but doesn’t quite have the hooks to make it truly excellent.
Jetpack Joyride has a lot in common with another Halfbrick game, Monster Dash. The two games both feature the grisled action hero Barry Steakfries, and both games are similarly well-suited for short sessions, relying on satisfying core mechanics and procedurally-generated levels rather than a sweeping narrative or meticulously designed puzzles. Also inherited from Monster Dash are some specific weapons and vehicles, as well as Halfbrick’s characteristic charm.
You begin the game by piloting a machine gun jetpack, which was found in Monster Dash. As you automatically move left to right and tap the screen to use your jetpack, your distance travelled gets tallied. It’s a fairly typical auto-runner in that regard. However, the action isn’t exactly that simple. You’ll collect coins (more on that later), and a couple different kinds of power-ups.
Scattered through each level are vehicle upgrades, which allow you to drive one of a handful of different fantastical machines. One of them is a mechanical glider of sorts that is a funny comment on the odd correlation of bird-themed games and good, old-fashioned money. Other than the Profit Bird, there’s an anti-gravity suit, a motorcycle, and a couple more rides that break up the action and allow you an extra hit before you’re finished.
So few games make in-game death interesting at all, but Jetpack Joyride has an enjoyable mini-game for when Mr. Steakfries has bitten the dust. As you play, you’ll see floating tokens, which earn you spins on a slot machine after you die. Often, you’ll just win a few extra coins or nothing at all, but you can also get inserted right back into the action with nary a scratch. There are other prizes as well, such as bombs to give you a few more meters on your score or bonuses for your next session. This addition makes death a little less disappointing, and certainly puts you in the mood to play again.
There’s a fairly compelling structure to the game, which would be fairly bland if it was just a score chasing affair. The game introduces little challenges to tackle, and completing them will level you up. Some of them are pretty neat, as they introduce entirely unique objectives to the game, but a few of the missions are simply to get you to buy in-game items. The game’s item shop isn’t bad, but it’s fairly bare in terms of loot that actually affects the gameplay. Of course, you can buy in-game coins with real money if you’re feeling impatient, but most of the game’s upgrades are solely cosmetic. It’s good that there’s the aforementioned leveling system, because the item shop by itself doesn’t provide an especially convincing reason to keep coming back.
Even if it’s not quite a masterpiece, Jetpack Joyride is really enjoyable and worth a look. It’s a great fit for mobile devices, and fans of Halfbrick’s other work shouldn’t be disappointed. Hopefully they keep working on this game and introduce some more content to the game’s shop, because we feel like there’s some untapped potential here.