Pros: fun, keeps you sucked in, basic controls, great presentation, it's free
Cons: not much substance, micro-transactions, not much variety
Jetpack Joyride went free a few months ago and since then it's stayed free. This is a great opportunity to pick up a fun side-scrolling platformer. Jetpack Joyride is a game that I found to be a big hit because it's a universal app available on both the iPad and iPhone. It's also fun and accessible for both kids and adults. While it doesn't quite get the attention that Mario or Kirby does in our household, it's still a good diversion for when the more popular games start wearing thin.
Jetpack Joyride is what can best be described as a side scrolling platformer. The premise is you are Barry, a salesman who is stuck in the daily grind. So what better way to break out of that grind than to take a jetpack that's powered by a gatling gun out for a little test ride? That's where the game picks up as you break through a wall, and strap on the jetpack. However when traveling down the seemingly endless halls, you'll encounter obstacles that will end your ride and life rather quickly. These obstacles include shock traps, guided missiles, and laser walls. Simply touching them knocks you off your jetpack and sends your face skidding across the metal floor. Avoiding these is as simple as moving vertically across the screen by activating your jetpack or using other methods as will be described later.
But for as many obstacles you have, there are plenty of good things you can pick up. There are coins which power the economic aspect of this game. Collecting coins allow you to buy different jetpacks, upgrades, head starts, and many different assorted goodies. There are 5 different vehicles you can pick up as well. The benefit to picking up a vehicle allows you to take an additional hit; also the vehicles can be upgraded with enough money to collect more coins in almost a vacuum effect. Finally, there are spin tokens which allow you to pull the arm of a slot machine after the end of your game. The slot machine has the potential to spit out tons of goodies from head starts, to revivals, to just tons of coins, or even 2x the amount of coins on your next run.
Jetpack joyride also features missions. These missions are very clever in that you get money bonuses for high-5ing scientists, touching the ceiling or narrowly avoiding obstacles. The developers were really creative with these missions. The problem is I wish there were more. It only took me an hour or so to successfully pass all the missions.
The core of the gameplay is fun. The longer you go, the faster the scrolling happens. It eventually gets to the point where you're just guessing where the next zapper is going to popup because you just can't react fast enough. The rate of speed increases even faster when you're in a vehicle. When in a vehicle you can be going at a dangerously fast rate after only 1000 meters or so. Overall the gameplay is fun but it reaches that point where the zappers come at you so fast that it's just a matter of time before you slam face-first into the floor.
The controls in Jetpack Joyride are really basic. You simply touch anywhere on the screen to activate your jetpack and you decent at an increasing rate. Given there's no power control of the jetpack, keeping yourself level is tricky. There are also 5 different vehicles where touching the screen does something different. For instance, some vehicles travel along the ground and hop up; another vehicle reverses gravity with the touch of the screen. By far the weirdest one is the teleporter which allows you to teleport to a different location on the screen based on a waving indicator. The controls are really responsive and as a platformer of this type, precision is key. The developers nailed it here because dying never really feels as if the game is responding sluggishly.
The graphical style is fun and cartoony. Barry has a 5 o'clock shadow that makes him a Bruce Campbell look alike. The scientists react to your shenanigans comically as they scramble to take cover. It's also hilarious as they catch fire from the famous Mr. Cuddles, or get shocked by running into a zapper. The scenery does repeat itself from a lab to what seems like a glass covered room to a warehouse. The animations are all smooth and it can render lots of scenery, obstacles, and other objects like tokens, and scientists seamlessly with no lag and a high framerate. The graphical charm of Jetpack Joyride really gives it a lot of its appeal.
The audio has its moments, but I think it falls flat after a while. The music is a nice tune that loops after a minute or so, but after playing the game for more than just a few runs, the music begins to wear a little thin. The sound effects range from the noise of the jetpack, which varies based on the model, to the explosions or shocks as you hit an obstacle. The one sound effect I wish they could do without is the clopping of your shoes on the floor. It just seems out of place and is really noticeable and annoying when you're moving at a high rate of speed. But the other sound effects like that of Lil Stomper are really good and add quite a bit to the style of the game.
Jetpack Joyride gets just about every ounce of entertainment value out of a game which has such limited gameplay. You can buy lots of different jetpacks by playing the game over and over. Besides that there's also the goal of besting your farthest distance or collecting the most coins. The downside of the gameplay is the amount of limited missions. I felt as if there could have been at least twice as many if not more missions than were bundled with the game. Also I wish there was more utility in the things you can buy in the store. You can buy coins as a micro transaction, but there's little incentive unless you like a jetpack that looks like a Christmas tree or to deck out Barry in a bunch of different outfits. Playing the game for probably 12 hours or so should net you enough money to buy all the jetpacks and outfits. However the missions and core of the game is over after just 2 or 3.
Overall with a free price tag, Jetpack Joyride is one of the better free games out there. If you're on a budget and like a casual platformer that can challenge you as well as humor you then Jetpack Joyride is your game. If you're looking for a deep experience or a game that gives you a lot of freedom and control, this game won't satisfy that requirement. In the end there's much more good than bad in Jetpack Joyride. It gets my recommendation.