Last month we reviewed Snuggle Truck, the first Windows Phone game from Owlchemy Labs. Snuggle Truck impressed with its sense of humor, vast array of levels, level editor, and great visual style. Sure, the level select bug I encountered still needs to be fixed (ahem!), but the game remains my pick for best side-view driving game on the platform.

This month Owlchemy returns with an equally exciting game: Jack Lumber. The game plays a bit like a more methodical fruit ninja, as the titular lumberjack must slice through mass quantities of wood that fly on-screen with his trusty axe. But Jack Lumber is much funnier than Fruit Ninja and packs a lengthy campaign mode filled with distinct levels, missions, and tons of silly things to collect. You won't believe just how fun chopping through trees and bottles of syrup can be until you play Jack Lumber.

Jack Lumber  Windows Phone

Grandma got run over by a pine tree

Believe it or not, Jack Lumber has an actual story that comes to life through well-drawn animated cinematics and clever letters that Jack receives between levels.

As the game opens, Jack's poor granny meets her demise at the hands of a mysterious tree with blue pine cones. Our hero takes Granny's death to heart and sets out to avenge her by chopping down any trees that are dumb enough to get in his way. As the game continues, he'll contend with a rival lumberjack on her own quest for vengeance and a park ranger intent on protecting the local flora… It's all very silly and fun.

Jack Lumber  Windows Phone

Chop till you drop

During each level of Jack Lumber, multiple sets of logs will fly on screen. Jack's job is to chop through them all before they fall off the screen. But this isn't just a Fruit Ninja clone, so don't think the chopping will be that simple!

To start with, all of the logs and sliceable objects in a batch must be chopped through in a single, lengthy swipe. The moment your finger touches the screen, everything slows down and you're free to start drawing a curly line of destruction through the wood. This "Lumbertime" doesn't last forever, so you need to draw quickly. When time expires or you lift your finger, everything you drew through gets skewered and anything you missed goes unsliced. No second slices here, folks.

You can't just chop the wood any old way, either. The cuts have to pass through the logs vertically. Hit a log from the wrong side and it counts as a miss. Nothing too complex for our man Jack.

As the game goes on, the logs start appearing in new shapes and sizes. Jack will encounter L-shaped logs that require a curved cut and plus-shaped logs that have to be cut both vertically and horizontally. Logs with numbers on them must be sliced the same number of times as their number, while logs with arrows can only be cut in the direction of the arrow.

Every now and then a jar of syrup appears within a batch of wood. Try to chop it last, because hitting the syrup always ends the wave. It also brings up a quick bonus wave in which Jack gets to slice through a circle of logs coated in the sweet stuff.

The final wave of some story levels throws a helpless into the mix. You don't want to hit the bunny, owl, eagle, or whatever because it will end the level in failure. Let the critter go free and it will move into Jack's cabin in gratitude.

Jack Lumber  Windows Phone

Map quest

The campaign consists of numerous levels spread across a rustic map. These levels are divided into worlds, with each world taking place on a different background. Each time players beat a level, they receive a star rating based on their score for that level. This provides some incentive for replay, since reaching star milestones will unlock new items in Jack's cabin.

Clearing all of the levels in a world unlocks an item in the cabin. It also opens up the Infinitree mode for that world. Infinitree is your basic endless mode à la Fruit Ninja. Unlike normal levels, players only get three lives to work with. Missing a log, making a bad chop, or hitting an animal will cause Jack to lose a life. The gameplay here is well-suited to Infinitree mode's longer settings, though it gets a touch repetitive after a while. It's a shame Jack Lumber doesn't have online leaderboards to inspire score-based competition.

Jack can also view "Granny's Errands" from the map. Errands are optional side missions such as splitting a certain number of logs, getting multiple straight cuts (slicing multiple logs without bending the line) during a level, hitting an animal, and more. Players get three errands at one time, as with Jetpack Joyride and other games. Although Jack Lumber lacks a leveling system, completing errands does get you some logs (currency) to spend in the cabin.

Jack Lumber  Windows Phone

Cabin in the woods

Jack's cabin serves as his base – a place to chill out between levels. The animals that Jack rescues appear in the cabin and will bounce around and make silly sounds when tapped. You can also shake your phone to shake them all up or activate the disco ball and start an animal dance party. When you're done making an axe of yourself, feel free to read the letters that slip under Jack's door every now and then.

The cabin also houses Granny's Cupboard, the in-game store of sorts. The logs that Jack chops or receives from completing errands can be spent on items and unlockables in the Cupboard. Like Snuggle Truck, you can't buy currency in this game. So man up and earn it in the forest!

Things to buy in the cupboard:

  • Syrup: These four flavors of syrup are disposable items for use within levels. Buy them to make certain logs easier to cut, slow time down, undo a miss, and more.
  • Beards: Jack Lumber features an innovative stackable beard system. The more beards you put on, the harder the game becomes – and the higher your score multiplier will go. Owlchemy Labs even included a Windows Phone-exclusive blue beard. Equipping it will make you have to slice a certain log in each wave before the other logs.
  • Memorabilia: Buy pretty pictures to display on the cabin wall.
  • Hat Rack: Equip the critters of the cabin with a variety of silly hats.

Jack Lumber  Windows Phone

Almost too colorful

Jack Lumber looks great for the most part, especially the cut scenes. Everything comes to life in a distinctive cartoon art style that perfectly fits the game's lighthearted tone. The color palette uses a lot of pink, purple, and blue , just like Smuggle Truck. Kind of Sega Genesis-like, I guess.

The one thing that doesn't match the game's standards is the map. For some reason, the map and Jack's hands that hold it look awfully low resolution and pixelated. The rough appearance might be intentional, but it clashes with the rest of the visuals.

Got woods?

Screenshots don't do Jack Lumber justice. Games with similar core mechanics tend to be small-scale score hunts without a lot of meat on their bones. Jack Lumber brings a real story, lots of real levels, and a crazy cabin to the table. This game just oozes personality and charm.

No it doesn't have a trial, but take my word for it. Even if you've never dreamed of wearing high heels, suspenders, and a bra, you'll have a better than okay time with Jack Lumber.

  • Jack Lumber – Windows Phone 8 – 26 MB – $1.99 – Store Link

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