Halfbrick Studios supported the launch of Windows Phone 7 with the release of Fruit Ninja and the promise of Age of Zombies. But Fruit Ninja never got content updates (unlike on other platforms) and Age of Zombies never showed up, having caught a bad case of the vaporwares. Many feared that the popular Australian game developer had jumped ship from Windows Phone entirely.
Then in October 2012, Halfbrick’s Jetpack Joyride suddenly showed up as an Xbox Windows 8 game. Microsoft teased a Windows Phone 8 version shortly thereafter, but months passed without the game showing up. Miniclip’s clone Gravity Guy 2 actually beat Jetpack Joyride to market in March! Thankfully Jetpack Joyride finally cleared the perils of Xbox certification and landed on Windows Phone8 earlier this month (and for free). Turns out it was worth the wait!
No escape from reality
The game’s protagonist Barry Steakfries has recently started working as a jetpack tester. He soon discovers that his bosses plan to take over the world. He steals the jetpack and begins a desperate escape from the testing laboratory… But this is an endless runner, so don’t expect to actually escape from the lab.
While the game falls into the running genre, you’ll probably spend most of your time in the air. Tapping the screen activates the jetpack and causes Barry to rise up the screen. Let go and he plummets back to the ground. The controls vary slightly when you get in a vehicle, but the game never requires more than a single finger (placed anywhere on-screen) to use. That approachability plays a big part in the game’s popularity.
Three types of obstacles threaten to end Barry’s run from the lab: zappers, missiles, and lasers. Zappers – a line of electricity spread across two points come in both stationary and rotating varieties. They are by far the most common and deadly threat.
Missiles fly at Barry from the right side of the screen, sometimes alone and other times on after another. An exclamation mark and sound effect at least warns you of their coming. The least common threat, lasers stretch all the way across the screen in various horizontal patterns. Because lasers are so easy to dodge, I usually looked forward to gaining a little distance unharmed during laser strikes.
Barry can gain a random vehicle and a modicum of protection by grabbing the colored gear icons that appear every now and then. If you get hit while in a vehicle, you lose the ride but survive the blow. Vehicles include:
- Bad as Hog: An oddly named motorcycle that can jump but not fly. Barry shoots any passing scientists down with a shotgun (a la Terminator 2).
- Crazy Freaking Teleporter: Possibly the best vehicle in the game, if you can use it right. The teleporter’s aiming reticule constantly moves up and down while the vehicle itself remains at a fixed height. Tap the screen to teleport to the reticule’s position. Because the teleporter can’t be harmed while moving, it can basically survive until the player teleporters into a hazard by mistake.
- Lil’ Stomper: A mech suit that can jump and hover. Also likes to punch scientists.
- Mr. Cuddles: Ride this dragon’s head like Falcor from The Neverending Story! The dragon stays at the top of the screen by default; tapping the screen moves him downward.
- Profit Bird: Rapidly tapping the screen makes the profit bird fly (as opposed to holding your finger against the screen).
- Gravity Suit: Hey, a Gravity Guy crossover! While dressing up as Miniclip’s character is cool, he reverses gravity far too slowly to be effective. You’ll run into a zapper before very long.
Every now and then a spinner token floats by for the grabbing. Whenever Barry finally dies, he can spend all of his tokens on the lucky spinner. Prizes include double coins on your next run; free Head Start, Final Blast, Quick Revive, and other items; and three quantities of coin payouts.
If you’d rather not take your chances, you can always choose to cash in your tokens instead of spending them. Each one is worth 50 coins.
The ever-present goal is to collect as many coins as possible before you run into one of the lab’s many death traps. Coins can then be spent in the Shack (shop) to unlock new clothes (including an outfit based on fellow publisher Miniclip’s Fragger!), jetpacks, and various items and upgrades. Utilities are single use items while Gadgets and Vehicle Upgrades offer permanent benefits.
At any given time, you have three different optional missions to work on. Missions award 1-3 three stars, depending on their difficulty. Get enough stars and you’ll level up, earning a nice coin reward.
Being a free-to-play game, coins can also be purchased with real money. The IAP prices are actually reasonable, so you know Gameloft didn’t make this one. One purchase you’ll definitely want to make as soon as possible is the Counterfeit Machine. It permanently doubles the amount of coins you pick up during gameplay. The purchase supports Halfbrick and cuts grinding time in half; totally worth it.
The Shack sells a whopping 18 different gadgets – equippable items that affect gameplay in various ways. Barry can only equip two gadgets at a time; how I wished for a third slot, even as an IAP!
Not only are there a ton of gadgets, but practically all of them have some charming graphical effect when equipped. Use the Nerd Repellant to keep scientists from appearing and you’ll notice tumbleweeds show up in their stead. Flash, my personal favorite, causes an AI dog to follow you throughout your run. He jumps to collect coins and tokens and he even changes his appearance when you get in a vehicle. Halfbrick lavished an impressive level of detail into this game.
Much as I love Jetpack Joyride, it does have a few kinks that could use fixing. On a few separate occasions, the title screen “frame” and music would suddenly pop up while I was playing (as pictured above), preventing me from controlling Barry. Basically the game went into its attract mode at the wrong time. On a separate occasion, my character became invisible for a few seconds and died.
Several Achievements involve buying certain items from the Stash and completing various numbers of missions. The two secret Achievements are ‘Blinged Out’ for buying a golden vehicle upgrade and ‘Tee Hee Two’ for collecting exactly 69 coins during a run.
The hardest Achievement by far is ‘Romeo Alpha Delta’ for flying over 5,000 km in a single run. Some players struggle with it, but it basically comes down to a combination of practice, equipping the right gadgets and utilities, and luck. Following the guide at TrueAchievements, you should reach 5,000 km eventually. It only took me five tries!
It’s a good thing Gravity Guy 2 came out a few months ahead of Jetpack Joyride on Windows Phone. While Miniclip’s endless runner takes ample inspiration from Jetpack Joyride, it doesn’t have nearly as much content or charm.
Jetpack Joyride boasts more backgrounds (randomized), a greater variety of missions, equippable gadgets, vehicles, and the lucky spinner – that’s a lot more game, when you get right down to it. Plus Jetpack Joyride is free as opposed to costing $2.99 AND you can buy a permanent 2x coin multiplier, unlike Gravity Guy 2. In terms of value, Halfbrick’s runner soars over Miniclip’s good but lesser featured clone.
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