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Continuing the adventures of recurrent Halfbrick studios burly protagonist (he probably has a fist underneath his beard too) Barry Steakfries, Jetpack Joyride chronicles his machine gun propelled escape attempt from a Dexters lab esq, procedurally generated scientific facility. It plays like the helicopter game, a simplistic one touch platformer in which the objective is to travel the furthest possible distance, avoiding an assortment of tricks and traps as you progress at ever increasing speeds. Yet Halfbrick has managed to imbue this basic mechanic with flourishes of witty imagination and persistent metagame objectives that bridge individual playthroughs, creating the ultimate in itchingly compelling ‘just one more go’ iOS arcade games.
Slick, responsive and tactile controls add to the addictiveness as your touch fuels a powerful ascent, whilst letting go leads to a floaty descent. This helps you duck and weave through a labyrinth of electrical cables, floating lasers and head on rockets, seemingly determined to scupper Mr Steakfries attempts toward freedom.
Strewn throughout the facility are random powerups. Many of which are quirky references to other iOS titles, with each modifying the one touch control: The Gravity suit from fellow one touch iOS platformer Gravity Guy brings Gravity manipulation, a terminator inspired wild hog motorbike graces Mr Steakfries with a 360 degree spin reloaded sawn-of shotgun and turns proceedings into a game of hurdle jumping, and Cuddles the mechanical fire breathing dragon inverts the one touch controls are he naturally ascends toward the roof.
Collectible floating patterned patches of coins and undulating spin tokens are peppered throughout the facility. Increasing the size of your coin stash is incentivised through a store, allowing the purchase of humorous aesthetic upgrades to costumes and jetpacks (With a particularly fruity jetpack upgrade referencing Halfbrick studios biggest ninja hit). Sadly these serve only as aesthetic upgrades and have no effect on gameplay. A missed opportunity as an RPG like jetpack upgrade system could have provided extra gameplay depth, alongside an impetus for what can be very expensive time consuming purchases to obtain. Spin tokens are utilised in a fruit machine mini game after every inevitably failed escape attempt. Successfully aligning 3 pictures grants various boosters, from a quick revive to a rocket powered head start.
Wonderfully smooth gameplay and a multitude of powerups are great, but Jetpack Joyride really excels and manages to differentiate itself through persistent objectives that stack goals over multiple runs. Some include; shoot 5 scientist whilst riding the hogbike, fail between 500 and 600 meters and collect 5 spin tokens. Tasks become increasingly more challenging and three are available at all times. By bridging the individual sprints with these overarching objectives, Jetpack Joyride provides a greater overall goal than the simple, travelling the furthest possible distance, of its biggest influence, the helicopter game.
Halfbrick studios have hit a sweet spot for the iOS timedrainer here. Building upon their previous works, Jetpack Joyride is a slickly addictive and compelling experience. It sits with tiny wings, gravity guy and Mr Steakfries last outing, monster dash, as one of the best one touch distance platformers on iphone. Yet it becomes more compelling to return to than any of them, through metaobjectives that branch individual playthroughs into greater overall goals. A real bargain for a 69p iOS title. The music is funkily addictive too!