Jetpack Joyride has been free to play for quite a while now, so if you haven’t yet downloaded it, what the heck are you waiting for!? Developed by Halfbrick Games, Jetpack Joyride at first glance may appear to be no different than any of the other dozens of endless runners. Alas, it’s not what Jetpack Joyride necessarily does different, but what it does BETTER than the rest. The game successfully combines all of the elements of a 2D sidescroller — responsive controls, colorful sprites, and a clever reward system — leading to an addicting game that will keep you coming back to complete “just one more goal.”
The concept of Jetpack Joyride is pretty simple. You play as Barry Steakfries as you attempt to escape from a evil scientists lair. Of course, that’s just the plot or theme of the game. The real goal is to endlessly run through this 2D maze filled with lasers, missiles, and an array of electric ropes. You must successfully navigate and avoid these obstacles to run for as long and far as possible. The further you go, the faster and more challenging the obstacles. Along the way, you can collect coins to use in the game’s shop for rewards that will help you.
Perhaps what makes Jetpack Joyride stand out among the rest is its polished controls. The touch/tap system is nearly flawless as it picks up your every command with relative ease. It’s no different than most other iOS games that rely on the button tapping system, but like I said, it just does it better. The level will automatically scroll as Barry continues to run, but it’s up to you to press and hold, or just tap, the screen to lift Barry into the air with his machine gun jetpack. Using the jetpack you can navigate above or below the dangers of the lab. Although responsive, your fingertips do have the potential to block some of the incoming obstacles from your vision. A larger screen, or tapping the lower left portion of the screen, should ease that problem, however.
Although the jetpack is Barry’s main mode of transportation, you’ll encounter several other alternative modes of transportation. These can be something as simple as the Bad As Hog (a fast motorcycle) or as crazy as the “Crazy Ass Teleporter”. Each of these vehicles serve as faster and more unique way to travel, but they do each have their pros and cons. For instance, the Hog is super fast, but can’t fly. Therefore, you’ll be forced to avoid all obstacles on the ground, which appear rather quickly. The Profit Bird (which literally spews money as you flap your wings) can fly and slows down the incoming obstacles, but you must constantly tap the screen to flap its wings. Each vehicle in the game feels completely unique from one another and it provides a nice meta-game of sorts as you must react to its unique control scheme. The vehicles are random and quite quirky too (just wait until you get to ride Mr. Cuddles!). Aside from their unique movements, the vehicles also serve as a second life for Barry as getting hit in them reverts you back to the jetpack.
As I mentioned, the goal of the game, aside from just surviving as long as possible, is to collect coins. You can use these coins in the game’s main shop to purchase new outfits and gadgets for Barry, upgrades for your vehicles, and other bonuses that will help you out along the way. This is also how the game’s developers can make money. If you don’t have the required amount of coins to make a purchase you can use real-life currency to buy more. Though you may be compelled to buy currency in most mobile games, Jetpack Joyride is pretty generous when it comes to gathering them in-game. I played for hours and didn’t spend any real cash. It just takes me a little longer to buy the things I want.
So really, what’s the purpose of playing Jetpack Joyride? What’s the hook aside from just being a time-waster when on the toilet? The great thing about it is that it serves just well as that, but also provides missions, goals, and achievements that will keep you coming back. At all times, you’ll be tasked with completing three goals. Some of these goals are simple like high-fiving 25 scientists, while others are pretty quirky (rubbing Barry’s head against the ceiling for 300 meters or dying exactly at the 200 meter mark). Regardless of difficulty, the goals create a sense of purpose for playing the game aside from bragging rights on the leaderboards. Completing these goals will reward you with stars that you can use to level your rank and coins as well.
Of course, when it’s all said and done, Jetpack Joyride is an endless runner. There’s no way to win, just beat the other players. That’s where the online leaderboards come into play. You can see exactly where you rank among other players in several categories including total distance ran and the longest distance in one single run. I’d like a few more comparative stats like total coins collected or something along that nature, but hopefully that will come in a future update.
The graphics and sprites are colorful and fun to look at, which also makes me want more from the game. The background gets stale after about the 100th play. Maybe I didn’t uncover different backgrounds because I failed to eclipse the 4,500 meter mark, but I’d like some more variety. The music, as addicting as it is, can also get rather repetitive. Fortunately, these are just me nitpicking. The music and background effects, as they are now, are perfectly adequate for the game. They definitely won’t hinder your experience with the game.
Jetpack Joyride may be one of the most complete sidescrolling, endless runner games we’ve seen in a while. It takes gameplay we already love and polishes it, creating a nearly flawless gameplay experience filled with excitement and joy. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ll tell yourself this is the last attempt at the record, the replay value will keep you coming back over and over again.
Jetpack Joyride is available for most mobile devices, iOS and Android, and recently came to the PS3 and PS Vita. Though our review is strictly for the mobile iOS and Android versions.