Jetpack Joyride by Halfbrick Studios breathes life into a genre that’s been milling about restlessly for quite a while now. In the 2D game, you manoeuvre protagonist Barry Steakfries around deadly obstacles like guided missiles and electricity fields by touching the screen to make him ascend, whilst releasing causes him to descend. In this regard, the game is similar to Super Turbo Action Pig, or to a lesser extent, the flash classic, Helicopter.
But Jetpack Joyride isn’t just another endless, score-as-many-points-as-you-can, repetitive yawn. Rather, it’s full of incentives for you to keep playing, and playing, and playing, and – oh, you’ve missed your bus stop. Most notably, the game gives you missions to complete (there are three available at any time). Completing them unlocks new missions and gives you stars; earning a certain number of stars makes you level up. The system, similar to the objectives system in Tiny Wings, makes the game stand out as fun to play, and gives it variety. Also a large part of the game are coins. Collecting them allows you to buy items – new clothes, jetpack upgrades, vehicle upgrades and more.
Vehicles are essentially Halfbrick’s take on power-ups. Flying into a vehicle pickup sends you flapping, stomping or gravitating along in one of several unusual modes of transport. You remain in a vehicle until you take damage, at which point Barry’s stripped of his protection and once again left to fend for himself in the cruel world of one-hit kills. I won’t reveal too much about vehicles because they’re fun to discover, but I will say that they’re inventive and break up the gameplay well.
Another clever feature is a slot machine that surfaces whenever Steakfries meets his maker. You collect spin tokens as you play, each entitling you to another spin of the slots, where you can win items that you’d otherwise have to purchase in the store with your collected coins – revives, score-increasing blasts and the like. It’s a nice little touch that breathes extra life into the gameplay.
Talking of little touches, they’re tucked away in every corner of the game. As you fly, your jetpack spews bullets onto the evil scientists wandering beneath you, sending them into arms-above-head moments of panic; the bullets even smash the lights that run along the floors. In the background, a little sign on the wall displays your best distance. You can hear Barry’s footsteps when he runs along the floor. It’s possible to access the list of missions from most screens in the game. After each flight, statistics detail how you performed. All little things, but they’re what make the game feel so highly polished and, well, lovely to play.
The game comes with appealing cartoon visuals and an amazingly unobtrusive soundtrack that fits the game well without ever grinding against your ears or forming a repetitive sludge. Of course, it’s also got leaderboards and achievements to please those with competitive tendencies.
Overall, Jetpack Joyride is one of the best mobile games that I’ve played recently. It does come with a few cheeky annoyances – extra coins can be purchased as an in-app purchase, degrading the value of collecting coins in game, for example – but nothing so bad as to stand in the way of the game. It also feels a little like Halfbrick missed a trick by having all vehicles unlocked for use from the start of the game; I imagine it could have been rewarding if new vehicles became unlocked as a bonus for levelling up. Still, the app is an addicting, brilliant value experience with a broad appeal and easily accessible gameplay. Highly recommended.