A giant Iron Crab appeared, dropping bombs everywhere it goes.What is this all about? Do something, Jumpboy!
Arkedo is a small professional Developer with a couple of published DS games (Nervous Brickdown and Big Bang Mini) under its belt which set sails for Xbox Indies in late 2009. Jump! is the first shot fired at the console, a retro platformer with a silly story and lots of self-referential humor interspersed throughout the game via the stage titles and other text. It's up to Jumpboy to disarm the bombs a giant Iron Crab has left behind for some reason or another, and he'll do it with good, old fashion jumping.
Jumpboy is a old style arcade platformer boasting 30 short levels in which Jumpboy must disarm some number of bombs before the exit is revealed to him. Crabs, bats, snakes, and skeletons stand in Jumpboy's way of reaching his goals, and he must avoid or dispatch them while also navigating fire spouts, falling stalactites, and vanishing platforms. Occasionally Jumpboy will come across a knife he can toss to defeat a future enemy of his choosing as the knives carry over from one level to the next. Jumpboy will also find that some bombs only are accessible after he has gathered a certain amount of treasure on the stage, requiring thorough exploration to obtain that level's riches. Each of the 30 stages found in the main adventure take these elements and do a fantastic job of keeping each one feeling distinct and fun. For a platformer simply about jumping, Jump! does a fantastic job of avoiding any feelings of redundancy one might expect from such a game.
"The Warping Plumber," for example, has Jumpboy mimicing world 1-2 of Super Mario Bros. as he must find away onto the "roof" of the stage to access the exit where the first warp pipes are found in the Nintendo classic. Other levels such as "Ghouls with Ghosts" has the player dodging skeletons while "The Indiana Complex" has Jumpboy outracing some boulders as he is forced through a gauntlet of traps on the way to the exit. I love how the pause menu is subtitled "PLZ WASH YOUR HANDS," and the random death messages ("OH NO! LET'S HOPE DARWIN WAS WRONG") are worth a smile. Jump! oozes personality even though its hero lacks an expressive face or dialogue of his own. Jumpboy himself resembles a sort of modern Pitfall Harry which manages to keep his look close to the 8-bit classics the game apes while still offering a level of definition and sheen only possible on today's modern consoles. The music is a fantastic selection of arranged PCM blips and bloops which suit the action to a T, varied and well orchestrated, and just feels right with the game.
Even though the game teases about its lack of continues, some players may find it frustrating to have to play through all 30 levels in one sitting to beat the game's adventure portion. I don't see this as a fault myself given how plentiful extra lives are in the game, particularly around the more challenging parts. The first 30 stages of Jump! are hardly what I would call taxing on one's abilities; later stages may introduce more timer elements which may be stressful, but on the whole Jump! is a game of moderate difficulty. At least it is until the player completes the 30 stages under the main adventure, unlocking the challenges. Unfortunately, the challenges are simply the same stages repeated again but this time forcing the player to acquire all of the money, lives, and bombs in the game. Seeing how most players will likely already have done this for the main game, having to play through them again via the challenge mode can be a bit tiring. Thankfully, that effort is worth it as completion of the challenges unlocks the final and most difficult level by far, "The Nervous Brickdown," a stage so tough I've yet to beat it myself.
Jump! is a wonderful platformer which sadly just leaves the player wanting more. It takes too long for the levels to really start getting interesting and challenging, and the game is over all too quickly. Of course, that's a mark of just how good a game Jump! is, but sadly it's gone in a flash, leaving behind a 31st stage which whips the player good where the first 30 simply tickled. Beyond a couple of minor complaints regarding the repetitiveness of the challenges and inability to escape out of the game once launched, Jump! is a fantastic release. Arkedo's first game helps bring some class and professionalism to Xbox Indies, and for that we should all be thankful. Jump! is an absolutely stellar debut that every platformer fan needs to play.