JumpJet Rex‘s story is about trying to prevent the meteor that killed the dinosaurs from hitting the Earth. While that is a completely ridiculous concept, it serves to showcase how much fun it feels the developers had in making this game. The game looks and plays like a classic 16-bit platformer, but there are some significant tweaks to the players movement that really open the door to a wide variety of possible moves. Players will dash, jump, rocket, and drop their way through surprisingly difficult levels and yet will always want to go back to previous levels trying to finish faster or not die.
As with most platformers, much of the success of the game relies on the its controls and level design. JumpJet Rex certainly has stellar level design and more than serviceable controls, but it also brings along a host of other amazing features that help to cement the game’s greatness.
Here’s what I liked:
Difficult yet fair – JumpJet Rex is an incredibly challenging game that pays homage to the difficulty of the games that inspired it. A single mistake can end a perfect run through of a level, but the proper way to approach a level is always clear to those seeking to learn from their mistakes. No one level ever felt as though it was too much of a challenge, in part because the controls were so responsive and precise that any death was always my own fault.
Co-op – Not many games these days have local co-op opportunities, but JumpJet Rex is a splendid exception. The co-op features all of the same levels as in single player, but having a friend along for the ride makes some of the levels feel easier to finish than when approaching them solo. The game runs as smoothly with two players as it does with one, which is fantastic because the screen can get a little hectic at times, especially during boss fights. Honestly, it’s just really fun to get to share the joy of JumpJet Rex with a friend.
Fantastic design – Everything in the 16-bit world of JumpJet Rex pops off of the screen with its vibrancy. Each level felt very unique and had a distinct challenge even though levels saw some repeating enemy types and obstacles. This also makes the need to replay levels for additional stars less arduous, because with each level feeling different it never feels as though you’re playing through the same levels time and time again to accomplish the same challenges. The additional objectives of each level — such as a no death or a speed run — also greatly contribute to the game’s design because achieving either objective forces players to approach the same level in different ways.
The entire move set available from the beginning – Rather than have players slowly unlock Rex’s movement abilities, every single move is available for players to utilize from the first level. This allows players to get comfortable with all of the controls fairly quickly, which is great since a fair bit of mastery is required to actually progress through levels. This also allowed the developers to design much more compelling levels, as there is never a level that just focuses on the use of only one ability. Instead, every level requires players to constantly be aware of which ability is best suited for each individual obstacle and forces players to stay on their toes.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Later levels become near impossible without a friend – The last set of levels before the final boss consists of single levels more difficult than every previous level in the game combined. Approaching them on my own left me wondering if I’d manage to gain any level of skill at JumpJet Rex for the five hours that I had already spent playing it. Playing with a co-op partner during the last world practically felt like a requirement, and while having a friend along did make things easier it certainly didn’t make levels a breeze. Completing the game alone felt like a near Herculean task, so anyone that finds themselves finishing JumpJet Rex without a co-op partner truly has a knack for difficult platformers.
JumpJet Rex is a tribute to 16-bit games from a bygone era of gaming, and it completely nails the feel of platformers from that time. However, JumpJet Rex isn’t just a simple homage to classic platformers — it also innovates on the classic genre. The controls and movement of Rex feel superb, and each level is its own delightful treat. Playing with a friend is always a blast in every level, but playing alone is also a completely satisfying experience.The only real issue is when co-op starts to feel mandatory for players to progress.
Score: Highly Recommended
JumpJet Rex was developed by TreeFortress and published by LOOT Interactive on Xbox One. It was released on April 29, 2016 for $9.99. A copy was provided by LOOT Interactive for review purposes. Click here for information on XBLA Fans’ new scoring system.