Review of Arkedo Series – 03 PIXEL! on XBLIG: Buy
This Donkey Kong- and Mario Bros.-influenced platformer is short and sweet.
This is the first of two Arkedo Series games we’re reviewing for the end of 2010, and it should be noted that they have nothing to do with each other. JUMP! is a platformer with minor puzzle elements, and it’s clear that Arkedo drew on Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong for both visual and gameplay inspiration. It’s a worthy successor to that legacy as it blends elements from classic arcade platformers into a fun and challenging mix.
JUMP!’s story is, like most classic arcade games, only vaguely-defined. Jumpboy must save the world from bombs planted by killer crabs. (Old-school gamers may remember that Mario was originally called Jumpman, and the crabs bear a striking resemblance to those found in Mario Bros.) In each stage, Jumpboy must find and defuse all of the bombs before they explode. Once this is done, the door to the next stage will open.
This turns out to be an interesting—if not extremely complex—puzzle element that keeps the game from being yet another platformer. Reaching all of the bombs often requires a bit of creativity, especially on stages with falling platforms or switch blocks. In some stages, a certain number of coins and gems must be collected before bombs are unlocked. While timers on the bombs are usually more than generous, there are a few stages where they’re cut short and timing is the main challenge.
I felt the game’s difficulty level was well-balanced. None of the levels left me stumped for any length of time—but this is primarily a platformer, not a puzzler. Most stages require some good reflexes and maneuvering, and beating the game felt like an accomplishment. I never truly felt stuck on a stage, nor did it seem like JUMP! was trying to be hard for the sake of being hard. The main challenge is that there are no continues (just like a retro arcade game), although Jumpboy starts out with 5 lives and 1ups are plentiful. At 30 stages, it felt a bit short (although that may be because the last game I reviewed was Apple Jack, which has 100 complicated stages).
If this sounds too easy for more seasoned gamers, there’s also a Challenge mode that’s unlocked by beating the game. The goal of this mode is to collect all of the coins and treasure on each stage. Once all 30 stages have been cleared on Challenge Mode, a super-challenging 31st stage is unlocked.
JUMP!’s visual style is an excellent example of retro style. As is standard for the retro genre, graphics are pixellated. Not all graphics seem pixellated to the same degree, which I thought was a smart and creative stylistic choice. Neon-colored effects punctuate the action really sell the 80’s arcade game theme.
I give Arkedo Series 01: JUMP! a Buy. It’s fun, and one of the few platformers I’ve played that manages to get the difficulty level just right.
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