Developer: Piwot Games and Crescent Moon Games
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad Mini Retina

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Playtime: Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Gear Jack: Black Hole can be frustrating to play. The game itself functions okay: it’s got a solid endless runner core, and there’s some well-formed conceptual ideas there. And it’s got enough of a challenge that can be compelling to come back to, like a buffalo wing with the perfect amount of spice. But there’s just so much that it whiffs on executing properly that makes it overall a bit disappointing.

GearJackBlackHole-2Ultimately, Gear Jack Black Hole lacks substance. This may be a bit hypocritical in that I love “flaplikes” (games like Flappy Bird) and their simplicity, but to me it’s ultimately about what the game is attempting and whether it succeeds at it. A game like Zombie Gunship Arcade can eschew upgrades and I can enjoy it for that. When Gear Jack: Black Hole makes gear collection (its soft currency) a part of its world, and then makes them of limited utility, that’s a failed part of the game. The gears are there for the collecting, and the game tosses up plenty of reminders to the player to go for them, so to say “just ignore them” is to fight one’s instinct. This can be done in clever ways, but there’s no real reward for fighting the presentation.

As well, the shurikens (the hard currency) feel mismanaged: they’re used to buy extra lives when dying after a run, and while this is a tried-and-true system, the problem here is that there’s little recourse to earn the shurikens while playing. A game like Temple Run 2 or even the recent Breakfinity manages them well: make the revive currency rare, but regularly obtainable and a part of the game. It’s something players can either use wisely or spend money on to buy more of them. Instead, Gear Jack Black Hole makes them un-collectable in the main game, and only occasionally earned through treasure chests, not letting players get used to them as an actual part of the game.

GearJackBlackHole-1As far as the actual play goes, the rolling feels great, almost like something out of a Sonic 2D endless runner that still needs to happen in a fully-formed way. The double-jumping is oddly implemented with its specific timing necessary to do the second jump, and never feels good. The ability to slow down feels like a clever implementation, but it’s only used for very specific circumstances. Regulating one’s speed in a runner feels like a clever idea that hasn’t been explored well enough, but Gear Jack Black Hole just uses it for telegraphed set pieces instead of making it a core part of the gameplay.

And really, that’s kind of how I feel about the entirety of Gear Jack Black Hole. There’s a lot of ideas here that just never feel like they properly come together.


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