Version Reviewed: 1.01
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 5
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Forest Moon Games’ latest published title, Gear Jack, from Piwot Games is a prime example of why ideas alone do not make a great app or game: it’s all about the execution.
Players control Jack, a robot who must escape a crumbling space ship. This provides compelling reason for it to run and not stop, because even robots fear death. Jack can jump, roll into a ball, and perform midair maneuvers when the player taps the appropriate button as they pass an icon in the air. Through 29 levels, players have one goal: get Jack to the end safe and sound. Well, there is the secondary goal of collecting all the little icons in the levels to get 3 stars, because style points do count for good ol’ Jack.
Remember Sonic Jump? This game would be a good foundation for how a true Sonic endless runner should be like, with rolling and jumping, and the occasional multi-level path. The upgrade system, which allows players to assign points to different attributes, and then re-assign them as necessary, so if a level feels like it would be easier if the protagonist could jump higher, then points can be shuffled around to do just that. The visual style, which uses a lot of flat colors with only limited details applied where necessary, definitely stands out while playing.
The thing holding Gear Jack back though is that its levels are just too long. They’re still short in an absolute sense, but in the context of the game, where one failure forces the player to have to start all the way back at the beginning, they are far too long. There’s just too many sections that the game makes players repeat again and again in order to beat a level. As well, the floor pads that trigger a giant stomping column from above are both needlessly deceptive (they blend into the floor) and annoying to take on when they keep coming at inopportune moments. It’s easy to forget about them when trying to acquire the muscle memory to beat the other annoying sections of a level. I found myself hitting the home button in frustration all too often. Would some checkpoints have really been a bad thing?
The frustration factor of Gear Jack took this from being a solid auto-running platformer into another game on the scrap heap for me. This is the kind of game that despairs me: it’s a title with such promise, but it gets chucked away by its frustrating level design. It’s a shame.