App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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I love a good Metroidvania game, but there’s not too many to choose from on mobile. Dust: An Elysian Tail and Ninja Smasher are some of the few higher watermarks of the genre on the App Store, but aside from that, there isn’t much out there that passes muster. I was hoping that the release of JackQuest—a sort of retro-styled “one of those” from Crescent Moon Games—would add one more title into the pool of great mobile Metroidvanias, but its brevity and lack of creativity make it pretty unremarkable.
In JackQuest, you play as a hero named Jack, as he’s trying to rescue Nara, his love interest. At the start of the game, Jack is on a very nice date with Nara that gets interrupted by an evil force that captures her. This puts you on the game's titular quest, which involves exploring an underground dungeon in search of Nara and her mysterious captor.
Very early into your subterranean wanderings, Jack stumbles across a magical talking sword named Kuro, who you then use through the majority of the rest of the game to slice and dice your way through all manner of monsters standing between you and Nara. Since this is a Metroidvania, getting to Nara isn’t quite as straightforward as marching to her holding location. Instead, you have to wander your underground surroundings finding items and defeating bosses to eventually find a way to reach Nara and the monster that captured her.
Jack be nimble
Although there is quite a bit of fighting in JackQuest, a significant portion of the game is more concerned with traversal. Jack needs to find his way to a specific places to get things or trigger events that then allow him to access new areas. For those that haven’t played games with the Metroidvania moniker, this is a hallmark of the genre.
In sequences where you’re simply moving around the environment, JackQuest excels. Its movement controls are quick and responsive whether you’re playing using touch controls or an MFi controller, and some of JackQuest’s level designs create some legitimately fun challenges to navigate. I only wish this fluidity and responsiveness carried through to JackQuest’s combat, which is heavily featured throughout the game, but feels clunky and strange. Every hit lands with a heavy impact that makes the game kind of stutter, and there are precious few fights where you feel pressure to do anything but just mash the attack button until your foe is dead.
Jack be quick
JackQuest could still be seen as a pretty serviceable experience if the only problem it had to worry about was its iffy combat. Unfortunately though, this game also suffers from being woefully short and structurally unimaginative.
Part of what makes Metroidvainias so enjoyable is their ability to make large, labyrinthian worlds that you peel away at—one layer at a time—as you gather tools that allow you to explore deeper. JackQuest doesn’t really do this. Instead, most paths are blocked by random doors that you open at the hit of a switch, and there’s only two traversal tools (a double-jump and the ability to breathe underwater) that meaningfully change where you can go. Considering JackQuest only has a handful of bosses and is easily beatable in a sitting or two, it’s disappointing to see that the bulk of it consists of gating mechanics that are so arbitrary and boring.
The bottom line
JackQuest is a brief adventure that runs out of ideas shortly after it begins. There are a few interesting platforming sections in the game’s small map, but other than that, it feels pretty lifeless. Even among the pool of mostly disappointing Metroidvanias on mobile, JackQuest rates pretty low.