App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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Nipping at the heels of Crafted - this week's earlier Minecraft "homage" - is Junk Jack; a similar 2D spin on one of the industry's most well known indie games. I could spend the entire review comparing the two, but that would be futile. The short version: One offers comfort and familiarity with some slight changes, while the other provides a more unique take on a familiar concept.
Much like its compatriots, Junk Jack tosses players into the middle of a randomly generated world and tasks them with doing whatever the heck they want. Typically it's best to start punching trees and using the wood they provide to create tools to aid in further resource gathering and exploration. Once a base of operations has been established they're free to mess around with searching for loot, mine for precious metals and more. They can do all of this from the get-go, but it's much easier with a few preparations. Plus lots of mean things come out in the dark so it's not exactly safe to go wandering around in the open at night time.
Junk Jack is a great-looking and great-playing game, with some delightful retro/cartoony (think 16-bit era) visuals and smartly designed gesture-based controls. However, the most impressive stuff (for a veteran crafter such as myself, anyway) are all the little changes that seem simple yet so freaking brilliant it's amazing no one's implemented them sooner. Finding hidden caches of tools and random components encourages exploration. Locating pages full of tips and how-to instructions (which can be added to a player-made book to save inventory space) is another great idea. Players can even carry their inventory data from world-to-world (i.e. start fresh with a workbench, oven, etc... in-hand). But most of all, the way Jack will automatically jump up and place a block underneath himself (via tapping on a space he's occupying) is stupefyingly amazing. The concept completely removes the need to quickly place a block while jumping, doing both with a single tap instead. Genius.
Of course, some of these brilliant ideas could use a little refinement. As much as I love the Crafting Guide, I'm disappointed new pages don't automatically pop up on screen once the book is possessed despite the fact that they do before it's crafted. Having to manually add pages to the book also seems like a completely pointless step. Minecraft veterans should also be aware that Junk Jack uses a similar but overall different crafting system. It's still perfectly manageable, but it takes some adjustment.
Suffice it to say, Junk Jack is a hands-down, no questions asked must-own for any and all iOS users who love sandbox crafting games. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want even more stuff to mess around with, but that's just the greed talking. Plus there's always the possibility of future updates.