Jade Order review
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Jade Order review

Our Review by Campbell Bird on July 13th, 2022
Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar :: ORDER GO
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This node-based puzzler doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from older, more successful games in the genre.

Developer: Tortuga Xel Studio

Price: $3.99
Version: 1.0.2
App Reviewed on: iPhone SE

Graphics/Sound Rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar
User Interface Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Gameplay Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar
Replay Value Rating: starstarhalfstarblankstarblankstar

Overall Rating: starstarstarhalfstarblankstar

If you have a fondness for Square Enix's GO series (i.e. Hitman GO, Lara Croft GO, Deus Ex GO), Jade Order should look both familiar and intriguing. This turn-based puzzle game definitely has some clear inspirations, but those touch points are pretty well worn territory at this point, and it takes a lot more than a dark sci-fi aesthetic to make a game like that feel fresh.

Move point puzzler

The core idea of Jade Order is to serve up single screen puzzle stages where you control a character that can only move between predetermined waypoints, or nodes. Your goal is to link together the right sequence of moves between points to accomplish an objective that opens an exit that you can then proceed through.

For the purposes of Jade Order's story, you are controlling a warrior who is supposed to be lighting some beacons while avoiding death from alien creatures roaming along these points on stages. This is all basically set dressing though, as the story seems only deep enough to give basic context to its art design and mechanics, keeping the focus of the experience on serving up different kinds of challenges to complete in each level.

Power play

If you aren't familiar with the GO games or others like it, don't worry: Jade Order has a very gentle ramp of tutorials with levels that teach you how the game works. Each stage has multiple challenges you can complete, with the only required one being to kill enough creatures to unlock the gate before going through it.

The further you get into Jade Order, the more complicated these levels can get, and in turn the game grants you special powers you can and must deploy stragetically to succeed. Some powers let you force individual enemies to move before you do, while others can let you teleport across gaps, for example. The only constraint on these powers is you have to collect a certain item within each stage to use them, which can lead to levels where the goal is quite clear, but the method for how to reach it can get pretty convoluted.

Slow to evolve

There's no big issues with Jade Order, per se, so if you are just fiending for another node-based movement puzzler, this game could really satisfy. That said, I'm somewhat down on the experience as a whole because it doesn't shake up its challenges enough (even with powers) to make it feel like a fresh experience and there are a bunch of little things that I wish were different about it to make it a smoother-playing game.

For starters, Jade Order can be a little hard-to-parse on smaller screens. The detailed pixel art looks awesome, but I found locating certain items or indicators on my iPhone SE screen troublesome at times. I also wish Jade Order was a little snappier when it came to undoing moves or restarting levels. As a game that requires a certain amount of experimentation and trial-and-error, I wish there wasn't a delay (however slight) in rolling back a move or retrying a level fresh. Between these things and the somewhat long and slow ramp up to getting access to powers, the game can definitely feel like a drag.

The bottom line

Jade Order runs into that age-old problem where--in taking inspiration from some truly remarkable titles--it has to wrestle with how playing it will constantly remind you of something else you could be playing instead. Perhaps if it were a bit cleaner and snappier (or perhaps differentiated itself a bit more) this puzzler could stand toe-to-toe with something like Lara Croft GO, but instead it just lives in its shadow.

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