Jumping Joe & Friends is a simple game about pushing the left or right buttons to jump up up a shaft to the next corresponding platform. There is no aim or sublety, you’re guaranteed to land on the center of the next platform. If there is a wall or no platform you’ll be a blood splat on the wall or plummet to your death. As simple as it is, that’s what makes it a good fit for on the go. It’s a small game that can fill a minute to an hour. There’s nothing deep, but the catch is with the Switch having so many other powerhouse games that you can play on the go, Jumping Joe will get seen as a lackluster and thrown together despite it’s simple, addictive qualities.
Its a forgiving game, because while you can instantly die hitting a wall or falling, you can collect hats that act as health for hitting an enemy or a hazard. Chasing you up is a slow moving lava pool, but you really need to stand still for an excessive amount of time before you’re ever in danger. The game goes at your own pace for the most part.
There are pros and cons to this presentations, because the colors look great with the solids and background complimenting one another well. As you climb, the hue will shift to make it feel like you’re progressing. Over time you’ll reach clouds and beyond. It could look far worse.
The real issue is the art is simple and devoid of details so that can make the game look cheap and undesirable, unless you’re into the style. With a game so simple and an art style so basic, that can be a giant detriment. Square characters jumping up, basic enemies, basic backgrounds.
As you ascend the shaft, the screen will tilt and shift, which adds more life to what could have been a dull presentation. When you reach your highest height, you’ll see a bar that indicates you’ve surpassed your old record. It’s a nice touch that shows there was effort put into this.
The music is happy, upbeat and slightly Octoberfest while being utterly forgettable, but it keeps the pace of the game quite well.
The game is all about going up a shaft, but Arcade mode is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time. This shaft zigs and zags as it climbs. On your way there are crates, collectables, enemies, hazards and death waiting for you.
Score is determined by the height you get to and the game keeps track of your top three heights along with the top three heights of the character you’re playing. It’s endless and with unlockable characters and modes, it feels like the true point of the game is to collect the diamonds which are used as currency.
There are spikes on plenty of platforms. Touching a spike will damage you and a lot of the time, the spikes are fake, they lower when you’re one platform beneath them. Since you have no control you either jump in the spikes or jump to a safe platform. It’s just that simple.
The further you climb, the more enemies and hazards you’ll see. Bats that circle platforms, flying creatures that move back and forth. Saw blades that do the same. Later on, you’ll come across wall cannons that fire fiery fireballs. Smashers that if you’re moving too fast will squish you before you know it.
Along the way up you’ll discover and probably hop into poisonous green clouds. This will tighten up the view on the character so you can’t see that far ahead, but it will wear off in time. It’s an interesting hazard that doesn’t hurt you like everything else.
CRATES & ROLLS
Temporary power-ups are found in crates. Touching the crate activates the item. Bombs will destroy all hazards on the screen and beyond. Magnets will pull in any nearby diamonds. A money bag will make diamonds appear on each platform. Rockets will boost you 50 platforms higher. Hats will let you take extra damage.
Rolls are round items with a square cut out of them. These are like random loot boxes that you’ll open after your game over. They contain 50 or 200 diamonds. Sometimes one roll will contain 2 extra rolls or even items for your next run like rockets, hats, and double diamonds. Double diamonds make each diamond worth two. There’s also a continue that can be found in a roll. Continues will start you off two platforms below where you died.
It would have been better if rolls showed you some sort of slot machine or opening the roll rather than having the icon appear. There’s no puff of smoke or anything interesting for the big reveal. In a way it’s the only let down to the game’s polish.
CHARACTERS AND ABILITIES
You start with Jumping Joe unlocked. He’s your character and comes with a hat. Hat lets you take damage. From there you can either pay a thousand diamonds to upgrade him to start with two hats, or you can just start purchasing other characters.
Each character plays the same, but they all have different abilities. Rocket Bird starts you instantly with a rocket from the start and will find more rocket crates. The upgrade is a longer speed boost. Rage Bomber (what a terrible name) becomes angry and will release a bomb destroying hazards. The angry meter is based on how quick you hop. Golden Pig is the end all be all, because this character has a permanent magnet, and there’s no reason to play as anyone else.
There are others, but it felt pointless to unlock more when the game really felt like the entire point was to collect diamonds to unlock things. I did unlock Diamond Fever, the landholder lad who collects diamonds to get power ups. The big problem is the diamonds are rare. When you do collect enough for a power up, you can use any one of the four or so items… if you time your button press right.
In addition to arcade, you’ll find two unlockable modes: race and hero mode. Race mode is an empty and vacant mine shaft that has diamonds, but no items or rolls. This mode keeps track of your time when you pass certain heights. It’s easy since there are no hazards. Hero mode is the game’s hard mode. You start off with the toughest hazards right away and the colors are different. A bit more fiery and fierce than arcade. Both modes unlock by completing a challenge in the arcade mode or purchasing the mode for 5,000 diamonds.
For anyone with friends or a bunch of children, there’s multiplayer for 2 – 4 players. From the setup you can select the amount of players, rounds to win, a time limit, a difficulty and you select from dozens of avatars. These are just avatars devoid of abilities like in the main game.
Once you start multiplayer, everyone has the same tower to climb, so a single player can play with two controllers pretty easily to test multiplayer. Death is a loss and the last character standing wins the round. If you set a time limit, then the highest among you is the winner, but you can easily get a draw. It’s a simple game that’s a nice inclusion to have for anyone with kids that wants something basic and simple.
AN ENJOYABLE GAME
It’s a portable game that I bought for a quarter. I got my money’s worth out of it, but I can’t imagine that its addictive nature can be easily played without being experienced first. There are other games I’ve bought for a similar price that have been a disappointment. Jumping Jimmy & Friends was a pleasant surprise to play.