“I like cappuccino, actually. But even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all.”
“The following is a contributor post by the Middle-aged Horror Mage.”
We all know the story of Jack and Jill going up the hill to do whatever it is crazy kids tend to do up there, just as I’m sure we’ve all played our fair share of platformers and runner-style games. Combining both of those genres, Ratalaika Games’ Jack N’ Jill DX doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s definitely enjoyable enough to warrant its generous $5 USD pricetag.
Choosing to play as either Jack or Jill (to quote Wayne’s World, “she has a bow on her head”) the objective is always the same: make it to the end of the level where the opposite character patiently awaits your arrival. In typical runner fashion, you have absolutely no control over your character’s horizontal movement. Jack or Jill will continue onward until they bump into a wall, which then turns them around in the opposite direction. It’s a one-button game wherein your only input is to press “jump” in order to avoid deadly spikes, deteriorating platforms, endless pitfalls, or enemies.
By combining the runner and platformer genres, Jack N’ Jill DX manages to stand out a little more from the competition. Most runners are of the “endless” variety (where you see how long you can avoid obstacles) or only tend to go from left to right (like the Bit.Trip Runner series), but each of this game’s various levels present a lot of verticality that requires the player to purposefully bump into walls and change directions in order to navigate properly.
As you progress through the levels, new power-ups and abilities present themselves to spice things up. Wall jumps, speed boosts, invulnerability, and flight wings are particularly placed to overcome the runner-platformer’s challenges, but since this is a runner there’s really no way to succeed without collecting them. It’s not a platformer like Super Mario Bros., where collecting a fire flower makes reaching the end of a level easier. Instead, it’s as if not collecting it prevented you from reaching the end completely. You need to grab that speed boost to make it over the gap — there’s no way around it. These power-ups add a little life to Jack N’ Jill DX’s 100+ levels, but they’re also just simple requirements with no other way to reach the finish line.
Let’s break it down a little further with the 8-bit Review, shall we?
Visually, Jack N’ Jill DX resembles a monochromatic game from the Game Boy era. At first I found it endearing, but it definitely caused each “new” area to feel way too samey. One may have protruding hills while another takes place inside of a factory of sorts, but the color scheme prevents any of them from really standing out too much.
Unfortunately, the soundtrack is just as forgettable as the visuals, if not more — which is unfortunate. The entire experience can be completed in a matter of hours, but I can’t even recall a single tune that stuck with me afterward. It’s full of generic, retro-inspired bleeps and bloops and while none of it is bad by any means, it’s just not memorable.
With only a single button to press, Jack ‘N Jill DX is rarely taxing, but it’s also not always as responsive as I’d have liked. Some of the stages that required me to jump off of an enemy’s head (by pressing the jump button after the moment of impact) didn’t consistently work as intended, especially using the JoyCon in handheld mode.
What exists gets the job done, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t mentally cross my fingers instead of relying on my own skill more than a few times.
The game is paced well and eases you into its various platforming challenges, like wall jumping and rebounding off of walls to change directions. However, it rarely tested my ability until the final world or two. If you’re unfamiliar with runners or 2D platformers you may adapt a little slower, but I found it to be a rather simple experience for ~80% of the journey.
For me, this was definitely a one-and-done experience. Once it was all over I had little to no reason to go back, not for high score chasing leaderboards or because I liked it enough to revisit it over newer games. I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense — it’s a fun game with 100+ levels, but it’s just not something I ever see myself going back to for any reason after finishing it.
Jack ‘N Jill DX isn’t visually flashy and doesn’t rely on its color palette for anything important, so those with sensitivity to such issues shouldn’t have to worry too much. Its gameplay also only relies on a single button that causes Jack or Jill to jump, making it fairly ideal for those new to games or don’t have the best range of motion in their hands.
Runner games are a dime a dozen, but Jack ‘N Jill DX forcing the player to platform vertically and horizontally instead of simply going from left to right work out in its favor. The Game Boy aesthetic added to its charm as well, though admittedly not nearly as much as its mostly unique approach to runner-platforming challenges.
My Personal Grade: 7/10
For $5, Jack ‘N Jill DX was certainly enjoyable. I’m sure it being a Switch title had a lot to do with that, having the ability to play it on the go and all. I’m not sure how motivated I would have been if I had to play this tethered to my TV, but it’s a good, cheap game to have on the Switch that’s at its best when used as a pick-up-and-play experience (even if there’s no reason to come back after the credits roll).
This is an admittedly fun game that’s a lot like eating fast food — it’s cheap, tastes fine, and fills you up, but it’s nothing fancy that’s worth taking a picture of and telling your friends about. It’ll occupy brief moments of your time while waiting for a bus to arrive, in the back of an Uber or during a lunch break, and it’s an enjoyable way to kill a few hours, but the unremarkable visuals, inconsistent gameplay, and forgettable soundtrack do little to heighten the experience.
Aggregate Score: 5.8
Trash is the Middle-aged Horror Mage here at TWRM, an irregular co-host on The Unlikely Herocast podcast for CA! Radio, and sole contributor for his own games-related website, Cheap Boss Attack. Follow him on Twitter @Trashlevania!
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Categories: Game Review