What is it about underdogs that makes us root for them? Is it our empathy for the challenges they have against more experienced competition? Maybe it’s their audacity to try when it doesn’t make sense to the rest of us.
Regardless of the reasoning behind why we root for underdogs, two guys (Jack Archer and Matt Katsaros) from Axiom Interactive have developed a throwback arcade game to compete against similarly priced efforts from larger (e.g. better funded) development studios and publishers.
Jetman Jack is a simple game that is a tribute to some of the games I’ve grown up with in the early to mid 1980s. Like quite a few arcade games from the 80s, the premise behind Jetman Jack is nonexistent. You control a guy wearing a jetpack to fly through a side scrolling path full of obstacles in space. As you progress through the level, your score continually goes up. Once you hit something, you blow up and it’s game over. Scoreboards are built in to capture your very best times.
Regarding control, Jetman Jack uses a simple control mechanic. Forward movement is controlled automatically, so the only thing you have to manually manage is your north and south movement. Pressing and hold the screen triggers your jetpack’s boosters accelerating you north, while releasing the screen drops you. It works ok, but I would have preferred to have a tilt option as my view is sometimes obstructed from pressing on the screen.
Presentation wise, Jetman Jack has all the attributes of an NES game. Depending on how you like your proverbial cup of tea, this can be a good or bad thing. The sprites and animation on the main character look good, but the surrounding environments are bland and basic. To Axium Interactive’s credit, it looks pixel perfect for an 8 bit game, but I would have preferred to see something more visually impactful. The sound is equally basic, but luckily, Jetman Jack allows users to play music from their iPod library which is greatly appreciated.
Jetman Jack is a solid arcade game by any measure. Is Jetman Jack on the same level of similarly priced gems like iDracula, Flight Control, or Stick Wars? I wouldn’t go that far because Jetman Jack doesn’t creatively or technically push the iPhone in the same ways those games do. Even though there isn’t great depth or online considerations to encourage repeated play attempts, this is a good effort from what is essentially a two man underdog team.