Jetpack Joyride soars to the top of the running game genre

by Wayne Stuckey

Jetpack Joyride ($0.99) continues the adventures of Barry Steakfries, who was introduced last year in the shooter/platformer Monster Dash. The theme and a few game mechanics have changed, but the action is fun, fast and just as intense in this new app.

When pressed to describe why I liked the game Jetpack Joyride, I found myself a bit stymied. Was it the theme? I found the theme entertaining enough. Jetpacks, as a general rule are pretty cool, and it shouldn't be too hard to make a game fun using this mechanic.

Was it the story? The story here isn't long or involved. A bored and discouraged salesman sees a shiny new jetpack in a lab window, and decided to take it for a spin. While unique, this story doesn't have much meat on its bones.

Was it the action of the gameplay? This bit, I have seen before. The app, at its heart, is a side-scrolling obstacle-avoidance game, where success is measured in feet traveled and coins collected. This certainly isn't new, and should get boring after a dozen or two trips through the laboratory halls. The game really doesn't get stale though, and after a solid 50 or more runs, I'm still having a hard time putting it down.

Jetpack Joyride is truly a fun app, and fits the cliche of being more than the sum of its parts. The developers did a couple of things to keep the game fresh.

First, the obstacles and coins change spots every run-through. This isn't the type of app where you can memorize every electricity field or the location of every coin on the map until you conquer the game. All items will change spots to keep you on your toes, and give your reflexes a test.

Second, there are always three mini-missions to try to accomplish at any one time. This is the real genius behind keeping things fresh. All of the runs are essentially the same, but they will “feel” different depending on what mission you are trying to accomplish. For instance, a run-through where I try to high-five 15 scientists while sprinting across the floor, will feel considerably different that a run-through where I attempt to avoid 10 electricity fields.

These will help keep each round feeling fresh, and there is the compelling challenge of unlocking new vehicles to ride in, new costumes to wear and new jetpacks to use. Traditional achievements are also tracked with OpenFeint and Game Center. Get ready for a fun ride. This is an app you won't soon want to put down.

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