With an existing history of linking mobile games, augmented reality and board games together in innovative ways, Lucky Duck Games is the ideal publisher for a game like Jetpack Joyride. This real time game is a direct adaptation of the mobile game, and it uses attractive, tactile pieces and simple gameplay to ensure broad appeal.
Jetpack Joyride is actually quite lo-fi in comparison to other Lucky Duck Games products (such as Chronicles of Crime and Time of Legends: Destinies) but its inherent simplicity is also what makes it fun. Players need simply to reach the end of the level by placing translucent plastic tiles onto their boards, all whilst simultaneously attempting to collect coins and avoid hazards such as missiles and laser fences.
Setting aside the solo variant (which is a nice addition, but not one I’ve spent much time with,) Jetpack Joyride supports two to four players, each of whom will build a board from four sections. A couple of the board sections can be switched to easier or harder sides, whilst others simply have alternates – as long as all players have four boards numbered in order, the game is set to go.
Three objective cards will then be drawn from a randomised deck. Objectives are sometimes a bit obscure and it’s clear that a slightly suboptimal translation into English has been used. Objectives include things like collecting three coins in a single section of the level, or completing a section without ever moving up. Given the lightweight nature of the game, ambiguity isn’t a major issue, but the meaning of certain objectives should be agreed between players at the beginning of the round.
Once players begin the game, everyone will be reaching into the central pile of plastic pieces and placing them, one at a time, onto their boards. The placement rules are simple, with pieces having to begin where the previous piece ended, and pieces must never pass through a hazard. The pieces come in several variants (usually variants on L or zigzag shapes) and there are plenty of them, and a shortage of pieces is rarely a cause of frustration — although a number of them are removed for player counts lower than four.
When all players have finished their levels (or passed, if completely stuck) then points will be tallied based on the objective cards and any coins that have been flown through. At this point, a number of upgrade cards will be dealt out, equal to the number of players. The players will then draft these cards beginning with the player who has the lowest score and working up to the current leader.
In the second round, everyone passes their four level cards to the player to their left (so that no one can complain that one board is easier than another) and then the process is repeated. On the third run, each player will have two upgrades and will have switched boards twice. This can give Jetpack Joyride a nice “catchup” style mechanic because a player who is behind is likely to have more powerful upgrades than a runaway leader.
Personally, I am not usually a fan of real-time games and even though I like it, Jetpack Joyride would always have a ceiling of playability for me and my gaming group. With that said, everyone needs lighter games, or games that can be played with younger relatives or friends who visit, and for me, Jetpack Joyride fulfills this brief exceptionally well.
I spent a lot of my time with Jetpack Joyride playing with children between about five years old and eleven, and everyone in that age bracket absolutely loved it. The younger kids did find it difficult to adhere to the rules (and the game recommends players of eight and upwards) but it’s still possible to work around that by assisting and guiding them. Older kids are very competitive and work surprisingly quickly, and seem particularly aware of the potential that the upgrade cards give them.
On the down side, the level cards in Jetpack Joyride are not the best quality, and there are only a handful of them. This makes replayability a bit of an issue because my cards are already beginning to show wear, but also because it’s a bit repetitive to play the same levels over and over again. The plastic polyominoes however, are very well made and will likely last forever (literally, I guess, given the durability of plastic.)
In summarising, I’d say Jetpack Joyride is the kind of lightweight, inexpensive game that you can always have around just in case a younger group of players needs to be entertained at your house. I don’t see it as a game that would even make a filler list for a group of hobby gamers, but I might be wrong if you happen to be among a number of people who enjoy real time or tile laying games in particular. Regardless of my preference, Jetpack Joyride is a solid and fun experience that does indeed replicate the feeling of a mobile game.
You can purchase Jetpack Joyride on Amazon.