It is raining sequels of endless runner classics these days. A few weeks ago, Subway Surfer got a successor, and now it is the turn of another old favourite, Jetpack Joyride, to hit our phones with a sequel — Jetpack Joyride 2. While it is always great to see a golden gaming oldie make a return to town, we must confess to being a little apprehensive about Jetpack Joyride 2. After all, some games tend to lose a bit of their soul and get reworked rather too extensively in new versions. We saw that happen with Subway Surfer Tag which morphed from an endless runner to a top-down running game with strong elements of strategy.
We need not have worried. Jetpack Joyride 2 sticks to the format that made it an instant hit when it was released in 2011. Halfbrick Studios has bravely resisted the temptation to try and fix something that was nowhere near broken. Yes, there are some changes, but these add on to the original, rather than trying to change it.
Barry Steakfries is back!
From the moment you start Jetpack Joyride 2, you know that you are back in familiar territory. For those not familiar with the game (it HAS been a while since the original was a rage), Jetpack Joyride revolves (or rather runs) around a central character aptly named Barry Steakfries.
Steakfries, who incidentally is also the main protagonist in two other games, Age of Zombie and Monster Dash, is a salesperson in a gramophone manufacturing company. He accidentally stumbles into a research laboratory of a company called Legitimate Research and sees a machine gun jetpack that flies through the air while firing bullets (the game was originally titled Machinegun Jetpack).
ALSO READ: Subway Surfers Tag Review: More Of A Rework Than A Refresh
Business has been bad, so Barry grabs the jetpack and tries to escape with it. Of course, the scientists in the laboratory do not approve of such pack pilferage and try to stop him, putting up obstacles in his way, including mines and other traps.
Barry keeps flying through the lab collecting more pieces of tech and gold coins on his way. His aim is to stay alive and airborne for as long as possible as he tries to get out and start a new life. The jetpack constantly fires bullets downwards, so he can shoot his way out as well.
Simply flying…and flying simply
The original Jetpack Joyride was a neverending runaway hit (pun intended) because it was so simple to play. A neverending runner like Temple Run and Subway Surfer, it was a 2D side-scrolling game. The graphics were bright, cartoon-ish and fun and so were the music and sound effects.
Yes, there was a fair deal of shooting going on, but it all was presented in a goofy cartoonish manner, making it more of a laugh than a morbid spectacle. Even the sight of Barry finally hitting the ground after getting hit one time too many got us grinning rather than grimming.
In terms of gameplay, Jetpack Joyride was perhaps one of the most simple games ever made. Gameplay was as simple as keeping Barry floating by tapping the display at the right time — he falls if you do not tap. A series of quick taps make him go higher, while not tapping sees him start descending.
Jetpack Joyride was all about just keeping Barry going for as long as possible, tapping the display at just the right time to make sure Barry dodged obstacles, picked up goodies and gold, dodged bullets, and so on. There was no real steering as all Barry can go is up or down. Gunfire was automatic — he keeps firing downwards as long as he is in the air. There were not even any special jumps or leaps or stunts and Barry was not a smooth flier either but would keep wobbling like jelly in the air.
That was the original Jetpack Joyride — a simple, side scroller that was not as frenetic as Temple Run or Subway Surfer but was still challenging, and had a slightly older world charm of its own, thanks to its slightly retro-flavoured graphics.
Halfbrick Studios has not touched this formula at all in the game’s sequel. You still have to keep Barry Steakfries airborne with a series of well-timed taps. The jetpack still fires bullets down constantly, while keeping Barry in the air in that wobbly manner. The graphics have been given a good polish in terms of detail and colour (they are a delight to watch on HD displays now), but you could drop a person from the original Jetpack Joyride into Jetpack Joyride 2 and they would be right at home and switch seamlessly to it.
Subtle changes under that similar surface
It may look, sound and play largely like the OG title, but Jetpack Joyride 2 also adds some new elements to its staple flying and shooting mix. For one thing, there are more conversations. Sure, they might appear a little slapstick but Barry and the scientists do share a few sentences, replete with wisecracks. Why the scientists are even talking to someone who is stealing their equipment is another matter, but the conversations do add a touch of humour to the game. There are also new weapons and upgrades, and of course, new enemies and obstacles.
There are no in-app purchases but you can use the coins you collect on your flying trips to get bonuses and equipment — Barry actually gets a gun to shoot sometimes so he can actually hit things in front of him, instead of just below him.
There are also special suits and even piggy banks to help you collect more money. The ability to choose between different weapons and equipment also adds an element of character building, although you can keep it simple and just keep flying through it all — we actually made a lot of progress even without too many upgrades. Getting through different levels without massive upgrades and sticking to basics can be rather satisfying in itself, especially for a casual mobile game.
Not flying endlessly anymore
Yes, we said ‘levels.’ That is perhaps the biggest change in Jetpack Joyride 2 from the original title — while the original was an endless runner, the sequel actually is divided into different levels.
So your aim is not to keep going for as long as possible, but to actually get past a particular level and complete missions that are handed out to you.
The good thing is that these levels are short and well-designed, so you can actually finish each in a few minutes. You also have a ‘boss’ or a tougher opponent at the end of each level, adding a new level of difficulty.
Some might miss the endless running element of the original game, but we actually did not mind the game being divided into short, snappy levels, as most of our gaming sessions seldom went beyond ten to fifteen minutes of flying and shooting.
What did surprise us was how the game came to an abrupt end after about thirty or so levels. We have been told that more levels will be added to the game in the coming days and we hope that happens and happens frequently too, as the game is quite an addictive experience.
An Apple Arcade exclusive right now
All said and done, Jetpack Joyride 2 is every bit as much fun as its predecessor, largely because the developers have resisted the temptation to reinvent the wheel (or rather, jetpack) and instead added a fresh coat of paint and a few new elements to what was already a gaming masterpiece.
The fact that the game is an Apple Arcade exclusive also means that you get to play it without any in-app purchases or advertisements, a rarity in these ad-happy app days.
However, its being an Apple Arcade exclusive also means that Jetpack Joyride 2 is limited to those with an iPhone, iPad, or Mac and having an Apple Arcade subscription (which incidentally, we think is a must-have for iOS users at Rs 99 per month). We have no news on the game coming to Android and other platforms at the time of writing, although there are rumours that it might come with some tweaks and a slightly different title.
Those who want to go on an endless wobbly flight, dodging obstacles and adversaries through labs might still prefer the original Jetpack Joyride. But if all you are looking for is a simple game to pass a few minutes while keeping you thoroughly entertained, then you perhaps need to step into the new and better-looking world of Barry Steakfries. And strap on that Jetpack.