Way before Angry Birds references appeared on television, the App Store launched to fame other titles that now seem to be forgotten. Simple games like iDracula and Pocket God were the delight of early adopters three or four years ago. Needless to say, many have tried to repeat the formula since then. One of the classic titles anyone an think of is Lima Sky's Doodle Jump, which attracted fans for its innovative — back then in 2009 — use of tilting and high score gameplay to become a genre of its own. How has this evolved over the years?
A couple of weeks ago I got in touch with Korean design studio KON Story & Matter (Knock of Neverland), creators of the unique universe of Jambo Island, to realise this genre is still current. Over here in Europe these characters aren't really that well-known but most of us are familiar with manga expressions and story telling from our Satuday morning cartoons. Jambo Island are short hilarious videos, 3D characters, merchandise and now of course, it has its own iPhone game.
Jambo Jump isn't simply a direct clone of the aforementioned title: it's gone through an extreme makeover and includes complex modern touches that add to the original idea. And for fans of Korean and Japanese manga, the the game is completely re-themed with the awesome characters from the studio. Exciting!
Let's cover first the few new things you will encounter. The game is split, for instance, into two categories. You can either play the single mode, which is the arcade type that you already know, or go for the championship mode, where you compete with friends and other players for rewards. This is the social twist where you play the same level that your friends have played, watching their ghost shadow as you complete your run. Potentially, this mode can be a deal breaker for groups of friends, office downtime and silly competitions alike.
The levels on the single mode themselves don't iterate at all on the original formula set by Lima Sky. Pretty much every component is there and everything looks absolutely familiar. Remember that brown platform that cracks when you jump on it? Yes, it's here too. And the ability to shoot upwards? You get the idea. If you tell me this was Doodle Jump with a special Jambo edition I wouldn't be surprised at all: it plays the same way and it's essentially the same thing.
While the gameplay innovation is zero, a massive amount of work has been put into making Jambo Jump look great. Considering the game produced by a studio that doesn't necessarily live of making and selling mobile games, it seems obvious that they want to show the potential executing ideas. Maybe not creating ideas. This, perhaps, explains why I'm not so critical about the originality and focus on the overall experience. I suspect this is more of a portfolio app that can be downloaded for free for everyone to experience the superb graphic design polish these guys have for breakfast.
Beginning with the game menu, the backgrounds are dynamic and the buttons out of the conventional Apple interface guidelines. They look chunky enough to be confused with mobile games from other platforms, however, the tight integration with Game Center and In-App purchases shows that everything was perfectly planned for the iOS platform from the start.
Unlike the original, Jambo Jump has a variety of characters showcases habitants of the island — who else? The iconic yellow dog Ah-ji, the white rabbit Toki, the rubber duck Ori and the aliens A1 and Soli make for a great lineup. They're all animated nicely in 3D like in the videoclips, but I think they could have worked perfectly fine on 2D too. I gather that the Jambo Island has more characters so maybe these could be introduced in the future. As you might have feared, the additional characters have to be unlocked with the game soft currency.
The game comes with one free level and additional ones to unlock. This isn't going to make a critical difference with your average casual gamer, especially knowing the championship mode throws more variety to the mix.
The freemium system is on the simple side and rather in your face. Playing the single mode can earn you the valuable honeycomb points, which can be bought with real money via in-app-purchase. While you get the honeycombs scattered around the levels, they aren't as easy to collect as you would like — I consider myself lucky if I get one of those with every game. I'm not particularly fond of having to pay to enter the championship mode, but I admit that the minimum DLC gets you 500 tickets to enter. The pricing seems more steep unlocking characters at the equivalent of $5, similar to what you would pay for a premium app.
Overall Jambo Jump is fantastic take on the classic that tries to mimic every single bit you liked. Everything has been sprinkled with cuteness, bright colours and looney environments that will definitely find a wide audience in iOS gaming. I'm no fond of freemium mechanics in general so I cannot be positive about the way the content is unlocked. Loving these characters so much I hoped I could have a chance to play with them and compare their skills. What I get instead is an invitation for grinding or paying in a game that I genuinely have played before some years ago.