Jetpack Joyride, designed by Lucky Duck Games, is a real-time competitive puzzle game. It’s an adaptation of the same-titled side-scrolling endless running mobile game by Halfbrick Studios. Its story and esthetics have been copy-pasted to cardboard and plastic. So again players find protagonist Barry Steakfries trapped in a lab with a stolen jetpack strapped to his back. Can he by-pass the security system and make an escape? Scroll down to find out how it all translates.
What is Jetpack Joyride like?
The box of Jetpack Joyride is jam-packed with plastic pentominoes in 5 different shapes. Players will have to use these “Track Tiles” to form a continuous path through the lab along which to escape.
The tiles are to be drawn one-handed from a shared pool. But all players have their own unique lab to work their way through. Each lab is a tableau of a set of 4 cards (called “sectors”), randomly put out in front of a player from left to right. Every sector has zappers, missiles and lasers for players to evade and 5 golden coins shining as bait.
A games last 3 rounds and a round has no consecutive turns. Instead everyone plays at the same time in a race to complete missions and collect the coins.
Surprisingly escaping the lab doesn’t award any points, unless a Mission Card informs otherwise. Similar to the video game, every round has 3 different mission objectives. These grant 3 to 5 points each and vary widely in difficulty. From f. ex. “don’t harm (cover) any scientists”, to “rub your head on the roof for 10 blocks”, or “place 4 full Track Tiles in a sector”, etc.
The crux of Jetpack Joyride is that the shiny golden coins lying scattered (5 in each sector) are worth nothing less than 1 point each when collected.
So from the very start of every round players are madly running numbers in their head. Which missions are impossible, which are feasible and which are achievable? Meanwhile 4 rummaging hands make the shared pool of translucent tiles a morphing mishmash. Very soon certain Track Tile types starts to deplete. Time to reevaluate and recalculate the possibilities: toil further on the missions or… yes, why not… sprint for the coins and cash quick points?
Ready, set, go!
Ingeniously time starts running out as soon as a player runs for the money. Because as soon as 1 player made it all through their lab, the round finishes for everyone. Thus the duration of a round will vary, which keeps all players on edge and puzzling with 1 eye on each other, looking for symptoms of gold fever. A round can also end by the pool of Track Tiles being depleted or by all players to pass. But this happens rarely as gold fever seems very contagious.
The game last 3 rounds and after round 1 and 2 players count up their points for collected coins and completed missions. Bumping into obstacles and non-legally placed tiles cost players dearly by subtracting 3 points for every violation.
After the players have determined their rank for the current round, Gadget Cards – equal to the number of players – are revealed. The player who scored lowest can pick first and might therefore significantly increase their odds for the upcoming round(s). The Gadget Cards aren’t balanced in any way but give funny super powers to other players. Before the new round starts, 3 new Mission Cards get revealed. And to mix things up, players need to pass on their Lab to the player to their left. After the 3rd round players tally their scores for every round and whoever has the highest total is the winner of Jetpack Joyride.
I’m pleased to say Jetpack Joyride by Lucky Duck Games is an adaptation done well. The stories align, the looks match and most importantly the gameplay captures the spirit of the mobile game. With the ways of scoring, the lab lay-out and players’ abilities changing every round, the pressure is there from the early start. Players need to be quick-thinking and quick-moving. The restriction to only use one hand and pick one Track Tile at a time mimics the franticness and speediness from the video game surprisingly well. Many people stress out when a timer is put out on the table. It’s nice that Jetpack Joyride works without such daunting countdown-device and still rarely loses pace.
Jetpack Joyride is not a complex board game by neither rules nor mechanisms. It’s an approachable puzzle with a popular, recognizable, theme. Clearly aimed to a wide audience.
While everybody has a solitary puzzle to solve, player interaction lies in keeping a constant eye on each other’s progress and snatching away sought after puzzle pieces. Only 5 different pentominoes make for players to quickly get familiar with the puzzle pieces and improve their skills.
The labs getting passed around between players is a nice touch too. It randomizes every round while safeguarding equal opportunities.
It’s not a deep game, and not well-balanced. But it’s fast and a blast. As a Jetpack Joyride should be!
- The pentominoes are of excellent quality
- Lots of different mission and upgrade cards for such a short game
- Perfect game length for a filler
- Interesting enough to fill a bigger part of a game night too
- Upgrades aren’t balanced, which can dishearten die hard gamers
- Some more lab cards would be fun for visual variety
- Players: 1 – 4
- Playing time: 30 minutes
- Suggested age: 8+
A review copy of Jetpack Joyride was supplied by Lucky Duck Games.