It’s clear that Shin’en Multimedia knows their way around WiiWare. After delivering the lovely Art of Balance, the German studio’s follow-up is a platformer with unparallelled looks on the service. Jett Rocket looks excellent, yes, and we’re happy to say that it plays well too and delivers on platforming fun.
Jett Rocket is, without doubt, one of the finest looking 3D games on the service. Its three environments are diverse and contain a level of detail usually found in higher-end retail releases. Metallic surfaces glisten and reflect, water ripples convincingly and the art direction feels as if it’s taken notes from the best parts of the genre’s top titles: Sonic the Hedgehog’s Badnik-esque enemies, Ratchet and Clank’s outdoor environments, and Super Mario Galaxy’s lighting. Even the sound design is reminiscent of Mario’s space adventures, barring the short, horrible time Jett actually utters sentences.
But Jett Rocket is more than just a pretty package. It’s a fun platformer that is surprisingly varied given its brevity. Each of the three zones of Yoroppa are themed: you’ve got your oceanside beach, murky swamp and snowy mountains. Four stages fill out the zones, with a boss battle at the end of each, and sprinkled throughout are vehicles, hoverboards and paragliders to mix things up. Jett’s signature jetpack is put to good use as well, serving as both an important way of getting around and a helpful last-ditch aid when trying to avoid certain doom. Littered about are solar cells that help unlock the next zone, and the devious placement of them throughout the stages encourages exploration and daredevil antics.
It's not a particularly long adventure, but is comparable to other WiiWare platformers. We strolled leisurely through the three zones in about four hours, and it would probably take another hour or two to reach 100% completion. It seems as though the title might as well have Episode 1 stuck on the end of it given the inevitable sequel, but what’s here is solid and well worth a go. The 20 achievements are a fun extra and help boost the replay value, and while the model gallery doesn’t do much other than, well, display character models, it’s nonetheless a nice addition.
The game certainly has its share of issues though. Jett‘s moveset feels stiff compared to other platforming heroes, and the camera is frequently uncooperative. The D-Pad can swing it left and right as well as centre it behind you, but there's no guarantee it'll stay in place and will oftentimes plop itself in front of Jett when you least want it to. We would’ve also really liked the option to be able to see the world through Jett’s eyes; some sections require vertical platforming and leaps of faith without knowing where you want to direct your jump. It’s not the worst camera we’ve seen in a 3D platformer, but it’s hardly one of the better ones either. There is also a distinct lack of mid-level checkpoints outside of boss battles; this is not an issue on shorter stages, but the more involved ones could benefit from not having to start over as an enemy knocks you off near the very end. We also ran across a few glitches, one even forcing us to unplug our console.
Shin’en doesn’t try to reinvent the jump, but so what? Jett Rocket is more concerned with being fun and looking good, and manages to deliver more than expected on both accounts, raising the bar for WiiWare in the process. Despite some nagging issues that we hope to see corrected for the next time around, it’s well worth playing as there’s nothing else quite like it on WiiWare.