The floodgates have officially opened - bargain-bin games are now diluting the Switch eShop, and unless some serious action is taken to curate Nintendo’s newest digital library, it is unlikely there’ll be a resolution to this problem in the near future. With this in mind, Jumping Joe & Friends is another one to add to the shovel-ware pile. From the creators of Robonauts and Astro Bears Party comes an addictive but ultimately shallow experience.
The immediately notable problem here is the highly repetitive nature of the title. This is inherent in this type of game. If alarm bells weren't already ringing, the original version of Jumping Joe is actually a free-to-play title on mobile devices. The Switch version is basically an enhanced port - with the premise being to ascend higher and higher, as you jump from one platform to another while avoiding the usual hazards including spinning cogs, spike platforms and flying bats until you either leap the wrong way or make contact with one of the many dangers above (or, indeed, the lava below). It’s similar to Lima Sky’s smartphone hit, Doodle Jump, but isn’t anywhere near as charming.
Once your first session comes to an end, the grind begins. If you want to unlock the additional race and the hero mode, you’ll either need to score a certain amount of points within a set time frame or collect a lot of the in-game currency by repeatedly playing the arcade mode. Both these modes do little to expand upon the core idea. Additionally, you can also upgrade Joe, or unlock other characters with their own unique specials. These character abilities include the likes of destroying any surrounding obstacles with a bomb or getting a head-start with a speed boost. You can acquire these kinds of items during each run as well.
As failure is frequent, these power-ups are mostly used to prolong sessions and occasionally help gather more gems. Despite the inclusion of the items, each run typically plays out in the exact same fashion. The difficulty as you rise doesn’t do much to help, either, with an increase in potential hazards and enemies, and also a mischievous camera coming into play. Within a short timeframe, the game experience goes from being addictive to extremely infuriating as realisation hits you can never truly succeed. It’s all about collecting gems to unlock content and aiming for a high score or the best time until your inevitable demise. Even with these unlocks, there’s no real sense of reward because of how repetitive the game is.
The multiplayer for one to four players is the strongest aspect of this title. With no online leaderboard or verse mode to sustain your interest in the single-player component, the local multiplayer option is likely the only reason you would return to this. It’s similar to the solo experience, except with one to three other people. You can set the time, round limit and the amount of lives and go a few rounds with your friends or family until you lose interest.
In terms of the technical performance, this title is quick to boot-up and runs smoothly. It also includes straightforward controls, with the buttons on the left and right sides used to jump the corresponding way. Visually speaking, the menus, level design and characters look rather simple and are presented in the form of a series of bright and colourful shapes. Little effort has gone into the sound, with a single high-pitched song on loop and a countdown sound effect that is strikingly reminiscent of the one in Mario Kart.
Jumping Joe & Friends is built upon incredibly basic foundations. You jump and you don’t stop until it is game over. It never expands upon this initial concept. Even when compared to other titles like it, it makes little to no effort to excel above the rest (pun intended), with basic artwork, similar modes, a single song on loop and uninspired gameplay - highlighting how monotonous it is. Again, it’s essentially an enhanced port of a free-to-play mobile title. We also know QubicGames can do better than this – with the likes of Robonauts. This one, though, is more in line with the limitations of Astro Bears Party. Given its simplicity and bright presentation, it’s best recommended for a younger audience.