One finger. That’s all you need to play “Jetpack Joyride.” Well, that and a dollar.
Just how engaging could a game with such simple controls be? Maybe you could play for 20 minutes, or an hour, or maybe a few hours, but at a certain point, even a brilliant game like “Canabalt” gets old. Eventually you run out of reasons to keep going, to keep pushing for another round. It stops being fun. Thankfully this is usually long after you’ve gotten your dollar’s worth, so there’s really no reason to complain. But what if a “simple” game like that remained fun and engaging for way longer than you could possibly imagine? How much longer? I’ve spent 12 hours, 35 minutes and 12 seconds playing “Jetpack Joyride” and I’m still going strong.
“Jetpack Joyride” (once known as “Machine Gun Jetpack”) is yet another endless running game for iOS, following in the footsteps of games like “Canabalt,” “Hook Champ” and “Monster Dash,” a quasi-prequel to this game from the same developer.
As with all of these games, the goal is to survive for as long as you can, using your jetpack to dodge obstacles like laser beams, homing rockets and electric fences. In addition to your jetpack, you can also pick up temporary vehicles which give you a bit more survivability.
Depth In Simplicity
One of the follies iOS developers are guilty of is asking too much of the device. A touch screen isn’t nearly as accurate as an actual controller, so demanding button presses often yield mixed results. As an alternative, “Jetpack Joyride” is controlled entirely with one finger. It doesn’t even matter where you tap on the screen. Holding down your finger lifts your jetpack into the air, letting go drops it, simple as that.
The game’s five vehicles all handle very differently (quick taps to flap the arms of a robotic bird, long holds to make a fast-moving motorcycle jump over obstacles) but they still all use that same single-finger mechanic. It makes “Jetpack Joyride” one of the easiest to control on iOS, accessible to any level of gamer.
Plenty To Keep You Going
One of the reasons people lose interest in these endless running games is that there’s no sense of progression. You’re simply working towards a better high score, and anything short of that is a waste of time. “Jetpack Joyride” rewards you even when you don’t beat your best distance, letting you collect coins with can be spent to unlock 14 costumes, 7 jetpacks and myriad of vehicle upgrades. Even when you unlock all of those objects, which can take as much as 10 hours, there are still single-use bonuses, like extra lives, to buy in the store. The game has some in-app purchasing if you want to buy coins with real money (which kills a lot of the fun), but everything in the in-game store can be earned simply by playing more of the game.
Another reason “Jetpack Joyride” keeps your attention is the mission system. At any given time you’ll have three missions active which have mini-objectives to complete. For example, “Make it to 500 meters without collecting any coins” or “Rub your head on the ceiling for 1000 meters.” Completing these objectives earn you stars which, in turn, earn you more cash. When you finish all of the missions, you can opt to start from scratch, almost like going Prestige in “Call of Duty,” which earns you a badge for your user profile. You can do this over and over again to earn over 100 badges, so you never need to worry about running out of things to keep you busy.
The Luck of the Jetpack
At this very moment I’m at the top of the worldwide leaderboards for “Jetpack Joyride” with 7,050 meters flown. I say this not to brag (I’ve done plenty of that already), but more because I don’t think I totally earned it. Making it to 5,000 meters in this game takes definitely skill and reflexes. Anything beyond that, though, is a lot of luck. A timely vehicle pick-up, a free life spin in the game’s slot machine and suddenly you’re way ahead of the pack. I’m pretty sure the only reason I have the top score is because I’ve played more than anyone else on Earth, thus increasing my odds of getting a lucky late-game run. So, if you’re looking for an endless running game where luck doesn’t enter into it, I’d suggest “Hook Worlds,” which is the most skill-based endless runner I’ve ever played.
“Jetpack Joyride” is, without a doubt, one of the finest-crafted iOS games ever made. It’s horribly addictive, rewarding and, most importantly, it’s a ton of fun to play. Even casual gamers will be able to pick up on the easy-to-learn controls, while the hardcore gamers will appreciate the unlockables, missions and high score dueling. You will be hard-pressed to find a better way to spend a dollar this year.