Platforms: PC (Steam), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: January 24th, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: NX Games
Publisher: Crescent Moon Games (PC), Blowfish Studios (Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch)
You Don’t Know Jack
JackQuest: The Tale of The Sword is a fast-paced fantasy action platformer developed by NX Games and published by Crescent Moon Games (PC) that I first became aware of during my time at PAX South 2019. In my past experiences the combination of an indie developer, RPG elements, and some pixelated platforming goodness has resulted in some fun times. With this in mind, I was all for giving JackQuest a run and seeing what it had to offer, and though the overall experience was good I ended up finding myself a bit underwhelmed.
JackQuest begins as our protagonist, Jack, is gearing up to spend a night with the love of his life, Nara, and finally confess his feelings to her. In vintage platformer fashion however, things soon take a turn for the worst as Nara is snatched and pulled underground by the large green hand of the game’s main baddy (never saw it coming, did you?). Naturally, Jack leaps down the resulting hole to reclaim his love, and quickly comes upon a rather large talking sword. Identifying itself as Kuro, the sword reveals that it was trapped in its current form by the same villain who stole Nara away. As the enemy of an enemy is a friend, Jack grabs Kuro and then proceeds to explore the cavernous dungeon in search of his love. Not too much in the way of story is offered beyond that, resulting in JackQuest’s rather low score in this category.
Always a fan of some good old-fashioned pixel fun, I was rather pleased with JackQuest‘s initial look. All the game sprites appear clean and well designed, though a bit lacking in detail, and the animations are fluid and appealing. Left at that I would have actually provided a higher score here, though as I progressed through the game my opinion lowered. This degradation of my original impression occurred as I began to notice a lack of imagination in some of the models. Many of the obstacles and pieces throughout JackQuest very heavily reminded me of classic elements from the Super Mario Bros. franchise, and the lack of variety in enemy designs became a bit disappointing as well. Overall the game looks good for what it is, but eventually came across as kind of bland and unoriginal leading to another pretty low score here.
Now, in this regard JackQuest actually exceeded my expectations as I rather enjoyed the soundtrack played for me during my adventure. I found myself fond of the complete musical score throughout the game and the various sound effects used for each of the game’s actions. Though nothing mind-blowing, I find it rather impressive to produce a tune that doesn’t grow irritating to hear over the course of a game (albeit this was a fairly short one). In fact, I have caught myself humming the main theme a few times since playing so I naturally had to reward that with what ended up being this title’s highest score.
Arguably the most important category for games like these in my mind, JackQuest manages to grab a rather average score. This is especially disappointing as with some further polishing and refining I believe it could have very well rivaled its score in the “Audio” category here. The platforming mechanics themselves, and the pace and challenge offered by the game I thought were very well done.
However, some bugs and frustrating aspects of the game design managed to detract a significant amount from this experience. I repeatedly came across an issue where my character simply moved entirely too fast for the game to be reasonably playable, and despite eventually resolving itself each time (no clue what actually fixed it aside from simply waiting it out) I seemed to encounter this bug every time I launched the game anew.
Adding to this displeasure was the repeated frustration of watching my potential loot drop straight into a pit of spikes after bursting forth from a slain enemy. I understand this can be accounted for by not killing an enemy that is within a certain distance of a pit, but what that distance ends up being is entirely too great in my opinion.
Also, although I did not necessarily have any objection to the way the keys were mapped for the PC version, I found it very odd that no button/key guide was presented in the menu to provide an overview of the controls. Which, by the way, if you decide to play JackQuest and want to pull up the menu to verify my claim… it’s “P”. I had to randomly press keys in an attempt to find that out, so I hope you appreciate the information.
Despite these issues I did enjoy the platforming itself and thought it, along with the boss fights, provided a fairly challenging experience without going overboard on the difficulty. I also thought the game did a good job of feeding you new abilities/items to shake things up a bit and aid in progression, such as the ability to double-jump, a moderately useful mini map, and a ranged weapon.
Through it all, I did enjoy my time spent with JackQuest: The Tale of The Sword though I can’t help but wonder how much it would have benefited from a bit more time in development. If you enjoy platformers and find yourself needing something light to get you through the day, I would say JackQuest is a solid option to jump into (especially if you see it on sale).
*I was provided a copy of this game free of charge for the purpose of this review*