Couch co-op may no longer prove the dominant experience when it comes to multiplayer gaming, but if you like to sit down with friends for some fun-filled competitive match-ups, there is nothing that quite matches the joy of the competition. It seems the guys over at Nerdrage Studio may just be sharing those sentiments too, as their latest title, Jump Gunners, brings that very local competition back in to focus once more.
Before I sit here and tell you about all the fun you can have in the multiplayer side of Jump Gunners, I must first address the fact that it can also be enjoyed solo, with multiple modes for players to get stuck in to. First up are no less than 24 unique Solo Challenges found in Challenge Mode, requiring players to use wits, skill and finesse to hunt down and eliminate numerous targets through the multiple platforming stages as quickly and efficiently as possible.
To do this players must jump around the various levels using guns, grenades and the conveniently placed exploding barrels to re-arrange the terrain in each of the Worms-style destructive environments, with the aim being to get to each of the targets hidden within. On completion of each stage players can see just how well they have done, with stars given for specific tasks. One star can be earned for completing the mission in a set time, a second star is available for completing the mission without dying and the third star can be nabbed for using only a minimal amount of ammunition – something my trigger-happy fingers have never allowed me to achieve.
Whilst hunting basic targets may sound simple, when you’re trying to do so as fast as possible, with limited ammunition and without stepping into the firing zone of your own free flying grenades, it’s fair to say the game becomes more of a puzzler than anything else, despite being a clear platform experience.
It’s a real challenge to ensure you end stages with stars gained, but perhaps that is more the fault of my skills – or lack of – rather than anything to do with Jump Gunners. See, it comes with surprisingly fluid mechanics, and should you be someone who’s willing to put in the time required to master the incredibly well polished controls that manoeuvre our little Jump Gunners around, then chances are you’ll have a blast trying to hunt down the many targets whilst abiding by the requirements in place to nab all three stars on each level.
Fortunately though, stars or no stars, progress is progress and even if you struggle to match the various skills required to nab each star, you’ll still be fine as you only need to complete the main objective – destroying the targets – before progressing on to the next.
After completely butchering the fantastically crafted and puzzling challenge levels, you’ll probably decide to check out the other modes on offer. Turkey Hunt and Horde Mode are the remaining options within the Solo Challenge area of the game, both of which provide endless opportunities to put your endurance skills to the test.
Turkey Hunt is essentially 2D platforming meets clay pigeon shooting, only the pigeons are actually turkeys, and you only have three ‘Fails’ and three bullets to take out both turkeys that fly overhead. There are no platforms to jump over here though and instead the challenge comes from the turkeys having unpredictable flying patterns. There is no real objective with this mode, no stars to be earnt, and the only reason to come back besides it being a joy to play is to better your previous high score.
As for Horde Mode and this is more in-touch with the gameplay experience you’ll find within the competitive Battle mode matchups. Another endless mode, this time play only stops once the enemies on screen have put an end to you, something that can be done in mere seconds; depending how good you are, high scores are once more the pull to come back and play again and again.
Throughout your time with Horde, you’ll need to gun down the multiple enemies that appear on screen whilst avoiding their line of fire and collecting the various air drops that welcome new weapons into play. What makes it all so enjoyable is the fact that even with Jump Gunners proving to be retro inspired through its pixelated visuals, ‘80s soundtrack and movie-style commando protagonists, the gameplay on offer is far from it. Simplistic controls ensure it is a cinch to pick up, and when combined with fast paced movement and a fluid aiming wheel, it always feels modern in terms of gameplay.
It’s fair to say that the Solo Challenges ensure that Jump Gunners is an absolute blast to play, but the real reason to jump into this stunning indie spectacle has to be the Battle Mode.
This is the local multiplayer portion of Jump Gunners and with six modes included within there is definitely something for everyone to enjoy. The majority of these are self-explanatory, with Classic Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch bringing exactly what you would imagine to the table, Horde Mode and Turkey Hunt delivering the previously explained modes from Solo Challenges over to the multiplayer side of things, Capture the Flag bringing back the over-used flag battler for one more hoorah and Custom Battle delivering the opportunity to create your own game with your own rules.
Each of the six modes can be enjoyed in up to four player battles or with a full set of A.I. opponents, meaning that even if you can’t persuade your friends to engage in the fight, you can at least still enjoy the gameplay with the joys of A.I. counterparts for competition. It goes without saying that playing against human opponents brings the level of fun up a notch; blowing each other to bits certainly makes for fantastic gameplay and a whole host of bragging rights.
What makes the overall adventure so special though is the fact that it manages to fit in more than 80 destructible levels, classic retro visuals, multiple game modes, and a fully functioning A.I. that behaves just as well as any human opponent. A fantastic soundtrack encapsulates the experience, and it remains enjoyable without the need for any real explanation to why you are doing it, what the Jump Gunners are about and without needing a story of any kind to tie it all together – and that’s a rare feat for any game to achieve.
If you’re after some classic multiplayer action that ignores the need for an online connection and welcomes the incredible fun that used to be at the centre of every multiplayer game, then Jump Gunners is a game you need to add to your collection. With replayability, an incredible A.I. that behaves just like the real thing and numerous modes to enjoy, there are plenty of hours of fun to be had with what is one of the best party platformers released this year.