I believe that the vast majority of gamers would happily sit down for a few hours with a good puzzler. Whether that is just to test their mind, or because they fancy a change from the usual hecticness that is found with the online gaming world, matters little. The fact of the matter is that a test is all we really ever want.
But in order to enjoy that mind taxing affair, the puzzler in question really does need to walk through things gently, ensuring that we get to fully understand each and every mechanic before being dropped in at the deep end. It’s how games work, and it’s how the very best titles gather sales and critical acclaim.
Jump, Step, Step fails to ever do that.
It tries. I have to give the development duo at Phung Games that, but both in execution and basic understanding, Jump, Step, Step will leave you hugely frustrated.
As with most puzzlers, Jump, Step, Step promises to be a relaxing experience and one that is full of humour. It tells the tale of Bob, a small robot who has short circuited and gone mental – much like me after trying to solve some of these puzzles. It is up to you to help him retrieve numerous body parts and bits for a broken spaceship, to discover the truth behind the entire tale.
But you won’t ever find yourself controlling Bob directly. Instead, the basic mechanics of Jump, Step, Step revolve around the same coding system that you may have enjoyed as a kid, when that Big Trak turned up in your Christmas stash. You are basically left to input a chain of commands, from which Bob will go about his business. You’ll need to let him know exactly how many steps to move forward, exactly when to turn 90 degrees, exactly when to jump and exactly when to pick up and drop obstacles that are in his way. If you are an 80’s kid who grew up with bedroom coding, and used to use your Trak in order to transport dirty plates from your bedroom, then you’ll get the grasp of things pretty quickly. But if you’re not, then I’m afraid you may just come unstuck multiple times.
For a sequence to be successful, Bob will have to end up by meeting an objective, whether that be finding a piece of his scattered body, or hitting a checkpoint. If he doesn’t, then he’ll be whisked back to his starting point as you go in search of the solution. If you get things wrong, then Bob will fall to his death, before magically reappearing in the same spot, prepared to go through it all again. He’s a bit of a sucker for punishment is old Bob, and will thankfully let you use him as a test run dummy an infinite amount of times.
All is well and good initially, and the first few puzzling aspects are decent enough, as you direct your robot friend along tight and twisting paths. But the further you get into the slow paced adventure, the more commands you’ll get at your disposal… and the more confusing everything will become. These include the likes of commanding Bob to stop and wait until it is safe to move forward, and getting him to check his direction before executing an altogether more complex and appropriate sequence. Full on loops in code, utilised by a marking system, will need a thorough understanding of the GOTO command and more. The problem is, these, when combined with randomly moving level blocks, are all super confusing to anyone who doesn’t work in the programming sector on a day-to-day basis. With no proper tutorial to walk you through their use, chances are you’ll be left utterly frustrated.
Add in the limited command structure, seeing you sometimes run out of options before Bob has hardly moved, and those loops can, in theory, get so complicated you’ll be left clueless as to what they really do. It is about then when you’ll wish back to the easy days of that Big Trak, as you are left to quickly see why Jump, Step, Step ends up crossing the line from relaxing to annoying more times than you would wish.
Thankfully, each and every puzzle is pretty short in length, so should you manage to luck your way through things – perhaps even just sitting back and randomly dropping command bombs in the hope they will work – you will at least be safe in the knowledge that you’ll not have to spend too long with Bob. But my god, should you not be able to muddle your way through, you’ll find yourself sat wondering where on earth this game is going to take you next. Deep dark puzzle filled closed holes of shame aren’t a nice place to be.
Graphically things are pretty basic with Jump, Step, Step as the isometric camera system in play does the job intended of it, but never allows things to get any easier. Each visual aspect is well defined, and there is most definitely plenty of colour included to stop this being a completely drab affair. But all too often you either can’t see exactly which direction your little robot friend is facing, ensuring that multiple test runs are needed for even the most basic puzzles, or the environmental obstacles that have been chosen to create a more puzzling aspect just get in the way of the all-seeing eye. The triggers will allow you to rotate your screen, to an extent, but it can never be locked in place and will constantly roll back to default once you let go. Perhaps this is for the best as even at the best of times, you’re left to wonder what the check direction command is going to do, but I’d much rather have had the option to twist the camera orientation to my own liking.
The audio never wows either, and comes with nothing short of basic robotic beeps, bops and general movement sounds. The backing soundtrack that accompanies your puzzling struggles is pleasant however – but you may just find yourself wanting to switch it off before it worms its way into your head.
Perhaps I’m being a little harsh on the game, and if it was just a couple of quid, then it would be much easier to recommend. What is included though really warrants no more than a few pennies because it is only when you do manage to finally fire off a decent sequence of commands Bob’s way, that things are good. But the overall disappointment that Bob’s tale brings unfortunately doesn’t make up for the asking price. Perhaps if the command structure was laid out less confusingly, or if the pidgin English text help that is included was of a higher quality then things could have been preferable. Hell, it would even be nice if the ‘collapsible’ leaderboard was actually a worthwhile addition. But it isn’t, and as it stands I’m struggling to see how it is worth spending too much of your time in order to help Bob out. In fact, there are too many grievances and annoyances included to really warrant the cheap time you’ll get to spend with the strange command ‘em up puzzler that is Jump, Step, Step.
See, at the end of the day, as with the vast majority of gamers, I don’t mind a good puzzler. But it’s got to bring a bit of fun to the table at the same time. Jump, Step, Step struggles in that department.