Never have I ever wanted to punch a game so much, whilst at the same time sing its praises for its simple yet addictive gameplay. Jump King, I don’t know what to do with you.
Jump King tells the age-old tale of a damsel in distress: a quote, unquote “smoking hot babe” is stuck at the top of a tower, and you play as her knight in shining armour who must make their way up to the top. There are no enemies to beat however, as this is a simple 2D platformer where you must climb to the top of the tower through a series of jumps.
It is far from an easy climb though; Jump King is one tricky beast. Featuring some of the hardest platforming this side of the recent Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, this platformer may leave you using the same profanities reserved for only the toughest titles. Or even some creative new ones as you fall down the tower for the hundredth time.
And yet, the gameplay loop is so addictive. Miss a jump and you fall down the tower that you’ve just spent so long clambering up, praying there is a platform to crash land onto sooner rather than later. But there is no penalty other than losing ground, you don’t have a pool of lives to waste away – you simply get back up and try again.
But don’t go thinking you can save at your highest point and reload if things turn sour. Every jump – and every fall – is autosaved! Despite the game developers at Nexile pointing this out in their press release, I still tried it and loaded back into the game at the point where I had just dropped down to. Don’t be like me thinking you can outsmart the devs, as they’ve thought of everything here.
And then, just as you finally start to see the top of the tower and think you’ve mastered the timing of the jumps, elements like wind direction and slippery surfaces are introduced. No “smoking hot babe” is worth this surely?
First attempts will mean a lot of repetition as you learn the ropes and mechanics. But in repetition comes muscle memory, and that’s the best way to make progress. Each jump is different so requires a different approach, and by holding the A button down you can give your jump some extra bounce. It is worth noting that once you start pressing that A button you are committed to the jump and can’t cancel it by pressing another button (again I was forewarned but still gave it a try). In fact, aside from the thumbstick and the A button, no other inputs are used.
Because of the lack of inputs this has a distinct ‘old school’ feel to it, and has an aesthetic to match. Jump King has a real 16-bit look, right down to the title menu and the game’s logo appearing from the shadows. It is even presented in a 4:3 ratio – but without any artistic border around it. Neither does it scroll upwards as you progress – each part of the tower is a new screen, with a surprising amount of detail in its pixel art; platforms you can jump onto are instantly made noticeable, as are the increasingly large gaps in between. The only thing missing is inserting a cartridge into your console to boot the game up.
Jump King is a game where precision is paramount. Despite there being only one button needed to jump, every single bounce is unique. Some are smaller jumps, some are from one side to the other, some even require wall bounces for traversal. It stays fresh thanks to wonderful level design; in between bouts of falling down and jumping up you really get a sense of how well-made the levels are. Each and every platform has a use and it may not be instantly apparent, but through trial and error you begin to understand the placements and develop an appreciation for them. But then you fall down three levels after failing a jump you’ve made every other time, and once again you are cursing this godforsaken game.
This Xbox One version of Jump King comes packaged with a couple of new additions that were previously added as post-release updates on Steam. New Babe+ features a remixed world with more elements than the base game. New areas, characters and items are all available in this mode, and you don’t need to complete the main game to unlock it – it is available from the off. Then there is Ghost of the Babe, another fully realised level that introduces yet more unique challenges. Each of these modes feel varied enough to differentiate themselves from one another. Unfortunately though, you can only have one of these modes on the go at a time as there is only one save slot available.
Jump King has 40 achievements in total and has one of the toughest achievement lists out there. If finishing any of the modes the first time wasn’t tough enough, then there are also achievements for completing flawless runs of them. Other achievements such as 1000 falls and 20000 jumps may seem impossible targets at first, but Jump King keeps a not-so-friendly reminder of your stats in the main menu.
Jump King on the Xbox One isn’t for the faint-hearted: vertigo sufferers and hot-headed people are better off leaving this “smoking hot babe” for the real heroes. It is however a simple 2D vertical platformer that works on two levels; instantly accessible whilst being painfully difficult. It’s a paradox in game form if you like: lots and lots of fun but also rage-inducing whenever you mistime a jump, which will happen annoyingly frequently. But by also keeping track of your stats and personal bests it gently pushes you to play over and over again to rescue the damsel in distress, but quicker on your next go.