My iPod has been host to more of my gaming time recently and one of the reasons is Jetpack Joyride. This free game was developed by Halfbrick Studios and released last year. But before discussing the game, I want to address the Australian studio’s dramatic rise to prominence.
Founded in 2001, they spent eight years as a contract developer, mostly focusing on Nickelodeon properties. In 2009 they released their first original game and the following year they released Fruit Ninja. This was unbeknownst to me. It’s hard to believe that the studio responsible for one of the most popular games in recent years spent nearly a decade toiling on handheld versions of children’s properties. They’re the video game equivalent of a long-time musician who never “made it” writing a song that becomes a hit.
What is this? An encyclopedia entry for a game developer or a review of a video game? Sheesh…
Okay, onto Jetpack Joyride. Each game begins with Barry Steakfries busting through a laboratory wall with a pilfered jetpack. If there was a goal to the game, it’s simply to fly as far as you can and beat your personal high score. What keeps me coming back and not wanting to put it down though is the multitude of short-term objectives.
Players always have three missions that they’re working on. When completed, they’re rewarded with level ups and money. The missions weren’t tough; they mostly required dedication. This made them especially alluring because I’d often think I could complete at least one before doing something else. Earned money could be spent on gadgets, costumes, and a mix of other items and the store itself is tiered so better items are unavailable until a specific number of lower tier items have been bought.
As was the case with Thomas Screiber’s Slayin’, I feel that Halfbrick Studios was able to infuse a lot of character into a small package. The art direction and the in-game text were great, but the best part about Jetpack Joyride was its short-term reward system. I always had something to focus on, be it a new high score, completing a mission, or trying to unlock an item from the store and this system of short-term gratification kept me playing and playing and playing.