How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. Jumplord is open and interconnected, but it does not have permanent ability upgrades required for progression.
Primary Challenge: Tricky Platforming
Time to beat: ~3 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Jumplord was provided by the developer
Buy Jumplord if you like…
- Original Ideas
- Cryptic Objectives
- Customizable Soundtracks
- High Risk Death Mechanics
▼ Review continues below ▼
One of the magical things about gaming in the 80s is that no one had any idea what they were doing. Video games were the new creative frontier, so you could do whatever crazy thing your imagination came up with, including things like dinosaurs that spit bubbles to defeat their enemies, or trench diggers that inflated their foes until they exploded. A lot of indie games today are about perfecting old ideas – which is fantastic – but in paying homage to earlier eras it sometimes seems like we’ve lost some of the originality that inspired us. Occasionally though, a game like Jumplord comes along and dares to ignore conventional design philosophies, being novel with every element of its construction rather than just appending a new idea to an old framework. I’m not trying to say that it’s completely different to the point where there’s no comparison. Its store page does use “Metroidvania” and “Roguelite” elements to describe itself, but it also doesn’t really fit into either of the patterns those invented words call to mind. Therefore, no matter what criticisms I have against Jumplord, it is still something worth looking at just because of what it is.
In true retro fashion, Jumplord gives you very little information about what your goals are. The game’s official website says something about saving your family, but you never see them. You can sort of write your own story based on NPC dialog and environmental cues, but ultimately all you need to do is kill more bosses and become the Jumplord.
As the the title of “Jumplord” would suggest, the game is then ostensibly about jumping on enemy’s heads and overcoming platforming challenges. Most areas have swarms of relatively harmless enemies that you can use to keep yourself afloat, and every area has a bottomless pit ready to kill you if you neglect gravity’s affect on you at any time. There are tutorial pop-ups early on that explain the controls, but I didn’t really get what to do until I experimented with everything. Trying to apply logic from other games to this one, I at first thought you had to constantly keep enemies beneath you to stay afloat. It turns out that your “double jump” is only on a cooldown, and you’re safe enough with your default stats that you can actually ascend above your initial jump height if you trigger the next jump immediately when it becomes available. Once you discover that you can basically fly from the start of the game, failing straight platforming challenges becomes less of a threat.
Falling into pits isn’t the only way to die though, there are also droves of enemies looking to knock you into the pit – or just knock out your health bar and kill you that way. All of the enemies are very basic, but each enemy type is unique. The level design generally feels disjointed and perhaps random, but novel enemy combinations and the constant threat of falling into the pit provides enough of a challenge to keep Jumplord interesting. When playing from a save or immediately after dying, a good amount of skill is needed to survive.
Skill isn’t your only option for survival, you can also level up your capabilities to make the game much easier. Finding treasure could reduce the effect of gravity on your Jumplord, increase the damage you do with all your attacks, or upgrade your horizontal movement speed. Reduced gravity makes double jumping a very easy task, and helps exploration immensely, while speed and damage help you land attacks and dodge enemies. If you’re ever having trouble, hunting for treasures before moving on is a great way to mitigate the difficulty. If you ever die, however, you lose all of these upgrades, which is where the “roguelite” descriptor comes from. Unfortunately, saving and reloading your game also loses all of this particular treasure, so using leveling up as tool for success has to be done in the same play session without failing.
You do get three equipment slots that are permanent, although filling these slots is done through random drops or equally random paid treasure chests. Two of these equipment slots are relics, which range from adding extra abilities to adding stats just like the “roguelite” treasures. Some relics are definitely better than others. There’s one that heals you when you hold still, and it’s almost game breaking for how much it helps you keep your level ups safe from dying. The last permanent piece of equipment is your weapon. Weapons come in two types – those that use ammo and those that don’t. There are relics that help with enemy ammo drops, but for the most part relying on more random elements to deal damage seemed precarious to me, so I ultimately stuck with one of the melee weapons for most of the game. With the right weapon and enough treasures, there isn’t anything in the game that you can’t simply spam your attacks to destroy.
Once you figure out how to generally survive, the next step is figuring out what the heck you’re supposed to do. NPCs hint at needing specific things, and you can find these quest items by exploring. This “Metroidvania” aspect to the game is mostly fun, but it’s really difficult to get your bearings without any kind of mapping system. So much of the terrain is similar, and it often doesn’t seem to follow any kind of logical guidance. I found myself wandering in circles for much of my three-hour playtime, and if I wasn’t so determined to complete the game I might have put it down out of frustration. Thankfully, outside of the larger “hub” areas that you’ll probably spend a lot of time lost in, much of the progression just has you moving from left to right. Moving around to find quest items can be confusing, but once you finally find a new place to explore it usually plays out pretty linearly.
At the time of writing, there are a few bugs that add to some of the more frustrating aspects of the game. On my PC, basically all of the NPC dialog is garbled – and I’m pretty certain this wasn’t intentional since in the game’s trailer it’s not an issue. The NPCs were clearly speaking English, but the letters seem mashed together, so it was a bit of a headache trying to make out what they were trying to say. This is important too, since basically all of the game’s progression comes from doing what they ask. Besides that, the game also didn’t seem to want to work on launch sometimes. It booted up to the title screen but then stopped accepting any inputs that weren’t Alt-F4. Definitely check the patch notes in the game’s news feed if either of these issues sound like deal breakers to you; they’ll likely be fixed at some point in the future.
In spite of some niggles and bugs, Jumplord is still a mostly relaxing novelty to play. It doesn’t really fit into the Metroidvania genre perfectly – being that there’s no true ability gating – but exploration is a major part of achieving your goals and it draws some of those feelings of discovery that at least make it reminiscent. Really though, Jumplord doesn’t fit perfectly into any genre, which is exactly why I recommend checking it out. Jumplord manages to be both fun and interesting without following anyone’s rules, and I think it should be commended for at least trying something different.
Incredibly simplistic. Ammo is too limited for weapons that require it. Stats drive the combat more than your skill.
You can ''double jump'' an infinite number of times based on a cooldown, so once you get the rhythm of the timing down it becomes less challenging.
Without a mapping system it's really easy to get lost and have no idea what to do next. Death removes any rewards you might find, and besides progression keys and quest items, rewards are random anyway.
Puzzles are generally just lock and key affairs. Nothing offensive, but nothing complex.
Minimalistic. The game's title tells you everything you need to know.
The aesthetic is nice, but collision and animations are a little wonky
One of the rewards for exploration is a plethora of CDs you can listen to, letting you customize the soundtrack based on how you like it
Because of the random nature of the game's items, no two playthroughs will look the same. Plus there is some postgame optional content to enjoy.
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