Jack N’ Jill (Revisited)
Developed by: The_R Games
With all the Easter festivities, and Sunday usually being my day to laze around with my girlfriend and contribute nothing to society, I wasn’t really planning on doing a Half Hour of Power article today. I figured if I was going to keep this up for any foreseeable amount of time I’d have to have at least one day off from writing articles. But then I received a nice tweet and retween from Rohan Narang, the mind behind Jack N’ Jill, saying that he liked my article and was looking forward to my thoughts about the rest of the game. I was already planning on beating the game anyway and had played some levels earlier today, so I thought, why not have Sunday be a sort of revisit day for one of the games I played that week that I continued to play and subsequently beat and just give a more broad impression of the game as a whole instead of narrowing my focus. Now, this article isn’t to say that I haven’t played Rogue Legacy or They Bleed Pixels since their respective days, I actually am one upgrade short of completing the manor in Rogue Legacy and close to downing the second boss, the stars just happened to align in such a way to make Jack N’ Jill the perfect candidate for Half Hour of Power’s mini-segment “Sunday Special”.
Now, I have to be forthcoming and say, I didn’t actually beat the entirety of World-6 today. I made it about 1/4 of the way through, but wanted to pen this before the end of the night, so I stopped. If there’s anything absolutely Earth shattering that occurs in the last 15 levels, I’ll amend this article tomorrow. Regardless, the rest of the game continues to be phenomenal, though there are a few kinks that need addressing. Brilliant level design just permeates this entire game. The use of existing mechanics to toy with your expectations of how certain sections will be completed is perhaps my favorite aspect of the craft, as it breathes life into each stage in a way that simply piling on power-ups or ramping up the difficulty simply couldn’t. That being said, the difficulty jump from World-2 to World-3 is pretty high. With the advent of crumbling pathways and the (perhaps a little over)use of speed boots, stages no longer have any room for error. Previously, you could correct your path by bouncing off a wall and reversing until you were back where you needed to be. This unfortunately becomes phased out with World-3 and beyond, which makes for some frustratingly long retreads until checkpoints are introduced mid-World-4. However, checkpoints, while they were something I was begging for at the end of World-3, were a double-edged sword for me. You see, when you were reloaded at a checkpoint any point you accumulated throughout the level up until that point were lost. Obviously, this impacted only persons similar to me who were trying for high scores, but it was still a boon backing out to the main menu every reload (which in World-5 was VERY often) so that I could maintain my proper score. That being said, I have to hand it to Rohan for not falling into the two most obvious traps with checkpoints: 1) that every stage after you introduce checkpoints, must have a checkpoint & 2) that stages cannot have more than one checkpoint. Again, it’s these small attentions to detail that are so indicative of crafty design; it’s incredible.
This level made me rage so hard.
Overall, each of the three Worlds I played through were a blast, but I’d have to say that World-4 was my least favorite of the bunch. At first, I was pretty miffed that both World-3 and World-4 only introduced one new mechanic, crumbling blocks and wings respectively, but I realized that World-3’s advantage was the difficulty increase as a “new” mechanic; whereas, World-4 fell just a little flat with me. I kept waiting for a stage completely navigable by wings. It felt like a really missed opportunity to keep having the wings -> speed boots -> wings pattern. Albeit, I will concede that the manner in which the the levels were crafted in World-4 did give me the feeling of flying through the clouds. Again, very well done. World-5 was definitely the most challenging and also went back to the nice interest curve of the first two Worlds. I was pretty worried that I was gonna get hit with a Heat Man style disappearing cloud puzzle toward the end of the World, but those sections were never too demanding. It was more the overall architecture of the stages combining all the various mechanics up to that point that made for really unique and interesting challenges. Though I still think there’s a little too much of a reliance on the speed boots. I was honestly waiting for a text box of, “Since I’ve ran so much now I just run all the time,” similar to the wall-bouncing intro box in World-2. Also, the introduction of speed-wings was something I wished would’ve been in World-4 from the get go instead of having an entire World dedicated to it. Yes, it would’ve meant changing World-6s mechanic, but I felt like it was an obvious design decision given the predilection on speed in World-3 and would’ve alleviated some of the more rote repetition in World-4.
Anyway, I’ve spun quite enough yarn for what was supposed to be a brief summation article. In short, Jack N’ Jill is an absolute pleasure to play from start to finish. It’s superb level design and intelligent design decisions vastly overshadow the few minor grievances one may have with the title. It’s simply a must play.