PAX '11: Jetpack Joyride Hands-On Impressions

By John Colaw

August 29, 2011

Amidst all the larger AAA titles at PAX were a number of smaller titles, even on the main floor. One of these was Jetpack Joyride from HalfBrick. Formerly known as the infinitely cooler Machinegun Jetpack, this is a title that will be instantly familiar when you pick it up. The game uses extremely simple one-touch commands, which activates the aforementioned jetpack to rise into the air. Letting go drops, and in this way you advance through the levels collecting coins and power-ups while avoiding the dangers on-screen. After being shown the ropes and given the screen for myself it was all second nature by the beginning. It’s a simple design that’s been used many times, but you know the saying about things that aren’t broke. Read on to see my full impressions. 


The reason for the name change was basically two-fold and while I’ll be the first to admit that I like the original name a lot better, it makes perfect sense. For one the team wanted the game to appeal to people of all ages, and parents might not be so into buying a game for their kid with the word “Machine Gun” in the title. The other is that originally the game only featured the aforementioned Machine Gun Jetpack, but as development progressed they started adding more and didn’t want to center the focus on just one of the many choices you’ll eventually have.

As you progress through the game getting higher scores and grabbing more coins you’ll be able to unlock and purchase new items using the in-game store, consisting of new jetpacks (which are visually and functionally different), outfits for the main character and special power-up powers in addition to others. From my time playing the game it was already clear this will add a very nice amount of depth to the game and will encourage you to keep playing for a very long time.

During your adventures in Jetpack Joyride you’ll occasionally find a few power-ups floating through the level, among them being a variety of vehicles for you to use. The vehicle is always randomly chosen and changes you from the jetpack to whatever you got until you take a hit. In my playtime I saw a motorcycle as well as a mech-suit which both played very differently from each other. When you’re equipped with one of these the next hit you take reverts you back to the jetpack and allows you a few moments of invulnerability so as to not ruin your run.

Another nice thing present in the game is the myriad number of progressive challenges available to you offering coin rewards as you level up and complete more of them. Some might be as simple as “reach 500 feet” with others more tricky like “lose between 1,000 and 1,100 feet” for example.

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For those a little more impatient or with deeper pockets than most you can purchase the in-game coins using real money. I want to stress that this is ENTIRELY optional and you don’t get anything that can’t be unlocked during regular play, but the option exists should you decide you want it. The more resourceful might simply choose the cheapest option which for $1 will double the value amount for all coins you get in the game.

Jetpack Joyride was a lot of fun just flat-out. It’s definitely something you’ll keep picking up from time to time just to get a little bit further than your friends. The game will be available for iOS devices later this year for the very low price of $1, and if you’re a fan of fun games I highly suggest you pick this one up when it drops. I know I will be.

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John Colaw

John is what you might call something of a badass. When he's not writing about games or playing them, he's playing in the Kansas City band "Documentary" and drinking as many different beers as often as he can. He's a huge comic nerd in the best sense of the term, with a particular love for the Creator Owned movement.

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