Friday 1 January 2016

Jack Bros. (Virtual Boy review)

Developer: Atlus
Publisher: Atlus
Released: 1995

Jack Bros. is an action game and the first title in the Megami Tensei franchise to be released outside of Japan.

Your quest is to return to the World of Fairies before midnight by navigating six worlds within a strict time limit; each has several floors and to move onto the next you must collect keys using a map and then head to the exit. When you make it to the bottom floor a boss appears and once defeated you clear that world. There's three characters to choose from; Jack Frost (shoots weak snowballs but has the best rapid fire), Jack Lantern (average stats but has strong fireballs) and Jack Skelton (most powerful but only uses a knife). Interestingly the right d-pad allows you to fire independently in all directions making the setup similar to Smash TV (1990, Arcades). The R trigger uses a special attack and the number of times it can be used corresponds to how many star items you've collected. You don't have a life-bar and instead taking damage removes precious seconds from the clock; if it reaches zero you die and have to restart the entire world. The first four worlds are mildly entertaining with some solid shooting action and a slow introduction of new enemies; occasionally you'll also have to block laser beams by pushing boulders around. The final two worlds are horribly long with tons of trial and error and deadly traps that you can't see until the last second. Overall, the level design is average with little variation in the gameplay and locations but at least the three playable characters add some replayability. The bosses are awesome as instead of narrow corridors you have a huge playfield to make full use of your duel stick setup. It's fun learning their patterns as you can't just shoot wildly and a bit of strategy comes into play. The 3D effect is okay but definitely not some of the system's best as it's only really used to partially show the floor below you.
If you're a patient gamer who doesn't mind lots of trial and error give Jack Bros. a go. It does have some fun moments but personally I found the level design and gameplay to be too repetitious and it doesn't really do anything that couldn't be achieved just as well on a 2D console.
Random trivia: Prior to release the game was known as Devil Busters.

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