On the App Store, physics puzzlers in the vein of Angry Birds are a dime a dozen these days. Virtually not a week goes by when there isn’t some new kid on the block trying to capture that pig-smashing magic. Now comes Jumpster, G5 Entertainment’s attempt to break into that world. It’s an admirable experiment, but one that has a hard time overcoming that most insidious of obstacles in a game… the dreaded paywall.
In the game you play as the globose alien Jumpster. Your spaceship has been hit by a meteorite and you’re forced to jump ship onto an alien world that was apparently founded by Rube Goldberg. You fling and bounce yourself through a series of crazy levels, collecting fuel for your ship in an attempt to hightail it outta there.
It’s time to see an orthodontist.
The gameplay is right out of the Angry Birds playbook. You control Jumpster by pulling back on the screen with your finger. When you have the direction you want, you let go and Jumpster will fly in that direction. The goal of every level is to collect as much fuel as you can before reaching your spaceship, which is parked somewhere on the level. Getting in your way are lots and lots of spikes, hungry aliens, moving platforms, and areas that can only be accessed by hitting some switch or bouncing off a trampoline, flying through teleporters or getting shot out of a cannon.
Some of the levels are brilliantly, maddeningly designed. Most require you to use some, if not all, of the various contraptions scattered throughout to reach your goal. One level might have you simply trying to figure out the best angle to bounce off of a wall or trampoline, while another has you flinging Jumpster into a teleporter so you can bounce off of a trampoline that heaves you into a cannon, which shoots you to a platform that you have to break so that a box will fall and hit a button that opens a wall clear at the other side of the screen. Trying to figure it all out takes a lot of patience, but once you do it’s really cool seeing all of the pieces fall into place.
Unfortunately, Jumpster is a freemium game, and if the idea of microtransactions in a game bothers you, then this game is not for you. At virtually every turn the game hits you up to buy something. After every level, the game ‘suggests’ some item for you to buy. Every time you die, you’ll get a ‘hint’ about something you can purchase that will help you out. As you play you do get coins to spend in the game’s store, but you get them at such a glacial pace that they’re essentially nonexistent. Your only other option is to spend actual currency to get more coins.
The eye in the sky.
And if you want to enjoy the game in any way, you will need to spend coins to progress. Some levels seem virtually impossible to complete without one of the power-ups you can buy. At one point we got so fed up with a level that we bought one of the ‘Warp Totems’ so we could skip the stage.
Probably the most egregious example of this is with Jumpster’s energy level. See, every action you do in the game, and every death, takes away from the energy bar. When that bar is depleted you can’t continue. Your only options are waiting for hours for your energy to partially replenish or to buy some item that will give you more energy, the cheapest of which doesn’t even give you a full energy bar. We eventually just got to a point where we had enough and gave up. It truly is that obnoxious.
Jumpster is a game that we gladly would have paid a few bucks for to play in its entirety. The levels are nicely designed, the gameplay is inventive and the graphics are cute and well done. But the paywall system is annoying and saps the fun out of the game quicker than Jumpster’s depleting energy bar.