Platformers have been hit and miss on touchscreens, so it’s especially nice to play one that just works. Jazz is such a game, and it mixes a lot of familiar elements into a stylish and engaging package that deserves your attention. The game focuses on Trump, a young trumpet player in old New Orleans who dreams of becoming a famous jazz musician.
To help Trump reach his dream, he needs to win a local competition, but to even compete, he must seek out three other players to form a band. The game’s thematic style is clearly modeled after old silent films, and although it’s not full-on black and white, the dialogue is text-only and sound effects are minimal. The jazzy score is excellent, though.
I jumped down to St. James Infirmary…
The graphics have an old-school animation look and feel to them (think Disney’s Steamboat Willy and you’re there), and there’s an undeniable charm to the entire presentation. The gameplay is straightforward platformer fare, but very well done. The levels are quite large, and full of harrowing jumps, ladders, swinging ropes, and maze-like designs.
Where Jazz really earns its merit is in the way the controls are kept simple, but responsive. Most of the time, there are just right and left arrows to move and a jump button. On ladders, Trump can move up and down as well, and he can interact with objects with a hand button. As the game progresses, he also gains special powers such as the ability to freeze time, which is vital for stopping moving platforms.
Hands off my best gal!
While the placement of the up and down arrows is inconvenient, the controls and gameplay in general are otherwise completely smooth and sensible. Jazz just plays well, with no lag in response or other frustrations usually caused by touchscreen controls. Trump can perform a wide array of actions easily, including wall jumping, and the controls remain intuitive.
Just the same, some of the jumping puzzles become riotously difficult as the game progresses. Jazz offsets this with frequent checkpoints and endless lives though, so it’s not a huge problem. More noticeable is the amazingly bad translation of the dialogue from the developer’s French to English. The wording is frequently terrible and occasionally almost unintelligible.
Those minor quibbles aside, Jazz is a terrifically fun platformer with tons of style, excellent level design, and superb controls.