It seems like every time you turn around, there is another Metroidvania style game popping up. It almost makes it hard to distinguish the good from the bad. To be fair though, what’s there not to like about the genre? As a developer, you do not necessarily have to make a large map, just one that has enough diversity and hidden areas to fit into it to make it interesting. The problem is that it is hard to distinguish yourself without taking big chances that fans of the game style can appreciate. Otherwise, you can make a game that has all the tropes and stays within that comfort zone. In a lot of ways, that’s how I feel Jackquest The Tale of the Sword decided to go.
I think the best way I can describe the entirety of the game could be summed up in one word: Familiar. The story goes like this, the game opens with Jack and the girl he is in love with, Nara. Jack is on the cusp of telling her how he truly feels about her and suddenly a massive green hand pokes out of the ground, grabs Nara and pulls her down into the ground. Jack jumps to the rescue and as soon as he jumps into the ground, he finds a massive sword sticking out of the ground. Lo and behold a sword is ACTUALLY a person named Kuro. Kuro explains to Jack that Nara was stolen by Korg, an evil orc and that they should team up to defeat Korg and save the day! About 2 hours later, you will roll the credits and sit back and watch the credits roll.
Graphically, I liked how the game looked. It reminded me a lot of the Super Nintendo days. It is very simple. The sprites were easily recognizable, for both cast and the enemies. I did feel though that the lack of different types of enemies was a disappointment. There are 5 bosses that you will face while searching for Nara, including Korg himself. I found the boss fights to be a blessing because of the lack of other enemies. Though I do want to point out that the boss fights felt very unbalanced. I fought the Spider-Boss and felt it was the hardest in the game. Korg himself was by far the easiest, obviously, that is problematic for being the final boss.
Moving around the map is fairly simple. You will pick up special items that will help dramatically. When you jump at a wall, you will stick to it for a second, which means you can jump and cling up walls. This mode of transportation only gets faster when you get the ability to double jump. I would advise players to jump at every wall you see. This is a Metroidvania, so there are lots of hidden passages to be found. This is how you will find upgrades to your special meter as well as more health powerups.
I want to stress that the game is not necessarily easy. The one and only thing that makes it difficult is keeping your health up. Any hit you take will knock it back by half a heart, and you start the game with only 2 hearts. Keep in mind what I had mentioned that extra health bonuses have to be discovered in hidden rooms. You have the ability to buy potions from a wandering merchant, but the price is OUTRAGEOUSLY high. It would be one thing if it filled your health all the way, but all it heals is a half heart. You will randomly get a potion from busting boxes open and every once in a blue moon from an enemy. That is what makes the difference between overly difficult and a game that anyone could play.
All in all, Jackquest was ok. It was a 2-hour experience that just felt mediocre from start to finish. Everything is there and works fine. The problem is that it just doesn’t take any chance of trying something different to make it stand out. The gameplay was its most redeeming feature. I would like to see the developer take the formula and figure out how to just make it a little bit better. Everything is there for them to make a pretty good game, but Jackquest left me with just wanting more.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*