Game Review: Explosive Jake (PS Vita)

Every now and then a game comes along that be incredibly deceptive. Its screenshots may give you the impression that it’s one thing, but once you play it you quickly realise that it’s something completely different altogether. Explosive Jake, from Russian publisher Sometimes You is one such game. The screenshots lead you to believe that it’s a clone of the Hudsonsoft arcade game Bomberman, but nothing could be further from the truth…

So what is Explosive Jake?

Like the game that inspired the visual styling, Explosive Jake is set in a 2D maze and you take the role of the titular hero, a skeleton equipped with an unhealthy supply of dynamite. Trapped deep inside a dungeon, he is trying to escape but his route is blocked by barriers, all manner of strange creatures, locked doors, traps and everything else you can imaging.

So you have to traverse 40  levels to make your way out. You have an unlimited supply of dynamite that you can use to destroy obstacles and anything else blocking your path. But if only if were that simple. Each level has a locked door and you have to find the key hidden inside one of the crates blocking your path so you have to destroy everything until you find it. Later levels are partially sectioned off and need the use of pressure pads to remove walls so you can explore them further. And that’s not counting the other dangers that await you.

Indie Tropes

As with most indie games I’ve seen ported to the Vita, you have unlimited lives at your disposal in Explosive Jake. You can find shields hidden on each level, but if you’ve used this or if you don’t have any in your posession, collide with any of the creatures or hazards and it’s back to the start of each level. This can be frustrating on the larger levels that span a substantial number of screens in size but I’d say it’s better than a traditional lives system. Even more so as it will take you more than a few attempts to learn the layout for each level or figure out the best way around them rather than rely on reflexes like Bomberman.

Retro Look

As you can imagine, with most smaller indie titles ported over from the PC by the likes of Sometimes You and Ratalaika Games, it has an 8/16-bit feel to it. This is certainly no bad thing and again adds to the first impressions that it was going to be a Bomberman clone. The graphics and sound fit this style of game perfectly if I’m honest and anything more modern would have been not only over-the-top but probably a waste of storage space for a game that simply didn’t need it.

Unusually for a game like this, it offers a CRT mode, emulating old-school TV sets. Having tried the game with this and the regular game mode I have to be honest and say that I prefer the original mode. While it’s a nice addition, I think this additional retro look works best on actual retro games rather than ones designed to have a retro style.

Playability

Most importantly, how does Explosive Jake play? Quite simply, great. It’s an addictive puzzler and one I struggled to put down, even when I was getting caught out by traps, creatures and one thing or another. I made the same mistakes I used to with Bomberman standing in the way of explosions and got killed more than a few times, but it was never frustrating.

In fact, that was the same all the time I was playing it. Every time I made it through a level it felt like it was because of my own efforts and not luck. And in contrast, it was my own actions that lead to my demise and not “bad luck” or anything else I could blame it on. So It felt perfectly balanced and made it all the more enjoyable as a result.

Overall

Even though Explosive Jake wasn’t the game I thought it was going to be, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It’s a fun, engaging puzzler that kept me hooked for hours. With 40 levels there’s plenty of long-lasting appeal and it’s incredible value for money for just £3.99 for the PS Vita and PS4 versions as a Cross Buy package. And with each level being timed, there’s plenty of replay value to go back and try to beat your times once you’ve finished the game. Highly recommended.

At A Glance

  • Title: Explosive Jake
  • Publisher: Sometimes You
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes (PS4)
  • Cross Save: N/A
  • Cross Play: N/A
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: TBC
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: TBC

Vita Player Rating - 08

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About Simon Plumbe 1056 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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