Game Review: Jetpack Joyride (PS Vita)

Released simultaneously for the PS3 and PS Vita, Jetpack Joyride is one of the few games of its kind that I have seen released for the PS Vita – one that is absolutely free. Yes, you read it right, there is no cost involved whatsoever with Jetpack Joyride. It’s not a case of buying one version of the game and getting the other free, no basic game and then getting additional levels for an added cost (like Frobisher Says! or Cliff Diving) or even like so many casual games where the basic game is free but only certain parts of the game can be played if you are willing to pay for additional content. Here you get the full game, which is still on sale as part of the PS Minis range, for nothing!

Jetpack Joyride started off as a free game on Facebook and later migrated to Android and iOS devices (also as a free download), and then made its way over to the PS Vita and PS3 (indirectly I might add) by way of the PlayStation Minis range where it was a paid-for title. During that time, it’s become one of the most downloaded titles ever released and won countless awards, but does it live up to the hype…?

You take control of the game’s hero, Barry Steakfries – a hapless gramophone salesman. Barry has accidentally discovered a not-so-hidden laboratory belonging to Legitimate Research, a company who are responsible for designing a myriad of strange and… to be frank, absurd devices. Deciding that he can get out of the humdrum of his life, he steals one of their jetpacks and escapes from the lab… and so the adventure begins.

The game itself is a side-scrolling affair. The game scrolls automatically and Barry either runs along the ground or flies using the jetpack by pressing and holding on the rear touchpad or the touch screen (you can alter this in the game’s settings). Along the way you have to avoid incoming missiles, lasers, and other security devices set out to stop your escape. To help you, there are coins you can collect to buy power-ups and upgrades in the store between games, special vehicles including a motorbike, a walker (reminiscent of Robocop’s ED-209), a flying mechanical bird, a dragon, gravity boots and a few others.  There are also spin tokens that you use in the end-of-game slot machine that will give you the chance to win bonus coins, extra lives and extra abilities for use in your next game.

At first glance you’d be forgiven to think that this is just a souped-up Canabalt clone with weapons. However, apart from the non-stop running and the need to jump to avoid obstacles (albeit powered primarily by flight) that’s really where the similarities end and Jetpack Joyride is undeniably the most involving of all of the auto-running games seen so far. What makes Jetpack Joyride work more than any of the others that I have played is that it is incredibly addictive, varied and that there is constantly something new to do and achieve while you’re playing.

Because of the random positioning of every object, coin and weapon thrown at you, no two games play the same and you’re constantly determined to beat your personal score to travel further and further in every game you play. The game has it’s own missions that you need to complete as you play and these are incredibly diverse – collecting coins, travelling set distances with particular vehicles, using or not using certain abilities, and so on – and on completion of each you are awarded between one and three stars. As you earn more stars, you increase through the ranks and earn more coins which you can then use to buy more equipment and upgrades, giving more of an incentive to keep playing!

If that’s not all, the game has trophy support so there are additional challenges, it’s own achievements for you to work towards, plus it’s own in-game statistics on your game profile so you can see how well you have performed in every part of the game! On top of that, there’s online support through the PlayStation Network with global leaderboards allowing you to compare your scores with other players worldwide as well as seeing not only how well you rank, but also to see how you rate directly against your friends. Additional online support is provided through social network integration allowing you to share high scores and screenshots (that you can take of youd untimely death) on both Facebook and Twitter.

Aesthetically, while not the best looking game on the Vita, it plays smoothly and looks good with well drawn characters and smooth parallax scrolling backgrounds. I have to be honest and say that there isn’t a major improvement over the Facebook original here (which I have to admit did look very good for an online game) apart from the use of the Vita’s widescreen format, smoother and slightly crisper graphics and faster cleaner static screens. Sound again has very little difference from what I could tell as the music and effects seem to have been ported straight across, although this appears to have been the case for the Android, iOS and PS3 versions as well.

Comparing all the versions head-to-head, where the different systems do differ is primarily in the control method, the minor tweaks to the visuals and the expanded trophy support (where the PS3 and Vita have the clear edge). On the control front, playing it online on Facebook is using a single mouse button, and the PS3 is controlled with the X button (although for some reason, perhaps because of the size of the screen the game is viewed on, the PS3 version is the weakest visually) these two are the easiest to control. While the touch screen controls of the PS Vita (and all of the handheld versions) doesn’t make it the easiest way to control Jetpack Joyride, at least we have the option to use the touchscreen or rear touchpad so at least the game screen isn’t obscured during play – a problem that Android and iOS users have to deal with – making the Vita the definitive handheld version. The game was subsequently updated to allow the jetpack to be controlled using the X button making this a damn near perfect version of the game! The only minor gripe I have with the updated version is that the menus still need to use the touch screen, but that is a lot easier than using the joystick or d-pad.

Okay, so I said before this is a free game so what’s the catch? Well, as I’ve already mentioned while you play through the game you collect coins which are used between games to buy powerups and gadgets for your jetpack to give you new abilities, buy new outfits for Barry, upgrades to the different vehicles, new types of jetpacks, or to buy single use abilities that can have an impact on the following game… the list goes on. All these have a cost ranging from 1,000 coins right up to 50,000 at the top of the scale. While you can save up your coins to buy all of these from playing alone, that would mean you would need to play the game a LOT of times to be able to purchase and unlock everything. In fact, in the first 175 games I played I only managed to bag just over 40,000 coins so there’s the snag. To get access to everything it’s going to take you a lot of time – or is it? There is a quicker way because you can buy coins from the PSN Store to speed things up. It’s not essential so you can play the full game as it is, but if you want everything on hand sooner then just ask yourself is it worth spending a few pounds on it… and to be honest with this game being as addictive as it is I’d be inclined to say yes.

If the in-game coin value to unlock everything was lower and instead this game was just sold for £5 or around that price point, I’d still have no hesitation in recommending it. As it stands, it’s free and this should already be installed on your Vita so if it isn’t you should already be booting your console up now while you’re reading this! In short, this is one of the most addictive games I have played for a long time. Whether you are a hardcore gamer or casual player, you’ll get just as much enjoyment out of this and it’s a game that you’ll still be coming back to months later. Simply put, this a must have game for your PS Vita!

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Jetpack Joyride
  • Publisher: Halfbrick Studios
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Local Multiplayer: No
  • PlayStation TV Compatible: Yes
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 41Mb


Following the release of Update 1.01 to the game, this review has been revised on 3rd February 2013.

Facebook Comments

Be the first to comment

Got any thoughts on this? Let us know!