By Josh Speer / November 12th, 2018
|Release Date||October 11th, 2018|
|Genre||Platformer, Endless Runner|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone – Comic Mischief|
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised I ended up being the guy to review Joggernauts. I’m a self professed platformer fanatic, and I do like simple to learn, hard to master games. My only uncertainty was whether the single player mode for this game could work well in a game obviously catered towards playing with friends. But I decided to take a chance on Joggernauts, though your mileage may vary.
The premise of Joggernauts is fairly simple. You’re a team of alien athletes who have crash landed on a strange planet. All the prestigious trophies on your ship have scattered, along with three integral parts needed to get the busted ship space worthy again. Your robotic C.O.A.C.H. cares more about getting back his trophies than anything, so it’s your goal to go planet hopping to find them all. Since you’re a team, it follows that you do so as a group. In multiplayer, you can have up to 4 players jog together, though in single player you only control two which turns out to be a good thing, since it’s not the easiest thing to coordinate two athletes simultaneously.
I should mention that for the review itself, I only played on single player, though I did get the occasion to play with a group of 4 during PAX West. While part of me feels co-op is the way to go, it only works as intended when you’re playing with a group of friends equally talented at platforming. Otherwise, it’s a chaotic mess. But for single player, it’s surprisingly well done. You control a set of 2 athletes at the same time. It’s an endless runner, so you’ll always be moving forward. The only things you have direct control over is jumping and switch-alizing. You jump with your back jogger with the down button, and front with the B button. You can also use up or X if you prefer. But the real challenge is the aforementioned switch-alizing.
Basically, you can teleport between your two joggers at any time with a press of the Y or A buttons. This teleports them to the other jogger’s spot in the line. You might be wondering why that matters, and the simple answer is that everything in Joggernauts is color coordinated. If you come across a blue enemy, you’ll need a blue jogger to wipe it out. Likewise, if your red jogger runs across a red switch, it will be activated. It’s pretty basic at first, but the game keeps complicating the formula with little twists. One example is that you don’t always want to activate a switch, since in later stages doing so may hem you in with laser walls. A cooler example is when you’re using the switch-alizing to essentially float through zero-g environments. But that’s not all, you’ll also need to color coordinate to get some of the trophies in the game. Successfully collecting all the trophies in a stage gives you a chance to race through a bonus segment, and completing it will earn you a star on the map screen.
Early on, many trophies simply must be touched to acquire them. But later on, some involve collecting colored keys first. If you hit a key with the wrong colored athlete, the rest of the keys in that level will disappear until you die or restart. So it’s very important to coordinate your switch-alizing to the rhythm needed to get everything. That’s both a good and bad thing. The devs themselves refer to this as “like patting your head and rubbing your belly, but you’re jogging,” and that’s pretty damned accurate. It takes some getting used to, since at first, I kept forgetting I needed to jump with my back character. Once you internalize it, it’s not too bad, though I did encounter some small problems. I should say I’m not clear if they stemmed from the game itself or my Switch, but I still need to mention them. There were times where pressing jump for my back character simply didn’t respond. Another stranger issue was that in the stages that take place in the vacuum of space, one character would jump much higher than the other at times. This drove me crazy in one of the last stages, and it was only my sheer stubbornness that kept me going. And while this last issue isn’t a glitch, it was problematic. Put simply, the HD rumble for this game is dialed up way too high. Thankfully, it can easily be turned off by going to the options menu.
Besides the running, jumping and switching, there are a few other things I need to mention about the game. One is that all your characters share the same health meter. You have 5 hearts, and once they’re all gone, you are forced to restart. If you haven’t reached a checkpoint, you’ll restart at the start of the level, but if you have, you can restart from the checkpoint itself. The catch is that checkpoints need to be activated with colored orbs you collect. Some of the checkpoints require a lot of orbs (the max you can hold on you is 250), but thankfully there’s nothing stopping you from collecting a ton, since you’ll keep all your orbs even after you die. And you’ll die a lot, trust me. But on the positive side, you have unlimited lives, so the only thing truly harmed will be your ego. Besides that, you’ll also come across items in levels to give you an edge. The only ones I encountered in my playthrough were a shield that protected me from one hit and a magnet. The first wasn’t that helpful, but the magnets made collecting orbs much easier on harder stages.
Visually, this is a wonderful game. It has bright and bold colors and a delightful cartoony aesthetic. It reminds me in some ways of a Dr. Seuss book or the style from the show, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. It’s full of delightfully exaggerated details, like giant eyeballs, neon colored caterpillars and giant spiderwebs. I never encountered any slowdown either, as the game runs at a pretty brisk clip. The music and sound effects could have come from some 70’s TV show, with lots of intentional kitsch. While none of the songs are that memorable, neither do they distract from the experience.
There’s a lot I like about Joggernauts, but now I need to mention some larger complaints. Though it’s a fun game, it’s also pretty short, only consisting of 3 worlds with 7 stages a piece. While some stages are gated by a required number of trophies, it’ll still go by pretty quickly. If you were just trying to beat the game and not collect everything, it could take you anywhere from 1-2 hours. However, most platformer fans have that completionist itch, and that’s another story. I was intending to get everything prior to my review, so I set out to collect all of the 42 gold trophies. Turns out, those aren’t the only ones. Once you get them all, C.O.A.C.H. tells you about his missing Glowtonium trophies. I set out to find them, and after searching through various stages, couldn’t find a single one. They’re that well hidden. I’m all for testing my platforming skills, but I found the Glowtonium trophies to be frustrating. Worst of all, collecting all those impossible to find Glowtonium trophies apparently just unlocks a silly ending. I just wish that collecting all the gold trophies instead did something like unlock more planets to explore.
Despite my issues with Joggernauts, I still had fun with it. It’s a short game for $14.99, but it can keep you entertained for 2-5 hours. I managed to beat the game with 55% of everything unlocked, but sadly have little desire to spend hours trying to find those Glowtonium trophies. Still, it’s a colorful and enjoyable experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed the character of C.O.A.C.H. The domineering little robot was the cherry on top of a brightly colored sundae. That said, I don’t think Joggernauts is for everyone, and would only really recommend it to hardcore fans of the genre. For everybody else, there’s probably more frustration than satisfaction to be found here. But I still applaud this effort from Space Mace and Graffiti Games, and look forward to the next game they come up with.
Review Copy Provided by Publisher
cooperativeendless runnerGraffiti GamesJoggernautsoprainfallPCplatformerReviewSingle-playerSpace MaceSwitch