Concerning JUMPGRID, many have already made the direct comparison to Super Hexagon, a game released in 2012 with similar presentation and mechanics. Seeing as I’ve never played Super Hexagon, my comparisons will be a littlemore obscure. Viewing the trailer, I immediately thought of Glo, a game I played in late 2017 where one controls a square and goes through various challenges in a 100-level format. Otherwise, I also thought of After Dark Games, a little collection for the PC released many years ago. Ah, the memories…
Glo is notable for being tremendously difficult, and JUMPGRID doesn’t disappoint in this aspect, either. While technically new, it felt nostalgic to play a game like this, with its roots as a puzzle/arcade-esque grid game being something I had experience with as a kid and in my current tenure as a video game reviewer. When the challenge came, I didn’t falter; after all, I’ve been placed in situations like it before. What it all comes down to, however, is what it does to achieve a soul of its own.
JUMPGRID is available on Steam for your regional pricing.
Allow me to reiterate once again that the typical review on this site features a game’s story prior to anything, but JUMPGRID is completely bereft of any narrative significance. With this, I shall continue onto this game’s major appeal.
One video game reviewer I follow once praised a game for cutting out all the fat and taking the player immediately into the game. I thought of him when the title screen for JUMPGRID appeared immediately, and upon pressing “New Game,” the game simply starts, whether one’s ready or not. No story, no dialogue, just gameplay then and there, with only a simple tutorial stage that introduces the controls… which are limited to the arrow keys or the “WASD” format. It only takes a couple seconds to get the gist.
The objective of each level is to collect a number (usually eight; occasionally more) of cubes that are placed in a tic-tac-toe fashion within a 3×3 grid (again, occasionally expanded). It never grows more complicated than that. What does become more complicated is the means to acquire these cubes, as each stage throws all sorts of obstacles at the player, which eliminates them in a single hit. Also like Glo, each death cues a second-long death sequence, then immediately starts the player at the beginning of the stage to try again. This constant cycle of death and rebirth is an excellent way of trimming off any and all wait time to give the player instant gratification, even if they become impatient, accompanied by built-up frustration. I certainly was.
And as evidenced prior, the game is certainly difficult. Many levels within the third quadrant specifically had me dying in hundreds. In the fourth (and final) quadrant, there’s a heavier emphasis on perspective, which changes the control scheme of the directional keys (which is my ultimate weakness). The second-to-last level had me close to clawing my eyes out. The key to conquering JUMPGRID is to be fast and precise, occasionally at the same time. Needless to say, those who enjoy a challenge (which includes me) will be thrilled with what awaits them here.
Even with the core gameplay being effective, there was surprisingly little variation within its entirety. Each quadrant has a boss upon the 25th level (once again like Glo) which challenges the player with sequences present within that specific quadrant. Aside from that, the game’s pretty straightforward. It offers no alternative pleasures in the form of story or context or perhaps different variations of playing style. If not for the boss stages, it would be one-hundred-straight levels of identical “finger dancing,” which admittedly can be fairly repetitive. The emphasis on speedrunning creates an air of replayability, but for those unkeen on playing it faster and faster, there’s nothing else for them here.
To add onto the previous point, the end of the game feels fairly lackluster. The final boss, which is typically the hardest point in any game, isn’t that difficult. And once defeated, the game slaps on the credits and immediately takes you back to the title screen. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it felt like a waste of time, but there’s a certain sense of disappointment when, after all the struggle, what awaits is a lackluster final sequence, which gives way to the same quickened pace that doesn’t allow for any sense of relief or reward. Almost as if the game is saying, “Great, you beat it, now do it faster.”
Graphics & Audio
There’s really not a lot to the graphical or presentational aspect to JUMPGRID, but what it manages to do with limited resources turns out pretty official. A hazy background with floating pixels being thrown at the screen, impersonating the old Windows screensaver from the late ’90s. The 3×3 grid is placed permanently in the middle of the screen, only manipulated by varying challenges as the level count grows. The player controls a little diamond-shaped whatchamacallit that looks like a power-up from a Metroid game, which shoots at warp speed between the lines on the grid, represented by a little white flash and trail. The performance is locked at 60 frames-per-second, and everything about it feels very high in quality.
At the highest of compliments, it feel like a high-end After Dark Games option. A good timekiller with a lot of visual pizzazz that would challenge anyone, and doesn’t require extensive knowledge of controls and button memorization. Each quadrant has a distinct look to them, whether through colors or the shtick of the quadrant (for example, the third quadrant has reality-distorting spaces). They’re easy to grasp, yet hard to plan for, especially at the quickened pace that the game advertises.
As for the soundtrack, it’s present. I never found myself bobbing my head to the beat or even entranced by the score’s style, one that should immerse me within the game’s world. JUMPGRID‘s gameplay is the star attraction, which may explain why the musical composition felt thrown in. Each quadrant has its own specific track, while boss stages have their own, as well. I’m about ninety minutes removed from playing the game and I can’t remember any track. Whether this is more because I was focused on gameplay or if it’s really not that impressive, I’m unsure. In most cases, however, it’s a balance of both.