Gear Jack offers a somewhat insane iOS platforming challenge

Jack is the Little Robot that Could. The Little Robot that Could Die. Jack stars in Gear Jack, a runner/platforming hybrid for iOS that’s heavy on the retro appeal, but not simply because of its 2D graphics and catchy soundtrack. This game is pretty darn difficult—maddeningly so at times—and you can plan on dying over and over before you finally surmount each level. Cats have nine lives; luckily, robots have considerably more.


Gear Jack begins inside a space ship that’s going through some problems—the kind of problems that tend to arise when you get too close to a black hole. Jacky needs to steer the ship out of danger, but before he can do that, he needs to hustle across several levels full of gaps, falling debris, acid pools, and churning gears. Lots and lots of gears.

Luckily, Jack is a champion runner, jumper, and roller. He can leap over pits and gears, roll into tight spaces, and combine a roll and a jump to soar over especially wide gaps. The levels scroll constantly in Gear Jack, so if your timing is off by a hair, you’re going to get smooshed. Jack has the ability to slow down time for a few seconds, which helps you get past some tight corners. You can also upgrade Jack’s speed and jumping ability.

Frankly, you need every single edge you can clutch at, because Gear Jack is, in a word, unforgiving. If you die—and boy howdy, you can be sure you’re going to die—you’re booted back to the start of the level. Here’s the thing: Levels in Gear Jack are not short. Lock your windows, else you risk whipping your iOS device off your porch or balcony in a fit of anger.

Gear Jack is sleek. It’s cool-looking, it sounds great, and the controls are crisp. But will you enjoy it? That wholly depends on how much you love having your face wrecked by old-school platformers. If you’ve been looking for a game that won’t coddle you, you’ll flip for Gear Jack.

Gear Jack

Honestly, though, it wouldn’t hurt for the game to give you the option of checkpoints, especially since some levels make you sit through slow-motion instructions over and over when you’re introduced to new mechanics. VVVVVV for the PC and Nintendo 3DS eShop is another platforming game that murders your pride, but unlike Gear Jack, you never stop having fun because the adventure is divided into seemingly impossible platforming puzzles that are sandwiched between checkpoints. Games can be difficult without being stupidly frustrating.

Gear Jack has its moments, but you might not even be able to enjoy its strengths unless you really enjoy getting booted back to “Go” every time you mess up. If that sounds like the kind of challenge you’ve been lusting for, though, Jacky will be happy to be your new robot pal.