Hi-Rez Studios surprised mobile gamers by launching Jetpack Fighter at the start of the 2016 Smite World Championship. Featuring agile, sword-wielding, jetpack warriors, the game is a large departure from their flagship, ancient pantheon MOBA, Smite. While Smite has shown the world that Hi-Rez is in-tune with what PC/console gamers want, the question now is if Jetpack Fighter can stretch that success to the mobile scene.
Jetpack Fighter is quick to put its best foot forward. The attack and movement mechanics are one and the same, and without a doubt the standout aspect of the game. By swiping across the screen in any direction, the jetpack warrior jets in the corresponding direction. If an enemy happens to be in their path, the warrior strikes at the enemy as they pass by. Most enemies need to be hit more than once, so the player must zig-zag and criss-cross their finger across the enemy to initiate multiple strikes.
As you make the gesture, you see the enemy gradually lose health, giving you the very satisfying feeling that you’re chopping apart the enemies with your own finger. Think Fruit Ninja, but way more engaging.
What makes Jetpack Fighter so engaging is that the level design really flourishes the fact that the game takes place in a 3D world. As you fly from area to area, the level will twist and turn (and the camera along with it) to give players the illusion that they are not playing in a left-to-right environment, but are fighting alongside the skyscrapers of Mega City. As they zip around these environments, enemies are strategically placed throughout the levels to give players a natural guide to follow. Because the only way to attack enemies is to pass through them, Jetpack Fighter arranges the enemies in a way where finding the best way to dispatch them is a puzzle itself.
The game focuses heavily on speed and combo points, so naturally players who are looking to top the high-score/top-speed charts are going to want to find the fastest way to destroy all the enemies in an area while keeping the combo chain active in-between groups of enemies. When you flawlessly clear an area, the fluidity of the destruction is very satisfying to behold (as well as partake in). To give players a slight advantage, the game slows down a bit to allow players to make split-second adjustments in their attack/movement direction between attacks.
Because speed is a primary motivator in Jetpack Fighter, the levels themselves are never very long. Twenty to thirty seconds seemed to be an average in my experience. Because of that, players can progress through a handful of levels in just a few minutes. The downside, though, is I eventually ran out of the energy that the game provided me to use. Energy-based systems are the norm for mobile games, but Jetpack Fighter is a little stingy in how slowly it refills. I put the game down and made dinner, came back about an hour later and that I had collected about 5 energy points. That’s not even enough to participate in one level. Turns out you get one energy every 10 minutes, while each level costs 8 energy to take a shot at.
I ended up using the free gems that the game gave me to refill my energy, but the very slow regeneration pace left me feeling soured towards the game. It seemed like it was asking me to wait way to long for what would amount to a half of a minute of gameplay. There are intervals throughout the day where if you log into the game you can collect bonus energy, but the biggest point of mobile games is having the ability to play when it’s convenient to me, so this feels a little backwards in that regard.
Luckily, even though Jetpack Fighter suffers from an energy crisis, the gameplay experience is good enough to warrant a strong recommendation.