Approaching Jetpack Joyride, I felt some trepidation. I, like many others, was a video game player who came to board games, rather than the other way round. Therefore, it is no surprise that there is a history of board game adaptations of their electronic cousin. As a child, I received the Milton Bradley edition of Pac Man and played it for hours. Unfortunately, Pac Man also illustrated a flaw I have found with these adaptations: I couldn't help wishing that I was playing the video game equivalent, with no set-up time and no finding components under the sofa.
Recently, as I have moved away from the games console to the tabletop, I have added This War of Mine, Fallout and the Streetfighter Deck-building game to my collection. These are all good games in their own right, rather than just 'adaptations.' All of which brings me to Jetpack Joyride, a version of a popular mobile game, which is currently on Kickstarter.
Jetpack Joyride had a buzz about it at the UK Games Expo, based purely on the name alone. However, my friends and I didn't have high hopes as the IP didn't seem to be one that lent itself to a tabletop game. As I performed my annual trudge round the NEC hunting for bargains, the others in my group actually played it. In the car on the way home, they waxed lyrical about the excitement it generated and the fun, competitive nature of the game, both of which I definitely felt after playing it!
In terms of components, it is rather nice, although the final version will probably have more bells and whistles. A set of boards or lab cards as they are called, some small cards, a scorepad and some luminous yellow, tetrisesque track tiles are all you need to play. The basic premise is that each player builds a track using four lab cards and then takes track tiles from the pool in the middle to get to the end. You need to avoid obstacles and collect coins. And that's it! There are cards you can play and missions to achieve, but the core gameplay is easy enough to pick up in five minutes.
At the end of each round, or run as they call it, you calculate the players points based on passing over coins, missions completed or penalties for hitting obstacles. You then have two more runs and the winner is declared. The solo mode is very similar, but you remove lab tiles of a certain shape and then when you have used a tile, you put it back in the box, making the next run more difficult. You then total up your score to compare it to Luck Duck's sliding scale.
Thoughts on Jetpack Joyride
I love it, simple as that! Everyone I've played it with loved it, with ages ranging from nine to 49. It plays quickly and there is no down time for any players. The nature of the game is frenetic and there was nothing worse than someone taking the tile you wanted a split second before you.
It is surprisingly strategic too, as you have to make decisions about whether you just go for the end or try to achieve missions along the way. You get a feel for the way that your opponents play over time and adjust your style accordingly. It could be a nice little filler game before something heavier, but we've actually found that it has that 'one more go' appeal so that it becomes the main event.
This is a great implementation of an established IP and, frankly, shouldn't be this good. It is simple enough to teach in five minutes, but complex enough that you'll keep coming back to it. It could fit nicely into a beer and pretzels night or a family gaming session. This perhaps should show others how to adapt between mediums, but please, no Flappy Bird game! It was an instant back on Kickstarter for me and I recommend that you get your hands on it!