Wednesday, January 23

Review: JackQuest - The Tale of the Sword [Nintendo Switch eShop]


There’s no doubt that indie games have inspired a return to older sensibilities when it comes to difficulty. If your goal isn’t to attract mainstream audiences to make a bajillion dollars and you instead would rather focus on the rather determined and sizeable contingent of hardcore gamers out there you can dare to crank up the challenge a bit. JackQuest: Tale of the Sword sports an attractive pixel art look, some pretty challenging platforming, and combat with a big-ass sword. If you’re able to forgive some of its more frustrating tendencies, and they aren’t all just to do with challenging combat or level layouts, it will give you some hours of tough play.


After watching his woman Nara get abducted by the evil Korg, Jack will need to brave some tough opposition to save her. Thankfully almost right away he finds a big honking sword, which happens to have the essence of a warrior named Kuro in it, who’ll then periodically give you tips on how to defeat Korg and save your woman. What follows is a mix of side-scrolling combat, some really tough platforming and wall jumping, and a number of bosses that will require some work to defeat.


Armed only with your sword and a bow you acquire pretty early on you’ll need to be pretty on top of things too as the opportunities to heal are pretty scarce (and weirdly inconsistent), save points can be pretty spread out in places (and there isn’t always one before a boss fight as well), and you can expect to do an unhealthy amount of dying because of all those things. While you will sometimes get little bits of healing from things like smashed crates you can’t count on any of it as they appear randomly so some runs you can get a little more healing than others. There are shops every once in a while as well but even if you aren’t completely strapped for coins at all times your opportunities to heal even at those spots aren’t terribly abundant. The main takeaway is that since, in general, crystals that replenish your magic tend to be more plentiful than health potions making use of magic when you’re at risk of getting hit is a worthwhile strategy.


Otherwise, the result is that for quite a number of save points you’ll really need to consider killing yourself and trying again fresh. Once you’ve lost too much health if you save you’re really making it far tougher on yourself than it needs to be. If you have a bad run you’re better off not fighting to make it, cut your losses and try to do better, you’ll thank me later. Two factors really exacerbate the situation with trying to stay healthy: Chunky controls that lack the degree of precision a game like this really needs and that fact that the game feels about 25% too zoomed in the majority of the time. Failing to make a move is aggravating but usually it could at least be argued that you should have been better prepared. Getting hit by enemies or projectiles with too little notice to make a move as you attempt to proceed happens too often and is tremendously aggravating. It doesn’t help that making precision jumps or narrowly avoiding contact with spikes or enemies is often an issue, but between Jack’s tendency to go a bit further than you mean to and having some enemies shoot at you before you can even see them (or what they’re firing) it can take some added patience to get through.


If you’re in the crowd that likes to feel the sting of aggravation and the elation of overcoming some tough level designs and enemies, JackQuest could be of interest. While it, no doubt, aspires to be in the same category as titles like Super Meat Boy what holds it back is the fact that its design and controls aren’t nearly as fine-tuned so instead of every hit and death being on the player there are plenty of instances where the game is a bit rigged against you. Not everyone will object to this, you can choose to just lump it in as what the game is asking of you, but that also makes it tricky to recommend for anyone beyond people eager for a challenge, even it if can be a bit cheap in places.


Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • Some great pixel art and music
  • Challenging platforming
  • A decent overall length for the price of admission

Cons:
  • The zoomed in view can be problematic in spots
  • A lack of opportunities to heal can make the best plan at times simply killing yourself and trying again rather than strap yourself to lower heath from that point forward
  • For a game with so many spots built on precision the controls simply aren’t as tight as they should be