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Junk Jack Review
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Junk Jack, a Minecraft-like open-world sandbox game from Pixbits, is now available from the app store. Less of a game and more of an adventure in existence, Junk Jack offers a rich environment to farm and craft to your heart’s content.

Junk Jack Pros:

  • Appealing graphics in open-world environment
  • Upbeat chiptune soundtrack
  • Touch controls are simple and responsive
  • Three worlds to inhabit with tons of items to collect and create
  • GameCenter integration for achievements

Junk Jack Cons:

  • Incessant tapping to destroy blocks can be uncomfortable
  • Lack of direction or explanation can be frustrating and initially confusing
  • Easy to confuse the background for the foreground

As the titular character Jack, you are thrust into a world full of destructible trees, columns, and blocks of Earth. You are given no instruction and no clear cut goal. With nothing else to do, Jack’s lone resort is to start smashing the world around him. Doing so will cause you to discover various collectible items, from coal, wood, and dirt to leaves, sand, and stone. All items are gathered in your knapsack, easily accessible at a moment’s notice. Some of the key items you’ll find are notes that indicate how to combine items to create new and more useful items. For example, these recipes explain how to use coal and a wooden plank to create a torch to see in the dark. You’ll learn to make a pick axe from wood and planks, giving you added power when destroying blocks. It is the discovery of the various uses of different items that captured our attention and imagination, while the lack of any sort of initial hand-holding or tutorial caused a good deal of frustration. Despite not really being a game in the traditional sense (no timers, scores, end points to reach), you do have a small number of hearts to represent your health, which is diminished by falling great distances or contacting a variety of small enemies, like spiders and skulls. Losing all of your health leads to respawning with fewer items than you had when you died, a sort of minor penalty that you incur.

Graphically, the 2D side-scrolling presentation works well, with easily identifiable objects and blocks that form deeper and deeper cracks until they burst into a shower of pixels, often leaving behind a number of items whose use may not be immediately evident, but it certainly should be down the line. Blocks come in two layers (foreground and background), leading to some confusion when you think a background block is in the foreground only to discover your error as you fall into a hole. Lighting effects also play a major role, as day turns to night and you are plunged into near darkness. Torches help to get your bearings and alert you to nearby enemies, provided you figure out how to use them. The chiptune soundtrack provides a nice soundscape that fits with the graphical style of the game. Controls utilize tapping repeatedly to destroy environmental objects, as well as selecting bagged items to use in the crafting section. Double-tapping splits bundles of similar objects into more manageable lots, while dragging places them into the desired spots. You can select up to 5 items to fill a sidebar for instant access from the main gaming area. Moving around your world is executed by swiping in one direction or another, with Jack able to leap one-block-wide gaps using diagonal swipes. It can take a little time to get used to the controls, but once you are familiar, they become second nature.

Replay value is quite good, as there are 3 worlds to inhabit with items that follow you from one to another. The breadth of items that can be created is quite impressive, and some players are able to develop some beautiful homes and landscapes. Despite its open nature and non-traditional gaming, there are a handful of GameCenter achievements to earn, though we feel that the experience is its own reward. At $2.99, Junk Jack is an interesting 4-Dimple option when you want something just a bit different.

Junk Jack Review, reviewed by Kevin on 2011-11-15T02:19:18+00:00 rating 4.0 out of 5



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