‘Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai’ is a platform game with a variety of game play styles for the Nintendo 3DS.
You play as a young, athletic adventurer named ‘Jett’ who’s small robotic pals have been teleported into captivity by his nemesis, the evil robot ‘Taikai’. After thwarting Taikai in the previous adventure for the Nintendo Wii, he has returned from exile at the edge of the galaxy to wreak revenge. Jett’s mission is to travel to three fortified bases to save his mechanical buddies and beat Taikai one more time.
The story is as mediocre as they come, thankfully the game play is of a much higher quality. ‘Jett Rocket II’ is a platform game (for the most part anyway) but is presented in a variety of different styles. There are classic 2D side scrolling stages (think Mega Man Powered Up), 3D side scrolling stages (think Mario 3D land), and free roaming 3D staged (think Banjo-Kazooie). In addition to these main stages there are also some fun arcade style special stages after each base which includes a fast paced 3D jet ski stage, a free falling ‘Pilot Wings’ style stage, and a side scrolling shoot-em-up stage which is where you have your final battle with ‘Taikai’.
Despite the fact that the stages vary in style they all control and play in the same fashion with the same moves, power-ups and goals to achieve. This is great as the emersion you feel while playing is never broken or disjointed. The mix of styles actually complement each other very well, with the only difference in controls being the inclusion of the L & R triggers in the roaming 3D stages which are used to rotate the camera.
In all the main stages Jett can dash, jump, double jump and wall kick. He can also take advantage of power-ups such as being able to spawn his own moving platforms or use a rocket pack to blast his way up to higher areas. He can also interact with the landscape by hitting switches or breaking through marked walls which will either help him progress through stages or find secrets. All the main stages contain lots of secret areas which could contain anything from mirrors (coins), extra lives, collectables or access to bonus rooms.
The stages are all wonderfully designed with plenty of intricate and well thought out hazards to avoid (lasers, circular saws, flames, rotating platforms, all the usual suspects) along with a smattering of enemies to take care of. I’d say that the ratio of platforming hazards to enemy combat is balanced far more in favour of the hazards, although I actually preferred this. For me I would say that the level’s design and layout is the driving force behind this game and the element that kept me wanting to play on until the end.
At the end of each base is a boss which acts as a bit of an endurance round as each boss only requires three hits, however you need to survive a series of attacks before they expose their weak spot. These attacks normally involve dodging a pattern of bullets or attacking a stream of enemies.
The game isn’t too challenging overall. You start the game with three lives however continues are unlimited and the game saves after each stage. If you lose a life you’re sent back to the last checkpoint you hit and if you lose all your lives you have to restart the stage. I like this system as it encourages you not to be too slap dash in how you play but it isn’t too punishing if you lose too many lives. Although some of the later stages can be a bit taxing you’re free to keep on trying until you eventually beat them. If you feel as if a level or boss is a bit beyond you then you can tilt the odds in your favour by gaining some extra health and lives in the many bonus games which you can visit from the hub world at the cost of some mirrors.
The game can be completed in one lengthy sitting however it does have a save function so if you wanted to break it up into two or three more manageable sittings then the experience probably won’t feel as strenuous in the later stages. Although you can save the game it only contains one save profile which is a shame.
There is quite a bit of replay value with this title as each stage contains hidden collectables in the form of photographs. The photographs themselves aren’t much to look at as they simply consist of in game items, however finding them all opens up a bonus mode with some alternative stages to play. In addition to this if you beat the game you unlock ‘Mirror Mode’ which is essentially playing the main game over again but this time each stage contains five strategically placed counters which you must collect before you’re allowed to exit a level.
On the down side, although Jett is extremely versatile in his movement there are a few issues with his controls which take a bit of getting used to. When controlling ‘Jett’ you use the ‘A’ trigger to jump and the ‘B’ trigger to dash. You are not able to jump on enemies as this will cause you damage, however you can dash head on into enemies to destroy them. This is all well and good but the confusion comes in when it comes to double jumps. Although you can’t hurt enemies with a jump you can hurt them in the form of a double jump as the second part of the jump acts as an elevated dash. So half the time you land on an enemy you’ll get hurt, and the other half of the time you’ll destroy them. On paper the explanation is clear although this can catch you out while playing. The second issue with double jumping is how you pull off the move. In any other platform game you would press ‘Jump’ to lift yourself into the air and them hit ‘Jump’ again to elevate yourself higher, however in this game you have to press ‘Jump’ followed by ‘Dash’. This really doesn’t feel natural and took me until about the third stage before I felt comfortable with it.
The second issue I had with the controls was with the wall jump. Unfortunately when it comes to wall jumps in platform games there doesn’t seem to be an established method of control as yet, however if there ever is then I certainly hope that Jett Rocket II’s method won’t be it. Rather than holding the D-Pad or analogue stick towards the wall and pressing ‘jump’ you seem to have to press the button once to establish that you intend on wall jumping and then press it a second time to execute the jump. Either that or there’s a slight delay between when you make contact with the wall and the point you’re allowed to jump off it. I’ve beaten the game and still haven’t quite worked it out. I’ve taken to hitting the jump button repeatedly until I actually do jump. This is very off putting in situations where you need to jump back and forth up a vertical shaft.
As far as the game’s presentation is concerned there lacks a lot to be desired. Initially when the game began I was very pleased with the graphics. I was particularly impressed with the background scenery as the clouds and water looked photo realistic without seeming out of place. However as I proceeded through the stages one thing that stuck out is that many of the stages looked similar to the point where the game became very bland to look at. World’s 1 & 3 were just a mesh of blue water & sky with lots or grey walls and floors. World 2 added a splash of green to the mix with more of a jungle setting but that’s about it. It’s a shame that a game that offers so much variety in game play style offers so little variety in appearance. Although the music and sound did the job that too was also very generic and left no lasting impression. I feel bad for criticising elements which are ultimately cosmetic issues and do not distract from what is a well designed platform game, but at the same I feel as if this game is misrepresented by them. The characters in the game suffer from similar problems with the enemies and robots all being incredibly boring and the main character despite being very versatile and athletic appears wooden and undesirable.
In conclusion although ‘Jett Rocket II: The Wrath of Taikai’ does at first appear to be deceptively boring it’s actually far better than it looks. With strong level design, plenty of variety in play styles and lots of secrets & bonuses which more than make up for bland presentation and at times questionable controls.
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