(Review) JackQuest: The Tale of The Sword

JackQuest did not look like a hard-core platformer so that’s why I walked through this door again. (I was only wrong-ish.) You start off at a picnic with your beloved and she gets taken away by a giant demon hand. (Talk about rude!) What follows is a death-filled, platforming romp littered with power ups, a vendor that is way to expensive for my tastes (keep your filthy potions) and things that want to kill you. Is this game worth your time and frustration? It’s very possible your Nintendo Switch may want this for you. let me break it down for you.

Build up that combo!

So you’re on a quest to get your girl back. You start off with nothing but your bare, useless hands until you get a giant sword akin to Cloud’s from Final Fantasy VII. The sword tells you to take it along with you in hopes to defeat the curse on itself as well as help you. Since you don’t find it strange that a sword is talking to you, you accept its help willingly. It makes a few remarks that almost made me giggle, but most are so repeated that I eventually ignored them all together. This, however, is where the real game and challenge begins. The biggest issue you may notice is the jumping physics which are reminiscent of Nintendo’s 2D New Super Mario Bros. series. I am not a fan of floaty jumps and they led to a fair bit of damage and death throughout. Luckily, while difficult, this game doesn’t take one hit to kill you. The bosses are difficult, but misjudging jumps or jump strength caused way more damage. You’ll need to adjust your jump distance or pull back because there is some precise jumping to be found here. There’s always a spike or a bad guy waiting for you somewhere you didn’t check or notice. It isn’t rampant and I got (mostly) used to it near the end of the game. There were many circumstances that it would look like I was playing a fighting game moving my character back and forth for positioning to avoid something painful.

Bosses are jerks. Don’t go into the fights expected them to want hugs… they don’t.

While the bad guys are not the hardest part of the game, they can be annoying. It’s doubly annoying if they shoot any sort of projectile. Once again, ceiling spiders are the bane of my existence. All baddies have patterns that you’ll need to figure out. With some, there’s a form of timing and spacing. Others require (for me at least) a bit more force using your special moves. I almost thought I had the game in the bag when I picked up a bow and had dreams of plinking baddies off at a distance only to have that shattered by the lack of damage it does. It can be used to build up a combo and I think a higher combo does deal more damage, but I could be imagining it. In some cases (with sword or bow), you might even find an opportunity to hit and stun a boss (suck it spider boss). At the same time, the level’s spike pits prove to be much more formidable to me even though they don’t move (usually). I remember the water snake boss that took me quite a few tries to defeat and right after I finally killed it, I jumped too high with only half of a heart left and died to some spikes on the ceiling. There is no random auto-save so I had to do the fight all over again (and again).

Explore everywhere to find all of those bonuses to your health and special abilities and don’t forget the silver Goldfish cracker!

As you explore the labyrinth that is the game’s world, you’ll find extra hearts and crystals that will boost your health and amount of special moves you can pull off. Every bit of damage you take removes half a heart so the more the merrier. The blue crystals allow you to do a sword spinning move that deals damage and at the same time blocks all incoming damage. If you’ve equipped the bow, you’ll do a lightning dash forward that also negates damage. I held onto the crystals like I would shotgun ammo in a Resident Evil game, but I learned to utilize them more and more as some bosses threw a bit more than I could handle at times. You’ll need to get over the hoarding mentality to beat the game (though I would be impressed if someone beat the game without using a special move to kill an enemy. (Pro Tip: you can kill the resurrecting skeletons with the sword-spinning move.)

JackQuest is solid and surprisingly fun game even for a person who doesn’t quite like dying so much. (There’s so many of them!) It was probably the ability to increase my health bar that stopped me from dying in a few hits (thankfully not one hit) that carried me onward. The music was pretty good and atmospheric, but faded into the background from time to time unfortunately. I, again, loved the pixel work here. If it wasn’t for the floaty jumping I’d be a bit more excited about this title. Once I got a better hang of the controls, the deaths felt less cheap while the challenge remained. Also, the game did crash on me twice randomly, but it has been reported, and I trust these guys to fix whatever the problem was. As it stands, JackQuest is a short game that has a simple story, but is coupled with compelling gameplay. The maze isn’t overly complicated, but filled with plenty of places to die and to check out (there’s a few hidden spots too). I’d definitely recommend checking it out even if you’re usually averse to games that like to see you die.

Further Reading on JackQuest: The Tale of The Sword: Official Page / Nintendo eShop / Twitter

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