By Eric Pankoke on Fri, 02/22/2013
I love infinite runners to the point where I’ll even play a bad one a lot longer than I should in hopes it might suddenly become enjoyable. As such, I get a bit nervous when trying a new one due to the small chance it will live up to my self-inflated standards. In some ways JOOL ($0.99) reminds me of another infinite runner I recently reviewed and wasn’t particularly kind to. However, it just goes to show that while one game might falter because of certain criteria, another can shine in spite of such things. This game might not stroke everyone’s plumage the right way, but if you’re a fan of infinite runners like I am, you should at least give it a try.
JOOL by Rostlaub is a bit of an odd duck. You take on the role of either a bluebird that looks like it popped out of a Cartoon Network series or a red devil that could be the bird’s evil twin brother, except for the horns and pitchfork, of course. Basically you are trying to keep running for as long as you can until things like unsteady platforms, annoying creatures or a simple misguided jump bring you down. All is not necessarily lost, however, because for each swirly pickup you’ve managed to collect during the game you get the chance to flip your device once, allowing you to switch to the other character and continue the race. I get that it’s nothing more than an ultra-gimmicky way to provide extra lives, but for me it actually works.
Along the way there are plenty of things to collect. I’m really not sure what most of it is for, but it’s there for your taking none the less. Certain items give you power ups like turning every platform into a stable one, making every platform bouncy or attracting all items to you like the magnet you’d find in many such games. There are also these little triangle shaped things called trips you can collect. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the trips are for because there are only two things in the store you can purchase and both of those require actual money. That’s the biggest drawback to JOOL in my opinion – there is nothing to unlock or upgrade with any of the items that you collect.
The game supports Game Center, but only for leaderboards. A few achievements to earn would be nice as well. You can brag about your high scores via Twitter and Facebook, but I’d rather have the achievements acknowledging my accomplishments. The one thing I do find interesting is that there are 30 different death scenes that you have to figure out how to unlock. That may sound a bit morbid, but who here that lived through the Dragon’s Lair era didn’t wait with baited breath to see how Dirk the Daring was going to die next?
The atmosphere in JOOL is pretty wild. When I said that the main character looked like something pulled from a Cartoon Network series, I probably could have applied that statement to the aesthetics as a whole. I wasn’t sure I liked the overall visual design at first, but it really grew on me. Just a small warning though – despite the cartoony nature the death scenes can be slightly gruesome. The sound effects just tend to enhance the craziness, especially when you’re playing as the bird. The music is really well done, and I like how it changes over time without necessarily “forcefully” transitioning from one song to another. It’s almost like it’s one long piece of music with a bunch of different styles blended together.
Every time I try out a new infinite runner I wonder if I really need another one. As it turns out, in this case the answer is “sure, why not?” There’s really nothing new about the game play other than the “flip to save your life” mechanic, and it’s a bit frustrating that there is nothing to spend the trips on. In the end, however, I’ve never played through just a single run. The fact that I keep feeling compelled to hit the Continue and Play buttons is as good enough a reason as any for me to recommend JOOL.
Overall Score: 8/10
This game was reviewed on an iPad 2 running iOS 6.0.1.