PSN Review: Arkedo Series: 01 Jump!



After absolutely loving the oversized pixels out of Pix’n Love Rush DX, I was delighted to find that Sanuk Games had their hand in a trio of similarly retro-themed games from Arkedo. After being XBLA Indie exclusives for a couple of years, Arkedo Series is finally making its way to the PlayStation Network with first entry 01 – Jump!, and while it never reaches the heights of giddy delight that Pix’n Love Rush did, it’s a beautiful, charming and challenging platformer that’s a must for those who love the pixellated graphics and intense difficulty of old-school platform games.

Keeping things perfectly simple, Arkedo Series – 01 Jump! sets up its plot in barely a couple of sentences. A giant metal crab has appeared, dropping bombs everywhere and only Jumpman can save the day. As the hat-sporting fan of vertical movement, you’ll be dodging bone-throwing skeletons, deadly snakes, crabs, bats, crumbling floors and falling spikes as you rush to collect bombs before they explode. Each level contains a certain number of bombs on a timer, all of which need to be collected before they explode to unlock the door to finish the stage. Some have incredibly short timers, meaning you’ll need to speed to grab them in sequence, while some are locked away and only open after you collect enough treasure (which also unlock extra challenge levels). There’s a clever variety of bomb-snagging platforming gameplay throughout the 30 levels and even more in the challenge stages, and Jump! proves an addictively simple treat despite (or because of) it’s strict old-school design.
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In true retro game fashion, there are no continues, checkpoints or between-level save points – once your lives are gone, you’re starting from the beginning. Naturally, if you’re looking for an easy, short-burst, pick-up-and-play game, you might be a little disappointed in Jump! since it’s a platformer that, if you want to complete it, needs to be played from start to end in one sitting. It also embraces the old-school, controller-through-the-TV difficulty that is rare in modern games, and while it may put off some people, those who relish a hardcore challenge will love it. Throw in simple, tight, responsive controls for those later, harder moments when you’ll need pixel perfect precision and Jump! is a tough, but incredibly fun platformer throwback.

The gameplay isn’t the only part of the game that embraces nostalgic retro style. Jump! adopts a simple, but gorgeous, colourful block pixel retro aesthetic that looks fantastic in HD and the cheerful, chirpy chiptune soundtrack is just as perfect. On top of that, the game has a charming sense of humour, with plenty of fun in-jokey gag messages, like a level named ‘Snake, Snake, Snaaake!’, a pause message that reminds you to wash your hands, and plenty of death screen jabs. There’s also a great level designed as a nod to Super Mario Bros., though thankfully for the most part, Jump! creates its own unique levels and just layers them with an icing of enjoyable humour and game references rather than rely entirely on nostalgic repetition.
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Unfortunately an odd issue or two does makes the difficulty level a bit more frustrating. In a game with no continues, the amount of extra lives you’ve collected are a precious commodity. If you screw up and lose a life or two early on through carelessness or rookie mistakes, it’s usually much wiser to just restart than try to struggle through with fewer to spare when it really counts. Sadly, there’s no ‘Quit Game’ option on the pause menu, so you’re stuck having to wait to respawn and repeatedly kill yourself off until your lives are gone if you want to start fresh. A level which asks you to run along a platform above dozens of skeletons, all throwing bones in unpredictable directions, places more emphasis on sheer luck, rather than skill like the rest of the game (even if it does give you an extra life at the beginning of the stage to level the field a little). As much of a relief as it was to finish that level after dying a billion times, making it through a level simply by a fluke of luck isn’t as rewarding as being able to achieve the same result with skill.

It’s not quite the gaming euphoria that Pix’N Love Rush DX was, but it’s a similarly loving throwback to the days of simple 2D platforming and intensely tough difficulty, with a great sense of humour and a tonne of retro charm. And it can be picked up for the price of a sandwich, so unless you’re starving to death, it’s a no-brainer.

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Arkedo Series: 01 Jump! is available to buy on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade now.