Publisher: Freedom Games
Developer: BitBull Ltd
Release: May 18, 2021
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
When I first saw Jetboard Joust, my first impression was that this was going to be another retro-style Atari game clone, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to capture the enjoyment I had with those early games. And I like a lot of the retro games because of my nostalgic feelings towards them. If I were to play those for the first time today, I’m not sure they would have the same appeal.
So I went into Jetboard Joust with some feelings of trepidation. However, those feelings quickly faded away, as the game turned out to be an amazing homage to those early retro games but incorporating modern day gameplay mechanics.
The premise of the game is pretty straightforward. Your character is sent to defend five different planets from invading aliens who are trying to capture the residents on the planet. Your weapon is a jetboard that you utilize to cruise left and right in this side scrolling SHMUP.
The game play is easy to pick up. You move left and right on your jetboard. You start out with a basic range weapon and you shoot everything you see on the screen. As you continue to play through the game, new weapons will become available to you, and boy are there a ton of weapons that you can find. The hard part is determining which weapon you want to keep. The guns range from shotguns to buzzsaws to grenade launchers. Each weapon does require you to find more ammo to continue its use, otherwise you’ll be stuck using the basic ranged weapon you start off with. But there’s plenty of ammo to pick up as you play through the level.
The enemies are as varied as the weapons, which was a bit of a surprise. There are enemies that fly jetboards like yourself, and they will swoop down to capture the residents of the planet. Saving all the residents will give you more bonus points at the end of the level. Letting them get captured will result in the enemy becoming much bigger and more powerful. So it’s in your best interest to save the captured residents before the enemy takes them to the top of screen.
Besides the varied enemy types, there are mini bosses that protect the temple in each stage and a final boss that you must defeat in each world. Every stage you play through on a level will have a temple that houses a different type of treasure - either a boost to your jetboard or body armor, more money, or a new weapon or weapon upgrade. To unlock the temple, you must summon the temple guardian (which can only be done once all the enemies have been defeated). Once you defeat the guardian, it will drop a key which will let you unlock the temple and claim the goods inside. One of the best aspects of this game is the risk/reward system; you don’t need to take on the temple guardian as you can just choose to continue on to the next level, but if you want to be able to progress against the boss, you’ll need the loot.
As you progress through the world, you are given options to travel through it via a path tree. Each path will show you what rewards are found in the temple via icons, so you can decide which path will best suit your needs. The paths do cumulate to a final path to the boss, so there’s no concern about taking a wrong path.
The boss battles are challenging and satisfying, as each boss will have different stages they go through as you whittle down their health. They are tough and will require you to understand their attack patterns in each phase.