Older gamers who grew up on a strict diet of pixelated 8-bit excitement will have fond memories of Cirus Charlie. It was a wonderfully simple game with a charming atmosphere, asking you to jump your little clown through or over an increasingly challenging stream of obstacles. Now, close to three decades later, developer Gregory Parton has tried to recapture the essence of Konami’s classic puzzler with Jumper Jester for your mobile device.
All the pieces of the puzzle are in place: delightful characters; timing-based endless-runner gameplay; cheerful circus soundtrack – it’s a clear homage to the original, but with a fresh coat of paint. The crisp and colorful art style makes for a good first impression, and is sure to captivate younger gamers when they enter the circus tent for the first time – Jumpy Jester has that vibrant look that children gravitate towards.
But a few rounds of Jumpy Jester will hint that this obvious targeting of the younger sector of the gaming market is at odds with the gameplay itself. This is a platform romp which requires such precise timing that most children will be frothing with frustration before long. Even veteran gamers, those who have run the gauntlet of heavily demanding timing-based platformers, will have a hard time keeping their jester jumping for a full minute.
There are three animal obstacles to hop over, starting with a small monkey, then a medium lion with a skipping rope, and then a big brown bear, coming at you one at a time in random sequence. Your jester has a limited arsenal to cope with the challenge – a set-height jump, and an occasional “god mode” power-up to help you handle the onslaught of circus beasts. Getting over the monkeys is a breeze, while the lions require a bit of finesse but are manageable. The bears, though, are Jumpy Jester’s greatest failing. These towering behemoths are almost impossible to clear with any consistency, which means an instant “game over”.
It’s a glaring design flaw – we all like a challenge, but the hit-box for the bear character is just too big, and this issue single-handedly sucks the joy out of this otherwise happy, whimsical platform game. Had the bears been slightly smaller, or at least their hit-box been just a little less sensitive, Jumpy Jester could have been a simple yet addictive game. Instead we’re left with a cute platformer which never amounts to much because each round is unlikely to last more than a minute.
There are other areas which could have been expanded on to liven things up, like a few different power-ups or perhaps variable timing for the incoming obstacles. Some sort of collectable item gimmick or things to unlock as you play would have been a re-play motivator – that “just one more go” feeling that is key for games like this. As it stands right now, Jumpy Jester is a bright, happy platform game which reeks of missed opportunities. It’s available free on the iStore and Google Play Store, so if you’re aching for a trip down memory lane to relive your Circus Charlie moments it’s not going to cost you anything. Just be prepared to be rather frustrated within the first half hour.
Requires iOS 7.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This app is optimized for iPhone 5.