JumpJet Rex is a tyrannosaur with rocket boots. If ever you find yourself wondering why video games exist, it’s because, eventually, they’d allow you to play as a tyrannosaur wearing rocket boots. If JumpJet Rex did nothing else at all, it would succeed simply because its protagonist justifies all of video gaming. You get to play a rocket boot-wearing pixel art t-rex zipping through levels that don’t seem to be particularly dinosaur friendly, collecting coins at high speed to keep the multiplier alive while hoping not to crash into an electrified wall, unlike last time which left you a blackened pile of ash and eyeballs.
JumpJet Rex is a 2D time-trial platformer that’s landing on Early Access this week. There may be a plot in there some day but right now it’s the kind of senseless action that would be right at home in an 80s arcade combined with an art style more suited to the Super Nintendo. You’re a dino who can use his boots to multi-jump with no limit, dash horizontally, and do an accelerated stomp. String the moves together and you just might survive the coin-filled mazes trying to kill the poor little t-rex.
Each ability can segue seamlessly into another, allowing pinpoint movement precision with a little practice. Rex’s moves aren’t the most complicated, but the levels are built around exploiting them to their fullest. Robots patrol the passageways, some destructible and some not, hidden paths have extra goodies and bonus areas to find, and spikes and electrified walls are everywhere. You can carefully maneuver around each section if you like, but that’s a slow way to get around and the clock is ticking. Maxing out a level means getting one star for simply completing it, another for surviving with no deaths, and a third for beating the clock. Those last two should probably be combined, seeing as you’re highly unlikely to get a good time if you get pushed back to a checkpoint after dying, but seeing as the version I played hasn’t gotten the Early Access feedback yet there’s a lot of things I expect will get adjusted in the coming weeks.
The basic concept is fantastic, the game mechanics are perfectly responsive, and the level design shows a lot of variety, but the challenge level in its current form shows signs of being tuned by people who play the game day-in and day-out. The first of the two bosses, for example, is insanely difficult, and not made any better by a recent update moving some electro-blocks from the floor to the ceiling. Rex is a one-hit wonder and any miscalculation sends you back to the most recent checkpoint, which isn’t a lot of fun when the boss’s health gets topped off. The laser gates that turn on and off are another particularly brutal dino-killer, and in a game that’s as much about beating the clock while trying to collect the next coin before the combo multiplier fades away they could stand to be just a little bit more forgiving to the player who’s in a hurry.
The whole point of Early Access is player feedback, however, so with any luck JumpJet Rex will end up leaning more towards challenging than frustrating as it develops, but even if it doesn’t, Rex is still a cute little guy in an inventive not-really-platforming world (it’s hard to call a game a platformer when your feet rarely touch the ground). Every challenge is tuned around the mobility Rex’s rocket boots give him, and no matter the obstacle he can somehow zip over, around, or through it with a grace not normally ascribed to giant lumbering carnivorous dinosaurs. With a bit of luck and Early Access feedback, JumpJet Rex should easily overcome every obstacle in its path. Except for getting items off the top shelf, of course, because all the rocket boots in the world aren’t going to make those arms any bigger.