Jett Rocket is a 3D platformer on WiiWare developed by Shin’en, who have previously made shooters on GBA and DS, most recently Nanostray 2. It’s a different direction for them and a new challenge, but they’ve passed with flying colours. Jett Rocket is amazing.
First of all, what they’ve pulled off with the 40mb size limit on WiiWare is absolutely astonishing. The graphics in this game are some of the very best on Wii, it has detailed textures and great effects and it’s all done at 60 frames per second. Always. The framerate -never- drops. It also has the best water and snow i’ve seen in a game on any platform. Many developers have complained about the size limit on Wii limiting what they can do graphically, which either means Shin’en are absolute technical genuises, or mediocre developers like to whinge. I’m thinking a bit of both.
While the graphics are a big talking point, they still take a backseat to the gameplay. The platforming feels wonderful, there’s something about the sound it makes when you land that’s satisfying, “I made it”. Jumps have impact, yet still retain the smooth easy athletic movement that makes a character like Mario so easy to move. It’s hard to describe, but moving Jett Rocket around feels like you’re controlling a mini superhero, a solid action figure that’s come to life. Everything from the way the jetpack activates to the way he swings his arms around while moving just makes me smile. Smashing enemies with motion controls is also very satisfying, there’s nothing complicated, it just takes a simple swing to roll or smash the ground. The polish of the movements and accuracy of the controls is something you’d expect from Nintendo. Shin’en clearly know the fundamentals of making a fun game.
What’s the game about then? The goal is collecting things and fighting baddies, it takes me back to the good old days of simple platformers in the PS1 / N64 era. You travel around 12 levels in 3 worlds collecting solar cells to repair your ship. Jett Rocket is a quiet character, he never says anything, and there’s no huge backstory behind him; he’s a Planetary Inspector who runs into a group called the PPP (Power Plant Posse) who are up to no good polluting planets. He’s armed with good intentions and a jetpack.
The ability to hover using your jetpack isn’t always available, as you have to find powerup stations to fill up the tank. This gives the game a bit more variation and makes it impossible to abuse the jetpack through every level, it might seem like a restriction but it actually opens up more creativity in the level design. Sometimes the challenge won’t be the actual act of hovering, but figuring out how to get that far with your limited jetpack fuel. It’s not a difficult game, but it’s challenging enough to be engaging and hold the players interest. Navigating and exploring the worlds is where a lot of the fun lies in this game. Some cells are hidden very well and finishing the game properly will require some tricky jumping and creative thinking.
The environments feel refreshing and open: there’s a comfortable feeling about moving the camera around and exploring a level. The game isn’t huge but still manages a decent variety of atmospheres, featuring sunny islands, icy areas, and musky swamplands. The music is good too, it’s subtle and atmospheric, and rather than being in your face and commanding attention it compliments the environments. It’s haunting and otherworldly while still being pleasant. There’s nothing upbeat or in your face, but I still found myself humming some of the tunes without even realising.
After you’ve finished the game and gone back for all the solar cells, there’s 20 “awards” to unlock. They’re basically achievements for random silly things, like finishing a level without killing an enemy. You could see them as extra challenges, or as a reward for not having fun. Either way they’re there. It’s a short game that can be beaten in five to ten hours – that’s about the only toll the 40mb size limit takes on this game. Considering the game is one third the price of a full retail game, this can be forgiven.
All in all Jett Rocket is a highly enjoyable game, with its only real drawback being that there’s not enough of it. In this case though, the content matches the price, the game is only 1000 points on WiiWare, so I recommend it to anybody with a Wii. Jett Rocket is one of the system’s best games and I hope we see more, a lot more, soon. Please support this incredible game.