Sonic Jump is the latest installment in the series of Sonic games for the mobile platform. However, unlike the other games that came before it, this is a brand new game and not just a port from some other platform. Update: It seems this is a remake of a J2ME game released on mobile several years ago.
With Sonic Jump, the series has taken a new direction, and I mean literally at that. Instead of the previous side scrolling or the third person sprinting, Sonic Jump takes you straight up, as you vertically jump from one platform to another. We decided to take a look and see how well this new experiment works.
Note: The game is currently only available on iOS but an Android version is expected in November.
If you have played Doodle Jump, you already know how to play Sonic Jump. You have a character that is constantly bouncing and you have to control him around so he doesn’t fall off the platforms or hit an enemy. You control the character by tilting the device left or right. To jump higher mid-air, tap once on the screen. You will have enemies to deal with and to take them down just jump towards them from below. Hitting them from the sides or the top means you will be the one taking the damage.
This is a Sonic game, so obviously there are rings to collect. You can collect as many rings as you can but if you hit an enemy or a spike strip you lose all of them. Hit something again when you have zero rings and you die. At times you will find safes during a level that you can use to store all the rings you have collected till that point so if you hit something you don’t lose all of them.
Along with the rings, you also have three stars to collect during the level. Depending upon the number of rings and stars you collected and the time you took to reach the top, you get rated in the end. You don’t need a great rating to complete the level; just reaching the top does the trick but you might want to play the levels again to get a better rating. Completing the level unlocks the next one.
There are three worlds in the Story mode of the game, with 12 levels each. The first 11 levels have the same basic structure where you have to avoid all obstacles and reach the top. The 12th one is a boss level where you have to keep jumping to the top while avoiding as well as attacking the boss. SEGA has promised more levels in future through free updates.
There is also an Arcade mode, where there is no finish line and you have to keep going as high as you can, similar to Doodle Jump. You can compete with your friends through Game Center to see who can jump the highest in Arcade mode.
The pacing of the game in the initial levels was a bit slow and it was fairly easy to complete the level without breaking into a sweat. But by the second world things go up several notches and while before it hardly took any effort to collect all the rings and reach the top, you would now have a hard time even reaching halfway through the level without dying several times.
The shift in difficulty comes in right when you start thinking things were getting too easy and takes you by surprise. By the end of the second world, the sheer number of things you have to look out for while jumping is quite staggering and it’s hard not to die repeatedly if you aren’t paying attention. In fact, to be honest, I didn’t quite manage to finish the game in time for this review because I got stuck badly at this one level for a long time and am yet to finish it.
Helping you through the game are several power-ups that you can use, such as magnets that attract nearby rings towards you, shield for protection against enemies, etc. You can either purchase them using the rings you collected or you can also often find them within the level while playing. If you don’t have enough rings, you can purchase more using in-app purchase option.
While reading about the premise one might assume that the game would become boring pretty quickly but that does not happen. Sonic Jump introduces new gameplay mechanics at a frequent rate so with every other level you have a new challenge to look out for. The platforms you jump on eventually start sliding around, flipping upside down, crumbling underneath you and at times, completely disappearing. You have spike strips to watch out for, enemies that explode when you’re near them, fans that blow you sideways and giant boulders dropping down from the top. Keeping up with all of this requires the reaction times of a fly on Red Bull and perfect timing for the double jump or else you would soon have to start all over again.
Is the game exciting? Yes. Can it be frustratingly difficult at times? Yes. But I think the developers have managed to keep the difficulty level just high enough to make you want to keep playing and push harder instead of giving up immediately.
If you get tired of playing with Sonic you can also unlock other Sonic world characters such as Tails and Knuckles to play with instead but they can only be unlocked once you reach a specific level in the game.
Graphics and Sound
Sonic Jump uses the same typical colorful visuals that you have seen for a long time in the Sonic series of games. Even the sound is similar to the old-school 8-bit style sounds for some of the actions, such as jumping. Not that the game looks or sounds bad, in fact it looks pretty good on the iPad’s Retina display. It’s just the visuals and the sound feels a bit dated now after all these years, especially the music, which is just about average.
Just look at the Rayman series, for example. It too has been around for a while now but received a major facelift recently with Rayman Origins and Jungle Run, which significantly freshened up the visuals of the game while maintaining the basic look that the game is known for. The Sonic series has been around for even longer and is starting to look a bit long in the tooth. A major visual upgrade could inject some new life into the series and make it more appealing to today’s gamers.
To dismiss Sonic Jump as a Doodle Jump rip-off would be a folly, because this game is much more than that. The basic gameplay might be similar, but SEGA has added enough bells and whistles to make this feel like an entirely different game, and a good one at that. The basic controls make the game approachable to anyone and the challenging levels will give some of the more serious gamers enough meat to chew on. The visuals and sound are definitely in need of a major refresh and this applies not just to this game but the entire Sonic universe but otherwise it’s not a bad looking game at all and looks especially good on high resolution displays.
For $1.99, Sonic Jump is well worth the money and worth checking out even if you’re not a particularly big fan of Sonic games.
Rating: 4/5 Pros: Fun, challenging gameplay, short levels make it ideal for pick up and play Cons: Graphics and sound can use some freshening up to keep up with the times