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Screwjumper! (Xbox 360) artwork

Screwjumper! (Xbox 360) review


"The best way to keep the score rising is to keep your jet-boots burning. As you charge through columns of pads, avoiding a circle of mines, the walls vibrate with a cacophony of multiplier-inducing explosions. You ignore the searing flames that wrap around your hurtling body. You might disintegrate at any second, but you push it to the brink for that next line of pads."



Your employer screwed you over and replaced you with a mindlessly diligent automaton. No one is going to fault you for wanting some payback. There’s just one problem. When your job involves fearless leaps through vertical mine shafts, revenge goes way beyond stealing office supplies or skimming a few bucks off the top. For this lesson in business ethics, you’ll need to strap on the jet-boots, grab some dynamite, and dive into the mines for a freefall of mass destruction.

Your target is the reactor core nestled at the bottom of the pit, but your former employer had the foresight to rig it with gaseous booby traps. You’ll need to disrupt the system’s integrity first, and the only way to do that is to wreak maximum havoc. Like a platformer in reverse, you plummet through the shafts to destroy every floating pad and piece of machinery by smashing through it or blasting it with dynamite on your way down. Once you reach the bottom, and assuming the core’s defense have been disabled, you toss one final stick of dynamite, kick your jets into reverse, and boost through the flames back to safety.

Screwjumper! only has 20 stages, but each one presents a new challenge. Some are short but packed with objects, some are longer with branching paths, and others are harrowing descents past laser grids and ore grinders. Getting through all the mines is a struggle, and you’ll undoubtedly utter a word or two that momma certainly didn’t teach you, but most players should be able to clear everything, including Endurance Mode, Time Trials, and Race Mode, in a day or two. That would have been a letdown, but in true XBLA fashion, the real point of Screwjumper! is to grab the top spot on the leaderboards. For that, you need to tear the place apart and pad your score with damage bonuses.

The best way to keep the score rising is to keep your jet-boots burning. As you charge through columns of pads, avoiding a circle of mines, the walls vibrate with a cacophony of multiplier-inducing explosions. You ignore the searing flames that wrap around your hurtling body. You might disintegrate at any second, but you push it to the brink for that next line of pads. You could play it safe, holding the airbrake while carefully clearing your path with dynamite and lining up the pads, but slow screwjumpers don’t get the bonuses.

Ironically, I am not sure if gut-wrenching speed is what Frozen Codebase had in mind. Crashing through pads gets the points, and speed keeps the score multiplier climbing, but the two don’t always work together. I charged forward at full-tilt, racking up a nice multiplier, but ultimately whipped past column after column of pads because I couldn’t slide over to them without hitting my airbrakes. Your vertical movement, especially when boosting, far outweighs your capabilities for horizontal movement. If you have any hope of disabling the core’s defenses, you need the airbrake for those few extra seconds to shimmy sideways and line up the next column of targets.

None of this would really be a problem if the controls were not so floaty. That may sound like an odd complaint for a game about freefalling, but look at my feet. I’m wearing freaking jet-boots! I want to rocket from side to side, swirling my way through the depths with reckless abandon. Instead, meandering through the shafts and lining up the pads feels like swimming through a jar of Aunt Jemima. You can forget about the core’s defenses in Time Trial mode, but it’s still obvious that the pads are set up for effective brake-boosting movement. Screwjumper! is the first game from lead designer, Rev. Norb, and there is an important lesson to be learned here. If you want players to do something, you need to give them effective means to do it.

I may never get used to the controls, but that hasn’t kept me from careening through the mines at full-bore in a bid for the leaderboards. Every run, I get a little better at pulling back just before burn-up, quicker with the dynamite, and more daring with my courses. There is no doubt that Screwjumper! is an entertaining game, but the contradictory game design keeps it from being much more than a fun way to kill the weekend.

Rating: 6/10

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Staff review by Brian Rowe (November 19, 2007)

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