JACK 'N JILL DX
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on October 18, 2018
Don't you just hate it when you keep misplacing stuff and, no matter how often you manage to find it, you just end up losing it over and over again? Well, now imagine the "stuff" you lose is a loved one and you've got the premise of a game on your hands! The premise for a game called Jack 'N Jill DX, to be more precise!
In this old-school platformer, originally developed for mobile devices as "Jack 'N Jill" by Rohan Narang and published and now ported to PC and multiple consoles as "Jack 'N Jill DX" by our friends at Ratalaika Games, it is your job... no, your quest to help Jack reach his girlfriend Jill. Somehow, Jill manages to get herself stuck at the end of dangerous environments time after time and Jack must do everything in his power to reach her. Now, because not everybody thinks that the guy should automatically be the hero, players can also choose to play as Jill and set out to save Jack. Now, while this has no impact on gameplay, there is on funny little detail that's different: the sound when jumping as Jill is of a higher pitch than it is if you play as Jack. I know, I know, not the shocker of the century, but a nice little detail that goes to show how much love and attention went into making this game!
Let's assume, for review purposes, that we are playing as Jack. As we start our adventure, we get a short rundown of the basics of the game. And by short, I mean really, really, REALLY short. Why, because Jack 'N Jill DX does have a thoroughly minimalistic control scheme. Now, I remember a time, when playing games on my 286 PC, there was a genre of games that was referred to as "Spacebar Killers". Well, If Jack 'N Jill DX was released back then, it would have fitted nicely into this category. But, since it's not 1993 anymore and I'm playing this game on my Playstation 4, I've dubbed it "X-Button Killer". Why? Well, because Jack 'N Jill DX only uses one button and you'll be bashing it quite a lot!
That's right, you only need to press a button to make Jack go and use the same button again to make him jump. Easy, isn't it? Well... no, not exactly. Sure, you don't need a degree to figure out what to do, but actually doing it right... that can be a whole different story. As is often the case with deceivingly simple-looking games, it can be quite hard to get to the end of a level in one go. And, because the game doesn't do mid-level checkpoints, you will have to start from the beginning of the level if you fall into a pit, get impaled by spikes, or killed by enemies, which are lovingly called "baddies" in this game.
Back to the start! Once Jack enters a level, you will have to push the jump button to make him start moving. For the rest of the course, Jack will keep moving until he reaches Jill or, as the case may often be, his untimely demise! Along the way, you can collect coins that are scattered throughout the level and various powerups, to which we will return at a later stage. When moving, if Jack hits a wall, he simply turns around and starts moving in the opposite direction. This can be used to your advantage and lets you reach different areas of the level, collecting even more coins as you jump your way through the dangerous terrain.
So, what makes the terrain so dangerous. Well, for one, the never failing classic: the bottomless pits! Apart from that, sharp spiky things you must really not touch and different types of "baddies" litter the levels and make them truly deserving of the word 'Dangerous'. Luckily, there are things to help you along, the always welcome powerups! For instance, If you manage to collect a boot-shaped powerup, Jack will start running fast, enabling him to jump across larger gaps than was previously possible. A Flask-shaped powerup that goes by the name of 'Baddie Repellent' does exactly what its name suggests; it repels baddies, so Jack can walk through enemies without getting hurt. Beware though because, while Jack may be able to waltz right through any number of baddies for the duration of this powerup, he is still vulnerable when it comes to spikes and bottomless pits! You can also pick up a pair of wings that make you fly for short distances!
Jack 'N Jill DX consists of 140 levels, divided into 7 worlds. From time to time, something new is introduced to spice up the gameplay even further. At first, it's just a matter of avoiding spiky and bottomless things, then baddies are introduced, after which flying baddies enter the scene, only to be followed by the introduction of fragile blocks that crumble after you touch them, and so on, and so on! These small but crucial additions to the game are what keep it interesting for all 140 levels. Although it is a fairly simple game which would, when I think about it, not have been out of place on my old first series Gameboy, it is truly entertaining and more than challenging enough.
Apart from the regular set of levels, Jack 'N Jill DX also contains a number of minigames and challenges. Now, the challenges are things like: "Collect an X amount of coins", or "Play 20 levels as Jack" (the same trophy is available for Jill), or "Defeat an X amount of enemies". They must be fulfilled while making your way through the regular levels and are a welcome addition for the completionists among us. The minigames are a fun collection of one-screen levels in which you must, for instance, help as many baddies cross a gorge as you possibly can or collect as many tickets, while avoiding baddie repellent. All these minigames utilize a timer, so you need to get as many things done as humanly possible within that time. By playing these minigames, you'll collect tickets that, in turn, let you unlock all kinds of things in the in-game store.
Because the levels in Jack 'N Jill DX are fairly short, you constantly get that sense of "Aaw, I was almost there. Okay, I'll get it next time; I'm sure of it!", after which you still spend the next couple of tries dying before you finally finish the level. But when you do, it really feels like an accomplishment and that's something I like a lot. I really couldn't care less about power-levels and intricate skill trees; just give me a one-button controller and Jack 'N Jill DX and I'm good for the next couple of hours! Especially because the game comes with chip-tune background music that is really upbeat and truly impossible to get out of your head!
So, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls; in the end, there are no two ways about it... Jack 'N Jill is a fantastically fun platforming gem that deserves to be played by everybody who likes a fun and challenging game. The art-style, the simple but truly enjoyable gameplay and the music... DEAR GOD; THE MUUUSIIIIIIC... aaaand, now it's stuck in my head again... ting, ting, ting, ting, tingtingtingtingtingtingting, ting, ting, ting, ting, tingtingtingtingting! But seriously, just give this game a whirl and you will not be disappointed. Because of the short nature of the levels, you can easily play a few rounds, even when you don't have that much time. So, in short; I can only come to the conclusion that Jack 'N Jill DX is a really, really, really, REALLY fun game that you should definitely try for yourself!