An endless runner worthy of jumping into your Switch library.
As with all endless runner games, the premise of Jumping Joe! & Friends is simple: jump as high as you can, and avoid the obstacles and enemies that you encounter along the way. You jump up either to the left or the right, and as such the controls are simple: B or ZL to jump left, or A or ZR to jump right. Using the in-game currency you earn by playing, you can unlock new characters to play as, each with their own individual perks – such as a mummy who slows down moving obstacles, or a rocket bird who gives you a boost right from the start of a run. No microtransactions are necessary.
When you first begin, things are easy; the scenery is cheerful and green, and all you have to dodge is a few spikes and maybe a few bats. At this stage you have all the time in the world to contemplate your next move before you make it. This does not last. The game becomes infuriating, yet gripping, enticing you to play again and again in desperate attempts to set new high scores and beat your fastest times.
More obstacles, such as gas clouds, crushing walls and cannons shooting fireballs all limit the speed at which you can progress in the Arcade, Multiplayer and Hero modes, and should you falter, a river of scorching lava rises to meet you and burns you to a crisp. So the game not only becomes a test of patience, but of balance; the ability to be patient when necessary, and speedy when viable.
Speaking of the game’s multiplayer mode, Mario Kart may have a rival in terms of bringing the competitive sides of people to the fore. The cheerful music and energetic sound effects really didn’t help matters much, given how intense the situations that Jumping Joe! & Friends creates are, but at least they do help to (somewhat) ground you in reality.
Perhaps one of the greatest (or worst, depending on your perspective) things about the game is that some of its modes are locked until certain challenge conditions are met (Race Mode is unlocked by scoring 300 points in less than 60 seconds, for instance), so you can even turn unlocking them into some friendly challenges between yourself and your friends if you wish.
Perhaps my favourite mode of all in Jumping Joe! & Friends, though, is its Race Mode. With the aim of getting from a score of 0 to 250 in the shortest time possible, you have to ignore your conscious mind and let your muscle memory do the work, mashing those triggers until you inevitably doom your run by making a devastating mistake. Pro tip: the “score 600 points to unlock Hero Mode” can be done in this mode, so once you’ve passed the 250 mark, just take things slowly – there aren’t any obstacles to be afraid of.
Jumping Joe! & Friends is a thoroughly enjoyable endless runner-cum-platformer with lots to offer in terms of its game modes, unlockable characters and difficulty. With the most obvious criticism aside – that the gameplay can inevitably feel repetitive – it definitely comes recommend to anyone looking for a casual time-sink title. Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can memorise the randomly-generated level layouts.