Written : Sunday, March 09, 2008
By: Alan Pettit (GT: The Pants Party)
Jumper: Griffin's Story is an action/adventure game based on the movie of the same name (starring Hayden Christiansen and Samuel L. Jackson), which of course is based off a book of the same name (written by Steven Gould). It was developed by Red Tribe (Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal) and published by Brash Entertainment (upcoming Saw movie game). As is par for the course on such translations, making a copy of a copy of a copy never turns out well. Jumper really is no exception to this rule.
The plot of the game is a slight deviation of the film, taking on the role of Griffin, a secondary character in the film. Griffin is a Jumper, someone who can basically open a hole in the third dimension and emerge somewhere else an instant later. Depending on the Jumper's ability, this could put them literally across the globe. You steer Griffin on a mission of revenge, hunting down a Paladin (someone who fears Jumpers and hunts them) who murdered your parents.
Jump from one to the next, punching as you go.
The premise is actually very interesting. One of my favorite X-Men has always been Nightcrawler, so an entire game based on his ability sounded great. The battle system is actually sort of fun, though at times completely broken. The four face buttons of your controller are all attack buttons, corresponding to a location on the enemy. The Y-button is always the north part of the enemy, be that his front or back; B button is always the east part, be that his left or right; likewise for the other two. It will take you a while to get used to this when fighting multiple enemies who tend to circle around you exactly which button you need to press however. I always found myself pushing A to attack the person's front side, even if they were facing to the left or right and not directly in front of me.
Once you get the hang of which button to press to perform a successful attack, you'll still be plagued by uncertain jumps from enemy to enemy. Once an enemy is defeated, you automatically jump to another, though you have very little time to figure out which and almost always end up attacking one of the enemy's "defended" sides (marked by a red line) and will get blocked and attacked. If you can manage to react quickly enough, you'll want to hit a button to attack an empty or "vulnerable" side (marked by a green line) and then perform various combos to dispatch them. You can switch enemies manually with the left trigger during combos, which I found much more reliable.
With your trusty baseball bat you dispatch your enemies.
Aside from those attacks, there are a surprising number of other maneuvers in the game aside from running around and moving the camera with the thumbsticks. You can perform a slide tackle by running toward an enemy and hitting the right trigger, as well as rolling away from enemies with the right trigger. You can also manually jump about the screen using the right bumper. Also, if you hit enough of the green vulnerable spots when fighting enemies, you will fill up a special move meter, which can be unleashed by holding the left bumper and attack as normal. So long as the section you attack is open or vulnerable, it will do a great deal of damage.
Now, with all these fun things to do you'd think it might be a fun game. Well, you'd be horribly, irrevocably wrong. The camera is so broken that when you're being attacked by the half dozen enemies that are constantly flocking to you, you'll lose yourself and be watching a wall with absolutely no sense of the whole "open/defended" system of attacking. It is straight guesswork most of the time and you'll often find yourself being pummeled if you're not a good guesser. In addition, a single combo by an enemy drops about half your life bar, making it imperative that you fight almost flawlessly or be faced with the dreaded game over screen.
In addition to playing poorly, Jumper isn't really a pretty sight either. You can't really expect to use the same type of graphics on every game you make, but it seems Red Tribe just decided to apply their work on Looney Tunes toward this one. While it obviously doesn't look like a cartoon, it also doesn't look anywhere near what real people might look like. The character models are all extremely unfinished and blocky, looking nothing like the actors they are supposed to portray, while the environments are almost identical throughout. Sure, the docks area looks different from the tombs area, but the same "random stuff lying about" and "random broken floor bits" are found throughout the game.
Oh, no.. a Sam Jackson look-alike!
There are some decent animated-type storyboards that explain the story, much like the old game Comic Zone for the Sega Genesis. While the graphics are obviously a bit improved from that cult hit, they are nowhere near impressive. Also present are a few random cutscenes that will trigger when fighting enemies. You will "jump" them into various situations that will leave them alone to face a horrible death as you jump away, such as inside a shark tank or miles in the air above the Grand Canyon. While the premise of these are cool, they look simply awful and only succeed in drawing attention to the terrible graphics.
Continuing the slide further into gaming hell, the voice acting is actually somewhat well done by Griffin's actor from the film, Jamie Bell. However, aside from that, there is an extremely limited amount of actual sound effect or music, leaving you with Griffin's "funny" one-liners while you fight. Of which there were probably only half a dozen, leaving me to find the mute button after the first level. Which of course left me only to watch the wall while I attempted to fight enemies. The "jump" sound was good I guess, but if you can't get the jump sound right in a game called "Jumper" you might as well quit and go work at a fast food joint.
I suppose the only consolation for people who played this are the easy achievements, though for the most part they are terrible. In a single run of the game (which will take a pathetic 2 hours), you can easily net about 800 points, simply using various attacks, combos and such. However, on top of that are two completely unnecessary collection achievements, an experience achievement which forces you to play the game twice (which is torture enough), but then the one that will probably make you want to snap the disc in half: complete the game without dying. The only time you can save is at the end of each level, which means if you die, you need to not only quickly shut off your machine, but then load back up and play the entire level over. I think it took me six tries to beat the final level, mainly because that Sam Jackson is a tough S.O.B.
The complete lack of audio is the only saving grace in this one. A decent jump sound and voice acting by a real actor were a nice touch, but everything else is awful.
These are some high quality Dreamcast graphics, but this is an Xbox 360 we're playing and that clearly won't cut it. The animated storyboards were decent, but again every else was awful.
The camera goes wherever the hell it wants and the fighting system is so confusing at first it had me ready to throw my controller. It really was a chore to get through the entire game.
The idea of Nightcrawler game is awesome, but the execution was extremely poor. Once you get the hang of the battle system, it is a bit fun, but after a few minutes of fun the game goes back to being a chore.
This runs the gambit from being absurdly easy (pick up one collectible) to absurdly hard (beat the game without dying) and on top of that, if forces you to play the game twice to get enough experience for that achievement. Luckily, it only takes two hours to beat, so the entire 1000 can be had in a single night if you can stomach it.
To be honest I was hoping it could be fun, despite knowing in my heart it wouldn't be. This is simply one of the worst experiences I've had with a game on the 360. Awful camera angles completely ruin the interesting battle system, almost non-existent and overall poor sound effects make it better played on mute and the graphics simply confuse me as to what decade it is. I'm fairly certain I could pay some high schoolers to make a better game than this.