Jett Rocket (WiiWare) - Review by Chris
Nintendo's WiiWare service continues to slowly move along, seeing a good selection of titles being released for it week in, week out. Developer Shinen, perhaps best known for their Nanostray titles on the Nintendo DS, have decided to get into the downloadable game market and have brought with them Jett Rocket, their first attempt at a 3D platforming title. Hoping to elicit the same kind of react that Super Mario Galaxy received, the game combines all the elements we've come to expect from a modern platforming title while pushing the boundaries on what is possible on the WiiWare service. Is this game more than just a good looker or do the excellent visuals hide an ugly truth?
Jett Rocket begins by acquainting you with the main character, Jett, and his responsibilities for the game's world. It is Jett's job to look over the world of Yoroppa and keep the green balance in check. This introduction is cut short, however, as Jett's floating base above the world is attacked by the Power Plant Posse, who are simultaneously trying to get rid of Jett and pollute the world. Knocking Jett from his base to the world below, they begin their evil plans to pollute the world and as Jett, it is your job to stop them. On the surface of it, the story seems paper thin and while the obvious attempts at creating an environmentally based story are ever present, in reality the story never really runs with the idea. Beyond the opening cutscene, you'll see little reference to it again until the end of the game and as such, it is the gameplay and the focus on this that helps to drive the game forward.
Taking cues from various platforming games from the last few years, Jett Rocket will no doubt bring comparisons between itself and another big platforming series, that being Nintendo's Super Mario games. In hindsight, these comparisons are grounded by the fact that your progression and actions throughout this game are similar to the sort of things you'd be doing in those games, with ample platforming sections, enemies to defeat, environmental puzzles to solve and even some boss battles thrown in for good measure. All the locations as well follow a similar vibe to those of the aforementioned series, with Jett going to sun basked islands, snow and ice covered mountains and a jungle swamp with some ancient ruins.
The combination of all of these elements, on the surface, begins to paint Jett Rocket as an unoriginal title. Yet even though it cribs from other titles, the end experience is one that still remains enjoyable throughout. While simple in its presentation of the gameplay, there is a steady difficulty curve that slowly increases as you head further into the game with more environmental hazards and enemies which require more thought before approaching, as well as more complex level designs. The game also brings some of its own ideas to the table, although they are essentially things which have been seen in other titles. These ideas revolve solely around the various vehicles Jett is able to use a rechargeable jetpack, a jetski, a hover board, and a paraglider. While nothing hugely significant they provide a nice deviation from the standard formula present through much of the game.
Like most of the games in the genre, there is a linear progression to the game, albeit one that comes with a twist. As you play through each of the levels, you'll need to collect solar cells and these ultimately go towards the unlocking of the game's other areas. After the first level of an area is unlocked, you'll generally be given the option to choose between two levels and only on completion of these can you head to the fourth level to take on a boss battle. It's a slightly different way for the game to progress and the hunt for solar cells will have you scouring the levels from top to bottom in the hope of collecting them all, with some being craftily placed to make the hunt that little bit more difficult.
Jett Rocket will unravel over the course of 3 to 4 hours which, for a WiiWare game, isn't bad. Rather, it's actually very good considering the small price you'll play for the game. Unlockables in the form of 3D gallery art of all of the character models are tucked away, unlocking with each encounter of a character or for completing levels, and an in game achievement system will elongate the play time for those looking for some form of bragging rights ever so slightly.
Making use of both the Wii-mote and Nunchuk for play, Shinen have opted for a very simplistic control setup which will be easily recognisable to anyone who has played any of the other platforming titles on the console, especially Super Mario Galaxy, meaning both newcomers to the genre and veterans can easily jump in and get to grips with what is on offer. Navigating the environments and completing puzzles follows the tried and tested path with platformers on the console and here, the setup works extremely well within the game's 12 levels. There are also some uses of waggle for completing environmental puzzles and contrary to many other titles, it follows a similar suit to Super Mario Galaxy in that it is non-intrusive and works extremely well within the context of the game.
One major point of issue, however, with the controls comes in the form of the camera. At the best of times, the camera just manages to keep up with the on screen action but you'll often have to move the camera yourself to get a good view of your objective. Being housed on the d-pad and C button is a common setup on the Wii, but here these controls suffer from some severe issues. The camera will more often than not snag on the environment or just not respond to your inputs on the d-pad leaving the camera stuck in one position for a short time. It can hinder platforming sections and drag the game down slightly but thankfully, the issue can for the most part be ignored and the game enjoyed.
The list of retails games which have pushed the Wii to its limits visually is a little on the short side and that list is even shorter when it comes to WiiWare releases, with a handful of titles putting many retail games to shame. Jett Rocket not only becomes one of those titles, it simultaneously sets a new standard for what is available on the service. Taking on a similar colour palette and aesthetic to that seen in Nintendo's own Super Mario Galaxy titles, Shinen have created a game which pushes well above its weight, especially given the file size capacity for WiiWare titles. Well designed levels, with some extremely well done texture work, give way to exceptional lighting and water effects, giving Nintendo's games a run for their money. Real time reflections are similarly of a high standard, in some cases proving to be some of the best seen in a Wii game regardless of its distribution method, and bringing together all of these elements creates an exceptional looking title that runs at a solid frame rate for the most part, only dipping very occasionally.
Character models, particularly those of the enemies, carry on this high standard of work, utilising some interesting designs and smooth animation. Bump mapping has even been worked into many of the enemies to give their metallic look a sense of realism, juxtaposing the colour palette which otherwise paints them as fabricated. It's not quite as noticeable on the smaller enemies as it is on the larger ones but it shows the amount of thought and work that the developers have put into creating the levels and their characters. The only downside, other than the very slight frame rate dips, is that the main character himself isn't particularly well designed, feeling rather generic in the face of some of the other platforming heroes which have been created in other WiiWare games.
The game's audio work doesn't get off to a particularly good start as the game's main character Jett greets you with some cringe-inducing voice work. It's nice to see Shinen bring some spoken dialogue into the game but the opening is the only area where you'll hear any and given the actual voice, it perhaps would have been better to have left it out.
While not particularly standout in terms of their composition, the music that accompanies each of the stages is amicably composed to create a sense of ambience and each track is tailored to each of the 3 specific areas you'll play through. Some variation between levels in these areas would have been nice but ultimately, what you get is pleasant enough in its accompaniment of the gameplay. The sound effects continue the up step in quality from the opening mishap by sounding crisp and clear, with the sound of snow crunching underfoot or the sound of footsteps on a metal walkway all sounding reminiscent of the real thing. It all goes hand in hand with the visuals to create a pleasant auditory experience.
As a first attempt at a 3D platformer on the WiiWare service, Shinen have done themselves proud with Jett Rocket. They've crafted a simplistic yet thoroughly enjoyable title that can stand up amongst the best available on the service, and with some of the best visuals on the Wii it is more than capable of standing next to the likes of Super Mario Galaxy. Some more refinement in the gameplay and something for the game to really call its own would have been nice but with a sequel already on the cards which should settle these issues, Jett Rocket could quickly become one of the best platforming games available.
Pro: Outstanding visuals, gameplay is always fun, controls well
Con: Camera can be an issue, lacks originality
Final score: 8.5