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Jump Trials - DSiWare Review

Game Info
Jump Trials

DSiWare | G-STYLE | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 200 Nintendo Points
Related Game: Jump Trials Extreme
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24th December 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

With ecstatic visions presenting a greater opportunity for failure, knowing when to apply discipline can be seen as a mark of wisdom. Games like Jump Trials, which are driven by much simpler characteristics, don't have to deal with such struggles, but they're not immune to tribulations of their own. No, their issues are of a different sort, with caution coming more in the way of delicate balances, where the threat of being too underwhelming is ever-present. As such, in what may have previously been seen as a positive, leaving less room for blame can be a problem if the entire playing field isn't channeled or furthered, but is instead left in a singular, unprogressive state. Such is the puzzle surrounding Jump Trials; only, it's not at all mysterious. Aspiring to a restrained sense of tension and strife, its approach showcases a rather uncharismatic steadiness that leads to the formula not having great success.

    Jump Trials is a swift, speed-oriented platformer that adheres identically to the same model as GO Series: 10 Second Run, which released for the platform back in 2010. It stars an unnamed stick figure that lives and dies by an adamant 10-second timer. Each small space forces the character to leap his way to a button that will mark his transfer to a new stage, where he must then perform the same set of hopping moves all over again. The same general qualities are present across the game's 10 worlds, with the demand of 10 individual levels that must be cleared in one sitting before you can advance to the next world and so on, until you've conquered all 100 stages. Level designs are governed by very primitive and familiar attributes, including spike traps; platforms that move as you walk on them or disappear at a moment's notice; springs to propel you to out-of-reach spots; and wind that will either slow you down or make you go faster, depending on the direction it travels. It is often the case that only two of the foregoing elements are used in a given stage, so you'll never see stages adopt a wacky sense of design. But timing is a big part of the game's vision, even with the claustrophobic spaces you find yourself in, so one can expect much of the challenge to be derived from that.

    Taking advantage of narrow gaps where the difference between life and death is but a footstep away, margins for error are toyed with quite a bit in this game. Affecting the degree of this is the movement of your character, and this is one of the first unnerving issues with the game that comes to light and gains increasing momentum as you move forward. Put simply, the controls here are neither even nor tight. Whenever you jump forward, you automatically move two or three spaces ahead (height- and angle-depending), but if you examine how the levels are designed, it's frequently that that jump that you have to perform to advance will land you dead-center on a spike trap.

    Other levels reveal this was done intentionally, so as to have players nudge themselves in the opposite direction whilst in mid-air to barely avoid getting tripped up. Unfortunately, the adjustment is enough that it'll throw you off on a regular basis, with players regularly overcompensating. The constant nudging that you must perform isn't the sole cause behind the game's design being such a bother, but it certainly is a contributing factor. In actual fact, much of the problems to be had can be traced to the level designs, and it's surprising how their feeble quality still shows up in a situation that might otherwise be written off as capable for its simplistic nature.

Some of the hazards they've put in place lose their threat when you realize there is another, lower route present that is just as easily accessible (if not more so), and in this regard, the design isn't consistent. On the one hand, this might be seen as an early method of easing someone into the experience, being this is how it is at the beginning of the game. However, this wearing away surfaces with greater clarity as later level designs show themselves to be on the poor side. What's arguable is how far this stretches, as some of these can be overlooked if you speed through them. But for those that you end up spending at least one life on to clear, you may well notice their design isn't very pleasing. And it's not that this is a complaint of feeling bitter over the game being too tricky at points. Rather, the challenge isn't effectively conveyed in a manner that would reflect a sense of care with the platform and obstacle placements.

    Then there's the added fact that not once does the game do something of interest. It's true that 10 seconds may not allow much space to captivate, and I'm not necessarily encouraging that that form of allure should be attempted at the risk of harboring misaligned difficulty, just for the sake of personality. But besides just being uninteresting, the level designs don't do a very good of a job of concentrating the very tension that the limited framework imposes. It ends up being that your attention is, if anything, fixated on the particulars of a given stage rather than the heat of the timing restriction, which I find to be an odd result. Compare this to how 10 Second Run's stages had a more instinctive feel that was regularly felt, applying moments of speedy plotting that didn't overtake the focus. I'm not saying that's most definitively the case here, but Jump Trials just doesn't come together as well.

    Clearing worlds in Trials Mode will unlock them for play in Challenge Mode, which adds three medals that must be recovered en route to the goal. Here, the tension is felt, which is a relief to experience. And it's here that you also start to understand why some levels are designed a certain way -- a platform that seems like it serves no purpose the first time you play a stage is actually put in place to provide a jumping point for a medal in Challenge Mode. However, most times when the game actually can be described as trialsome is in the case of the levels that aren't designed well or just seem somewhat rushed.

Despite the main character not fumbling in his animations, Jump Trials is far from a charmer in terms of its visuals. The overall look and use of text is very bland, and it's a bit humiliating that a game where negative space dominates its environments ends up having more personality than a game with more colour. The music here is the same as what was present in Invasion of the Alien Blobs!, and I do admit it works a bit better here, but I don't have anything more to say about it. I happened to encounter a glitch that let me step on the edge of a spiked block, but that's a relatively minor thing.

    Jump Trials used a simple idea with basic sets that should've been assisted to a large degree by its main speed dynamic, but the formula has evidently been spoiled by lacklustre execution, and instead of being subtly engaging, it frustrates more over its uncaring design. Though not failing to disastrous consequences, I definitely have a new appreciation for 10 Second Run and will take that game over this any day. In such a light, you can completely do without what shows little signs of wanting to be remembered.

15/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 5/10 - Primitivity isn't disguised, controls are a trap in themselves, levels aren't of a particularly good quality and present problems
Presentation 5/10 - Lacks personality and has a very bland look to it, music re-used from another title, minor technical concern or two 
Enjoyment 2/5 - Unpleasing aspects of the execution grab more attention, tension isn't harnessed to a positive space, largely uninteresting design
Extra Content 3/5 - Challenge Mode works much better than the standard method of play, better options available at the same price

Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Jump Trials
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