Johnny Platform Saves Christmas
September 18, 2011 8 Comments
First off, yea, I know the title is technically “Johnny Platform Saves Xmas” but I always hated the whole “Xmas” thing. Are the extra five letters needed to spell Christmas that hard? Jesus H. X, what the hell is wrong with society? This wouldn’t be a problem is Xians weren’t so damn prudish about saying the name of their savior like he’s fucking Voldemort or something.
Anyway, as those who read my review of Johnny Platform’s Biscuit Romp know, I put out a call on Twitter looking for a challenger for the IndieGamerChick.com leaderboard. It’s already been a great month for shaking up the board, with not one but two top contenders for LaserCat’s crown, along with a hot online shooter that will likely rank somewhere. Needless to say, the board on October 1 will look very different. Still, I wanted to make sure that games that existed on the Xbox Live Indie Game marketplace before I started Indie Gamer Chick had a fair shot at making the cut. I asked for nominations and the Pudgy-Pidge of the XBLIG scene, Chounard, recommended Johnny Platform Saves Christmas. In about two minutes this had enough people backing him up to make it the game to play. Well, just as soon as I played the original. Which I did. I reviewed it. I liked it. You should read the review. You should then buy it. And then thank me for the recommendation. And bake me some cookies. Oatmeal, not chocolate chip.
JP Saves Christmas is done in the same style as the original, with single-screen platforming-puzzles peppered with some hop ‘n’ bop action thrown in. Having said that, the sequel truly is a huge evolution over the original. I’ll start with the puzzle design. In the original, most of the levels were fairly straight forward and pretty easy. In Christmas, the puzzles are much more elaborate and feature multi-step solutions that require some level of brain power to solve. It’s still not overly difficult, but it’s a big step up. This time around there’s 100 levels instead of 55, so it’s almost double the value as well.
Like any good sequel, Christmas also ups the abilities of our hero. Now, in addition to a double jump, the ability to roll has been added. You can use either the bumpers or the triggers to do this. You can also double jump out of a roll to clear larger gaps. On top of all that, you can roll off an enemy you just bopped to death. And the guys at Ishisoft really made the most of this, centering many puzzles around the rolling mechanics.
Also new is elements like bombs, ice, and hot coals with puzzles themed around using them. Okay, so it’s not exactly the most creatively designed game, but every cliché is used well and the end result is one of the best puzzlers on the marketplace. No, stop! Don’t leave. It’s an action-platform-puzzler. You know, the kind anyone can play, instead of stuff like Blockt that are designed with the Mensa crowd in mind.
The problems that were found in the original Johnny Platform also make a triumphant return. The lives and checkpoint system that exists only because Gus had not yet been invented is back. And it’s more annoying than ever now because the stages take longer to complete. So if you’re one stage away from a checkpoint and you game over, you have to replay the previous four levels again. Well that’s just busy work. I don’t know why people even bother to include them anymore. Limited lives are a relic, with the only logical use for them that still makes sense is having them in games that center around high scores. Neither of the Johnny Platform games have a scoring system, so the lives function is completely worthless and only serves to add tedium to a game that would otherwise be devoid of it. That or there actually is a minimum badness quota for Indie games and including lives helped the series meet that demand.
And once again the difficult curve is all over the map, only now it’s more noticeable. One stage will be a total mind-bender and it will be followed by a couple of levels that the preschool crowd would consider to be a leisurely stroll through. Not to sound like a broken record, but this really does seem to be a common problem with Xbox Live Indie Games. The solution is obvious: developers need to leave games in play-testing longer and ask for honest feedback regarding level-progression and the difficulty curve. And to you play-testers, don’t tell the developers the curve is perfect when it’s not. You’re not going to hurt anyone’s feelings with the truth. That’s my job.
Still, those gripes were the same ones I had for the original game, and they make as little difference to the enjoyability for this one as that one. Score one for Chounard and the rest of the Twitter Twits, because Johnny Platform Saves Christmas is one of the best Xbox Live Indie Games out there. I know I’ve said that a lot this month, and most people don’t come here to watch me to sing the praises of games, but I have to call them like I see them. JP Saves Christmas is awesome, and you should buy it. Yes, it’s a contender for a spot on the leaderboard. Then again, maybe not. I mean new games are flying at me so fast that who knows if there will be room for it?
No, I’m not going soft. I’m still the spiteful critic that developers outright tell me they’re terrified of. (Side note: the poor guy behind Cute Things Dying Violently had a full-blown panic attack when I told him I had began playing his game. Jesus X guys, I’m not that tough to please!) And I’ll prove it to you all. What I need is a game so incredibly horrible that it defies the laws of reason.
Yep, that should do.
80 Microsoft Points got run over by a reindeer in the making of this review.