JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword is an action platformer with a bit of Metroidvania mixed in. As you can see from the pictures and the trailer, it has a colorful retro look that really helps sell that tried-and-true feeling that the genre is known for.
Speaking of tried-and-true, JackQuest’s story is as old as the genre itself. Our young hero has the love of his life kidnapped right under his nose by some evil monster. A giant hand reaches up from the ground and pulls her under. Like any good 8-bit wannabe hero, you jump into the hole, hellbent on rescue and revenge. As a child of the ’80s, I’ve played so many games that start out this way, I’m honestly surprised I’ve never had a monster steal any of my girlfriends. Although, now that I think about it, I have had a few lady friends stop returning my messages… You’ll quickly find a giant talking sword named Kuri. Apparently, Kuri was once a great warrior, but now he’s trapped in his sword. Despite yapping fairly constantly, Kuri the sword never really explains his story. Not as far as I remember anyway. Strange, considering the game is subtitled the tale of the sword. That’s not that big of a deal, however, because we’re not here for the epic story. No, we signed up for the adventure, the jumping, and the swinging of a sword as big our whole body.
JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword is a wall climbing adventure with tons of monsters, giant boss fights, sneaky death traps, and a handful of upgrades. You can scale an entire wall by hammering on the jump button from the outset, and you’ll be doing that a lot. Eventually unlocking the double-jump and the bow, which also comes with a dash-like ability, will grant you access to new levels of the large interconnected map. The bosses are big, and while their attack patterns aren’t difficult to learn, your limited health always seems to make them difficult to beat.
In other words, all of the staples of the genre are here. Minus one big one. Sadly, the tight controls paramount to a good platformer just aren’t here. The jumping always feels slightly laggy and floaty. I spent the first 20 minutes of the game falling off of ledges into enemies or spikes because I was pressing the jump button a hair too late. I was able to adjust, obviously, but in the heat of battle, controller precision isn’t just a preference, it’s mandatory. It’s not just the jumping, either. During swordplay, I was constantly running into the bad guys, costing me a precious half-heart of health that I could never afford to lose. I know what you’re thinking: this guy probably just sucks at video games. That is a valid point with at least some evidence to back it up, but I honestly believe that the loose controls bear some of the blame here.
The game uses frequent checkpoints, cutting out some of the frustration, although it doesn’t replenish your health. ‘Saving before a boss with only half a heart worth of health is a good way to add playtime to your game’, said no player ever. Backtracking endlessly through the map to scrounge half-a-heart worth of health only to have it disappear due to laggy controls or a slow to adjust camera is not my idea of a good time.
One can complete JackQuest in three hours or so if you can rise above the frustration. And those that do rise above, there is fun to be had. The combat feels good, and I always enjoy shooting a bow in video games. The light puzzle solving was a nice addition, and despite everything, Jack is a pretty cool little character. He sports a cool afro, and his ever floating scarf was a nice touch.
JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword looks great, but the controls hold it back. I could overlook most of the frustrating aspects of the game if I felt I had complete control of my little hero with the big fro. Recently, there have been a lot of small development teams creating great Metroidvania platformers that rival any of the classics that inspired them. JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword did not meet that benchmark.
JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword PS4 Review
JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword, with its big, colorful sprites, retro-inspired aesthetics, and cool afroed hero looked like it might be the next great indie Metroidvania platformer. Sadly, the laggy and floaty controls make the game challenging in all the wrong ways. I didn’t mind the played-out, and slightly too short story, but the frustrating game mechanics sapped most of the fun out of the game.
These retro-inspired graphics always pull me in
Who doesn’t love a hero with a big ‘fro and even bigger sword?
Loose controls left me frustrated
Quirky checkpoint system combined with limited health feels like a tactic to extend game length
Despite opportunities to do so, the tropey story never rises above the same old story
Reviewed using base PS4.
When Jeremy isn’t writing books or playing video games, he’s living his life one random movie references at a time.