The idea behind sandbox games is to completely immerse a player into its respective world with a plethora of customization features, and decisions to make each and every second. Combining the best elements of RPG and farming titles, sandboxes help us create our own worlds one addictive step at a time. Junk Jack X, Pixbits' follow up to their successful iOS title Junk Jack, attempts to give us a 3D experience within a 2D, side-scrolling universe. With the recent release of Terraria on iOS, can Junk Jack X place a foothold in such a revered genre?
The ironic draw for pixel driven titles is that, although their visuals are primitive compared to today's standards, their images actually draw us into the finer points of what makes a game truly tick. With Junk Jack X, we are plunged into an unnamed land where our hero must immediately collect materials to build his assets. The first important items to grab are wood, which you can break down by punching a few trees in your path. A ton of tapping is involved, so whether it's smashing different colored blocks, slaughtering a few animals for food, or killing harmful creatures who roam the night, you'll be incessantly tapping your device. Since I'm a total hoarder, I'm more than happy to abuse my index finger all for the promise of purple goo.
I've spent hours on my iPad enraptured by Junk Jack X, absolutely impressed at how one can interact with every little inch of its landscape. Whether it's swimming through waters, running through forests, or digging underground for treasures, there is a multitude of actions and decisions that will shape your journey. For example, if you are in a battling mood, you can craft a wooden or steel sword and hack as many creatures (they come out in droves at nighttime), as possible. I've been in a cowering state of mind of late, so instead of fighting to the death, I went underground and used a brick as my blockade. Although I'm shrouding in darkness, I can use this time to craft more items and when sunlight appears, I'll just slink myself away from their sight lines.
If you're just a collector junkie, spend your days roaming the terrain picking up or breaking down everything in sight. Each ingredient, plant, and type of wood will all serve their purpose. Once you build your own workbench, a slew of valuable tools are ready to be made. Obviously the more you create, the more sophisticated one's world becomes, but for now I'm just happy putting together a wooden chest.
At $4.99, Junk Jack X is a total steal based on the complex world that you will easily dive into and not want to escape. There are also mulitiplayer options which I haven't tried out, and under adventure mode you can also travel to different worlds. For now, my days will be spent building my own home, a shelter which will keep all the monsters out and a hearth where I can cook all the delicious meats I've collected. During my afternoons, I may go for a nice swim for some much needed cardio.
Junk Jack X's greatest feature, in short, is life itself. Next week I may be battling aliens on another planet, or just fixated on cultivating my own garden. In the stirring poem 'Invictus,' William Ernest Henley writes "I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul." An excellent sandbox reminds us that gaming, nor life, can ever stop. The adventure is always afoot, so keep your workbench good and ready.