Sonic Jump Review
I’m morally opposed to a vertical Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic the Hedgehog was a classic side-scroller, ruled by speed, not height. What does jumping have to do with sonic speed? Let's find out.
The Sega Genesis’s trademark character has gone through many evolutions over the course of many gaming systems. He’s added many supporting characters like Tails and Knuckles, gone 3D, become a platform adventure game, a racing game and even pinball at one point. Sonic Jump may be his most drastic leap from the formula.
Sonic Jump levels begin with Sonic on the ground and he starts jumping up. As he jumps, the screen rises with him, so you can probably only jump from a platform once before it is pushed off the screen. And if you can’t land on a visible platform, you fall down the screen and die. You can double jump by tapping the screen while Sonic is in mid-air. You move Sonic left or right by tilting, and you can wrap around the screen so if you jump all the way left you come out on the right side.
The controls are easy. You can even play Sonic Jump one handed. It’s the game play that’s hard. Sonic’s vertical momentum is so high that you’re always making split-second judgments to avoid spikes or collect coins. Further levels get really complicated as some platforms move left to right, up and down or disappear entirely. You get fans blowing against you and bad guys dropping down on you.
Some of the game follows the old Sega Genesis rules. You still collect coins, and if you take damage, you lose all your coins, but as long as you keep collecting a few coins you’ll survive damage. Damage isn’t the real problem in Sonic Jump though. It’s falling. And, since this is an iOS game, now any coins you have at the end of a level, you keep to buy upgrades (more on that later). Of course you can buy more coins with real money, but I think if you’re good at Sonic you can earn enough coins the old fashioned way.
You can still kill creatures by rolling into them, but with the setup of Sonic Jump, that only works if you can come up from below and jump up into them. You still fight Doctor Eggman in the boss levels, but here you kind of have to keep jumping to avoid him until he gets higher than you, then you can bounce into him. Some of the classic Sonic levels like Green Hill Zone and Jungle Zone have been adapted for vertical quests and the sound effects of the double jump and rings are exactly the same as on Sega Genesis. The graphics are beautiful, replicating the 16 bit characters with HD colors.
In Story Mode, you complete the quests one level at a time. You’re earning coins so you can buy upgrades, and earning achievements so you can level up. There are sets of goals you can complete along the way that aren’t required for moving on, but they help you level up. Tasks like jumping on a single platform 10 times, activating a certain number of totems in a level, even wrapping around the screen eight times in one run, these challenges add a twist to just trying to finish the board. Then in Arcade Mode you can just play in the levels without the worry of goals.
As far as the upgrades go, I don’t find them all that helpful. You can buy magnets to attract more coins, or bombs and shields to attack other creatures. The Bounce Back power-up gives you a second chance if you fall off the screen. I guess if you’re near the top you might not want to start the level over, but I find if I’ve fallen off the screen, it’s because there’s some challenge in the level I haven’t figured out yet. If I use the Bounce Back, I’m just going to fall off again. Might as well just play through the level over and over until I learn how to beat it. You can unlock Sonic’s partners like Tails and Knuckles at a certain level, and if you earn enough coins you can buy level skips, which comes in handy for levels you can't get past.
Some of the challenges are just annoying. It’s not much fun if you’ve figured out the rhythm of disappearing platforms and make your jumps strategically, and then they drop a beast on you from above. Some of the levels are so cluttered it just makes you antsy trying to figure out which platform will be solid so you can jump on the right ones. Especially since every time Sonic jumps, he moves the screen up so you’ve only got one jump to figure out where to land. Some of the levels are murderous, but just like in the Sega Genesis days, if you work at them long enough you’ll make it to the end. You’ll be shaking your phone trying to tilt Sonic in exactly the right way and feeling the palpitations every time he just barely lands on a ledge. These jitters are on a whole different level than the speed jitters of other Sonic games.
Sonic Jump will give you hints every time you die and sometimes it seems like they’re just being a jerk. “Move left and right to avoid Eggman.” Gee, thanks. Avoid the thing that’s trying to kill you. Why didn’t I think of that on my own?
Despite the frustrations, I’m addicted to playing Sonic Jump. It’s not so much that I’m determined the beat the difficult levels, it’s that I hope when I clear them, the next level will actually be fun. It’s kind of still a side-scroller, only the sides are up and down instead of left to right. Sonic Jump isn't a bad game, but it's not a game that's going to have you jumping for joy either.