JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword is a 16-bit inspired Metroidvania that has you play as Jack scouring a cave in order to retrieve his love interest, Nara. Along the way, Jack comes across Kuro, a cursed man who has been transformed into a giant sword. Jack and Kuro sets off to defeat the evil in order to rescue Nara and break the curse on Kuro.
The gameplay in JackQuest starts off relatively simple: jump, find a sword, continue jumping and slash your way through enemies. However like many Metroidvania style games, you’ll eventually uncover more weapons and abilities, allowing you to find new areas to explore.
Immediately, you may notice that this game is hard! However, there are times when the deaths feel a little cheap. Jack feels very floaty and can often result in bumping into an enemy when you feel as though the character shouldn’t have moved that far.
The game is very repetitive as you only have a limited amount of maneuvers and abilities to use. It all becomes a little disappointing as there is nothing unique about this game. That being said, it can be satisfying to use Jack’s special sword ability, wiping out a whole bunch of enemies in a circular roundhouse swing.
Boss fights are the most rewarding challenges in the game, but there aren’t that many of them. They mainly require you to remember patterns, just like most games of the genre. These boss fights can be quite difficult at first, but become very simple after a few attempts as you’ll memorise their patterns very quickly. The final boss fight is surprisingly easy considering the difficulty of the game, so don’t think that the game is wrapping up to one big finale.
World / Level Design
The world design is often quite simple, with not much variation. Most enemies and platforms are repeatedly reused, so you won’t have much issues remembering enemy attack patterns.
The use of the map is interesting. Partway through the game, you’ll find an orb that will show you the layout of the cave that you’re exploring. However, you can only see a small circle of the map at any given time and you need to move that circle around to see more. I’m honestly not sure why the developers thought that this would be a good idea. It merely makes exploring the world frustrating; like you’re a rat in a maze. On top of that, the map system would have greatly benefited from being able to place markers on the map for guidance. Also when moving the circle across the map, you tend to lose your own place on the map. A button to recenter onto your current location could have relieved some of these problems. Lastly, the entire layout of the map is mostly in a bland shade of purple/grey, making locations difficult to distinguish (whilst making the map dull to look at).
On a happier note, there are no load screens going from one area to the other, which makes the entire game nice and seamless. However, I would have gladly accepted load times if it meant more variety.
You will often find yourself having to take leaps of faith as you cannot usually see what is below due to the camera being as zoomed in so close. You can stand on the edge of a platform and the camera will move down just a bit, but it requires you to wait a second or two. Whilst this may not seem like much of an issue, Jack moves very quickly and having to stop for a little while in order to see what’s below tends to break the flow of momentum.
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Our biggest complaint would have to be the search for the second key. You see, Jack needs to collect two keys that unlocks the final boss door in order to beat the game (Yes, just two – the game can be completed within a few hours). In order to reach the switch that will make the blocking wall go down, you’ll need to go through a secret hidden wall. You don’t even know where this switch is, nor is it hinted anywhere that you need to go through a hidden wall, so players will find themselves running around aimlessly and eventually ragequitting. Secret hidden areas are fine in Metroidvanias – in fact, they’re a standard – but only for optional collectibles, not as apart of the main quest.
The story is very simple. Man loves woman, woman friendzones man, giant monster kidnaps her and needs saving. When Jack ventures downwards, he quickly teams up with a massive sword called Kuro that was once human until their soul was trapped inside the sword. Whilst on your adventure, Kuro will say the occasional line of dialogue and will repeat himself a lot.
Kuro also says some pretty weird and arrogant lines, such as: “I’m so powerful!”, “Just trust me!” and “Kill them all!”. I honestly thought that there was going to be a plot twist and Kuro was encouraging you to do evil the entire time, but alas! The entire plot ended up being average and unrewarding.
Graphics / Art Direction
The pixelated art style and character designs are cute, but it’s everything you’d expect and less from a 16-bit inspired metroidvania. The colour scheme and background never changes throughout the entire game, so get use to that charcoal and shades of grey (with the odd use of greenery), because that’s all you’re going to get. There’s literally not much more to say on this matter…
Music / Sound Design
Just like the graphics, the lack of variety in the soundtrack makes it VERY repetitive. There are literally two main tracks, the main exploration theme which seems to be on a 12 bar loop, and the boss fight theme. There may have been another song during the opening scene, but I honestly cannot remember due to how unmemorable it was.
Final Score: 48%
JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword is an incredibly lackluster experience, with little to no imagination. The game is difficult, but often in a frustrating way. You don’t feel good about beating a boss or finishing a difficult platforming challenge, just relieved that you won’t have to do it again. Metroidvania games are not easy to make; they take a lot of planning and mapping out, and JackQuest just appears to be thrown together without any love or care put into it.