Jump Jump Jelly Reactor is a matching puzzle game that isn't afraid to try out new ideas. Instead of flat and boring blocks, tiles or even gems, this game fills your screen with lively jellies that can be combined to form larger characters with brand new properties. Gameplay is a unique combination of strategy and puzzle matching that extends a good variety of tasks your way. It's rare that a matching game really catches my eye, but Jump Jump Jelly Reactor provides such a full experience, it's hard to pass up.
The same basic mechanics prevail in Jump Jump Jelly Reactor's multiple gameplay modes. The screen is filled with jellies of many colors, all sitting peacefully above tubes that lead to the reactor on either side of the grid. Using the mouse, drag like-colored jellies to combine them and form bigger jellies. Get more than three together and the jelly drops, splattering every blob beneath it and netting you a handful of points. You can strategically place larger jellies beneath falling jellies to create splash damage that will splatter and pop jellies in neighboring columns. That simple mechanic creates a whole world of gameplay strategy you'll quickly learn to master.
Jump Jump Jelly Reactor takes this fun base mechanic and goes crazy with it. Four modes of play are available, all unlockable using coins you win by completing levels from the Jellytown map screen. You start off with Arcade mode, your basic game type where you'll probably spend most of your time. Here you must protect the jelly reactor from the grumpy Rockons, sturdy little characters who, upon reaching the tubes at the bottom of the screen, will stack up and eventually end your game by breaking the reactor. Dealing with these guys (who change in later levels and force you to deal with them in different ways) becomes a game of strategy, as you must try and keep them away from the bottom of the screen while making matches elsewhere to form a big jelly above them and smash them into pieces. You really have to use your head sometimes.
The other three modes, Karma, Factory, and Puzzle, offer interesting challenges when dealing with pesky Rockons becomes to much of a hassle. In Factory mode you must first restore power to the building by completing half a dozen tasks. These range from building giant jellies to dropping jellies down specific columns at the right time. After the factory is operational you repeat the process for each of the jelly colors. Karma mode goes on forever and saves your progress as you advance in levels, while Puzzle mode sends a number of jelly-based riddles to your screen.
Analysis: Jump Jump Jelly Reactor isn't your standard casual gaming experience, as it tries a lot of new things and gets them right every time. The game has an arcade feel to it (you know, the big machines that used to live in buildings called Arcades) with bouncey visuals and a soundtrack to match. Every ounce of its presentation is enjoyable, and I love the "filling" sound effect when you drop jellies down the tubes!
In Arcade mode the action gets a little tense in later levels when you're dealing with a handful of Rockons, some of which actually devour jellies beneath them, forcing you to act very quickly to send them packing. That was a little much for me and felt out of place in the game's otherwise smooth and relaxed page. Fortunately there's plenty of options in terms of gameplay modes to balance that out.
There really is a lot to Jump Jump Jelly Reactor, but its cute exterior combined with boxing it into the matching puzzle genre prevents most people from finding that out. Give it a play, however, and you'll discover loads of unlockables, simple but fun gameplay, and a surprisingly deep strategy that unfolds as you gain mastery over the jellies. I spent two hours playing the game the first time I got my hands on it, which is a rare thing indeed!