Jasper's Journeys is a downloadable platform game for Windows and Mac OS X created by Lexaloffle Games. It plays much like an old-school sidescroller where exploration is essential, power-ups are sparse, speed is often encouraged, and secret areas are plentiful. In many ways it's similar to Brad Borne's The Fancy Pants Adventure games (or even Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros, or Jazz Jackrabbit), though with a decidedly different atmosphere and updated look and feel.
Jasper's cat, Orlando, has been nabbed by a not-so-nice witch who intends on using him as ingredient in an evil potion. Our flowing-haired hero sets out on a journey to save his feline friend, pitting him against strange fantasy enemies with nothing more than fruit-powered magic discs as a weapon. Use the [left] and [right] arrow keys to move, [Z] to jump and [X] to attack. You can also use a gamepad, which makes the experience all the more sweet.
Most of your time playing Jasper's Journeys will be spent collecting fruit and gems, the former supplying ammo, the latter coinage to buy game saves and items. You'll also pick up shields to protect you against monsters and gather golden orbs in each stage to gain access to secret treasure rooms. Explore each level as thoroughly as you can, taking different paths, backtracking, and trying out extremely difficult jumps. It seems like there's always something new to discover, whether it's a hidden room full of gems or just a few pieces of fruit tucked in an out-of-the-way space. Finding these treasures is half the fun of the game.
Analysis: Overall, Jasper's Journeys is a simple and surprisingly straightforward game (in terms of mechanics and design) that caters to gamers who grew up with Sonic and Mario as their heroes. The visuals are superb, capturing that retro feel we love so dearly but updating it for our graphics-spoiled eyes to enjoy. Music is missing from much of the game, which lends a rather somber backdrop to the adventure. I found myself craving a deliciously retro tune now and again, nothing too intrusive, just something to add the very slightest bit of lightheartedness to the experience.
When you first play Jasper's Journeys the controls will feel sluggish and maybe a bit sticky. The physics aren't immediately intuitive, adding a very slight learning curve to controlling our red-haired hero. Mastering a platform game means mastering the nuances of the controls, however, so one should take it as being a part of the game, not necessarily an obstacle to enjoying it. The action really heats up after ten or so levels, so if you were worried about not having a good challenge, think again.
One drawback to having a game with so many secrets is that you are often overwhelmed with things to do. On several occasions I found myself wanting a little more streamlined and, dare I say, linear progression. Secret rooms are fantastic, hidden gems are wonderful things to uncover, but sometimes I wanted that old feeling of accomplishment that can only be had by completing a stage. Sure, if you stick to the high ground and keep moving right you'll eventually get the exit, but I still want to find a few casual secrets along the way. It's a balance Jasper's Journeys gets right about three-quarters of the time.
Jasper's Journeys is a game of playful exploration and platforming timing and reflex action. A great treat for fans of classic side-scrolling games, but an excellent title anyone will enjoy.