Mobile gaming has more than a hint of masochism at its core. Counterpoints to noodly casual fare, the likes of Super Hexagon and Pivvot are mechanically simple. Yet their brutal nature is designed to smash your ego to pieces, and leave you a quivering wreck on the floor. The latest entry in the twitch/arcade/punishment genre crossover is Jumpgrid – and it’s superb.
Creator Ian MacLarty has form in this area, having concocted Super Hexagon/Canabalt/lurching washing machine mash-up Boson-X. But for this latest game, he’s instead smashed the fury of Super Hexagon into a stripped-back neon nightmare that simultaneously recalls retro classics Frogger and Pac-Man.
Hop to it
Unsurprisingly, the game is primarily about avoiding death. But rather than you merely dodging deadly chunks of scenery marching and whirling about, Jumpgrid also demands you collect stuff in order to progress.
In each level, you’re placed on a three-by-three grid, with spinning cubes along its edges. Munch them all, by leaping from point to point, and a teleporter opens up in the centre. Dive in, and you dart to the next, trickier challenge.
Jumpgrid doesn’t hang about showcasing your ineptitude. You’ll die frequently, and even the ostensible generosity of endless retries feels anything but when you’re served with stats for a quadrant (25 of the game’s 100 levels), outlining how many times you were splattered.
The flip-side of this high-octane but staccato pummelling is that Jumpgrid is, by any objective measure, compelling, thrilling, and tuned to the point you realise every failure is down to your own digits.
Jumpgrid also never stands still in terms of what it throws at you. Each quadrant has its own flavour (various shades of sadistic). The second forces you to master the grid’s wraparound nature, where leaping off one side has you appear on the other – useful for dodging yet another wall about to slam into your face. The fourth figures that, as if things weren’t already tricky enough, the game may as well start moving the entire grid behind impenetrable boundaries.
Add to this end-of-quadrant ‘boss’ levels that will reduce you to tears, a ridiculously gripping high-score chaser infinite mode, optimistic speedrun tests, and a pulse-pounding soundtrack, and you’ve the kind of game that mobile was made for – and a twitch arcade title that finally knocks Super Hexagon off of its lofty perch.
Jumpgrid is available for Android (Google Play) and iOS (App Store). A version for desktop (which is even faster!) is available on the Mac App Store (macOS), Steam (macOS/Windows/Linux), and itch.io (macOS/Windows/Linux + soundtrack).