Jack Lumber (iOS) Review
As portable gaming continues to be dominated by the casual market, mobile games, especially those for iOS, have sort of begun to develop a checklist of their own about what makes a game of that type stand out from the literally hundreds of games that come out each week to compete with it. Jack Lumber, the new log-slicing game from Sega and Owlchemy Labs, literally has all of it. This, coupled with it’s high production value and bizarre sense of humor, have made Jack Lumber into something pretty darn fun.
The game is similar to Fruit Ninja in that items, in this case logs, are sort of tossed in the air for the player to slice with their finger, or in this case, chop with their finger axe. There’s real strategy to it though, because you may only touch your finger to the screen once per toss, slowing down the rate at which the logs fall through the air, forcing you to carefully plan your finger’s route through the logs, in order to properly split them all in half longways in one impossibly accurate swipe. The gameplay feels smooth and easy, and only rarely becomes frustrating, mostly because sometimes my average-size fingers were literally to thick to make as precise a cut as I wanted, or I’d touch my finger to the screen to early, and half the logs would be stuck only partway on the screen.
Jack Lumber also has a bunch of derivative features in order to boost its replay value, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As the game goes on, there’s more and more complex logs to cut, and more and more tasks to complete, a la Tiny Wings or Jetpack Joyride. In fact, it’s exactly like that, in that there’s three you can work on at a time, and that they don’t always have to do with winning the level, encouraging players to experiment with the game. It also gives you a star rating from one to four based on your performance in each level, and the more stars you get, the more items you unlock in the store to help you get a higher score. The four-star rating isn’t even unlocked until you completely finish the game once through, and it’s much harder to get than a three-star rating, so if you’re a completionist, you’ll probably be playing this game for quite some time.
The store aspect of this game is also one Jack Lumber’s strengths, in that pretty much everything in the store is realistically obtainable without having to spend any real world money, and that everything in the store, excepting four or five superfluous but humorously handled paintings you can hang on your wall, simply exist to make the game more fun. For example, as you get more and more four-star ratings, you gain access to a selection of beards which, when worn, make the game increasingly more difficult to complete but boost your ability to get high scores. Still, there is a store where you can spend real money for huge amounts on in-game currency, but it’s really not necessary. The game feels deep, like you’ll probably have it on your iOS device for a substantial amount of time before deleting it, and it’s actually fun to play, not just fun “for an iPhone game”.
Finally, probably the most effective and unique aspect of this game, is its production value. The graphics are very well done, and really shoot for and achieve a very specific, cartoonish, mountain-lodgey feel. The music is always the perfect accent to this, and the game is more enjoyable as a result, rather than being bogged down with super-harsh repetitive stuff like a lot of other popular iOS games. The tone of the game is also very funny and enjoyable, firstly, because the game attempts to have some semblance of a driving narrative, which, in this type of game is totally unnecessary but totally welcome, and second, the devs over at Owlchemy were willing to not take themselves all to seriously, oftentimes just freely commenting on the game’s weirdness without even trying to obscure it. This makes it feel a lot more like the devs are laughing with you about how silly the game is, and it really helps draw you into the world of the game in a satisfying and positive way.
Jack Lumber’s not the most original game in the world, but if you’re looking for a safe bet that’s genuinely fun and does almost nothing wrong, you should probably consider grabbing this one down at your local iOS app store.