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Jack of all Tribes Review

Where the heck did this game come from? I went into Jack of all Tribes with no expectations, and I left with one of my personal favorite iPhone experiences in quite some time. It’s a great-looking, easy-to-play, quick-to-load game with lots to offer. To top it all off, it even has good dialogue telling a pretty interesting story—for an iOS game, anyway.

You begin the game with little context as you climb onto a ride at some undefined carnival. It’s a log flume ride that pretty much jettisons you off into the prehistoric past where underdeveloped tribes automatically accept you as their leader saying that the fates brought you to them. From there you and an attractive woman named Rainbow, who acts as your guide, move from tribe to tribe commanding the inhabitants to work. Your character makes references to modern day luxuries much to confusion of Rainbow, and even makes fun of the tribes beliefs. It can be humorous, and even seems to subtly poke fun at organized religion. Every word out of your mouth is unpredictable, and makes the text between levels worth paying attention to. When it comes to iOS games, usually you’ll be clicking through the text as quickly as you can.

Jack of all Tribes is a resource management game. Each tribe you come upon needs homes built, food and gold gathered and assorted repairs implemented. There isn’t much to get in your way of relegating tasks to the tribesmen, other than the occasional fire, or enemy who can be either tapped away, or scared away if you’ve got a pet dinosaur.

Attending to the assorted needs of the tribes is as simple as tapping what you need. Want to cut down that tree for wood? Tap it. Want to feed the hungry worker? Tap the food supply. Want to build a house? Tap the empty lot. You won’t be assigning jobs to specific tribesmen, or carefully delegating a certain number of people to a certain task, it’s all automatic.

It’s not a difficult game by any means. The challenge comes from doing things quickly, but you are never on a timer. The simplicity of it all will definitely turn off fans of game like Civilizations, but as a short burst mobile game, it works really well. It doesn’t require a whole lot of thought, but you still get all the satisfaction and reward that comes from building a tribe from nearly scratch.

Occasionally you will come upon rifts in time where things like airplanes or pirate ships from future eras will suddenly appear in the middle of your map. When this happens, you enter a find the hidden object sort of minigame that serves as a very entertaining distraction from the main game. Hidden in these, uh, hidden picture minigames, are items that will increase the capabilities of your tribesmen in a number of ways. They will become faster, stronger, or need to eat with less frequency. Collecting these items permanently upgrades your workers lending these objects a lot of value. Not only are the rifts cool to see, but they are rife with excellent power-ups.

The art and animation of the game is incredibly colorful and detailed. Your workers are fully animated as they pick up pumpkins, or put together houses, which means you could very easily get distracted watching them work. You rarely have a chance to slow down though, which goes the same for the game itself. During my entire playthrough, I never encountered any slowdown of action, despite having all my workers tasked simultaneously. Visually and technically, it’s impressive all around.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect with Jack as I initially stated, but I am impressed. I don’t mind saying that this is one of my favorite iOS games to date. It’s fast paced without being frustrating, incredibly rewarding, has a great style, good music and to top it all off, the narrative isn’t half bad. It’s a bit pricey at $4.99 on the iPad, and the iPhone version needlessly functions as a download for free, but purchase fully in app sort of game, but it really is worth it. Don’t let this one pass you by.

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Kyle Hilliard I'm pretending, with as much sincerity as my imagination will allow, to be a video game journalist. This is my blog: http://interminablepalaver.wordpress.com/
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