Overall Score 65%
In this all you can eat arcade adventure, you are engaged in Pacman clone antics with tons of powerups and powerdowns, and if the sound of a good Pacman clone is enough to get some cult followers' receptors tingling, the core gameplay of Jawbreakers Return might just crack that enthusiasm.
Not all is bad news... The Pacman gameplay is just part of your adventure, as this title varies its gameplay with mini-games such as catching fruit jumping out of a volcano and obstacle courses. As you master the keyboard controls you might just find this game compelling enough to file above other cloned mutations like CD-Man and Dynokid. To be completely fair, this is much more then a clone, showcasing brooding talent and inventive and creative minds, apparent as you explore the story of Jawbreakers Return, while engaged in the many mini-games.
You follow the story as a pair of jaws, existing in a society of Jaws, eating just about everything, depleting your worlds resources. Now you are on a food quest, stripping planet after planet of its candy, fruits and other foodstuffs, and just when things were going your way we reach Earth, with its melting polar caps and equally hungry population bursting to populate space. Earth, that would under normal circumstances feature us humans and maybe some weird anomalous things hidden within the folds of future discovery, now goes by the name of 'The Jawbreakers Planet', filled with quests, placing you in a cartooned down arcade adventure possibly meant for Lexx lovers freshly graduating from primary school.
Powerups include chillis to help you move faster, spit to melt enemies, chewing gum, land mines, bombs, voltaic arc, homing missiles, nuclear bombs and many more. There are also harmful powerdowns, such as drunk, drugged, oil spill, speed down, crush and some unknown hoodoo. You can play the game with either a keyboard or joystick, making use of the mouse only to buy powerups and navigate the menus. By pressing the arrow keys you can move in four directions while playing the Pacman style stages, or left and right to catch fruit hurled out of a volcano in bonus levels. The game also features two other action keys, left control and right shift; these allow you to make use of the many powerups, such as your default attack, charged by eating green dots, spraying clouds of green gas and making your enemies shrink until they explode. You have to eat all the dots on the large levels until your percentage meter is at 100%. You can then move on to the next stage - this could either be a bunch of sliders, volcano or an obstacle course consisting of steaming pipes, wheels and a moving hook.
In the slider stages you have to time your way through the gaps in this inverse frogger gameplay dynamic, avoiding the rolling smileys and other enemies, while jumping through the gaps, careful not to trap yourself. These and the other mini games make this title more diverse than the average clone, however Jawbreakers Return could possibly be considered weaker because of the overly large Pacman style stages. These can become tedious for not saving your progress often enough, and then forcing you to re-play uneventful areas. The player can also get stuck around corners while using the keyboard, and only by pressing two keys at once do these stages operate smoothly. Starting the game with a large Pacman stage moving at low speed, while getting stuck around corners, gives completely the wrong impression, as the game can be a lot of fun, and even addictive if given a chance.
A lot of work has gone into this title, the menus are very professional, and there is a lot of detail in the mini maps and stages, making use of both 3d and 2d graphics. The game has a few video options that allow you to toggle Full Screen, V-Sync, Hardware T&L and 32 Bit Colour. The graphics are not overly colourful or childish while the special effects are impressive, adding quality to the experience. With settings such as clear sky, day effect, slower enemies and hints, the player has the power to customise in detail. The controls can also be configured with three different keyboard modes. The music is mild without being boring, while the sound effects are clear and relevant. The volcano stages have a fun vibe thanks to well chosen tracks. The music could have done with more diversity, however, especially in the Pacman levels.
Although the effects in this game are cool, and the story is original enough, the game struggles with the very foundations of gameplay. The game's fun elements are just not dominant enough at the beginning, and it would have been better to have just a few brilliant powerups and effects instead of a mixed horde drowning all the good ones. It is a shame that the best and most interesting stuff does not showcase in the first levels.
The creators deserve kudos for expressing their ideas while managing to create an addictive title with lots of replay value. Although this is definitely not a hardcore casual game, we do see all the bells and whistles we have come to expect from one. With just a little more tweaking and smaller areas to boot, future updates of Jawbreakers Return might just turn out to be super sweet.
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