Jump'n Bounce

A game by DeRail Games for Xbox 360, originally released in 2010.
Jump’n Bounce stars a bouncing emoticon named Hug in an arcade-style platformer. Hug’s goal is to make it from his spawn point at the beginning of the level to the shining golden star at the end, grabbing pickups, and avoiding enemies and spikes along the way. If you’re thinking that this sounds like the description of practically every platformer you ever played in the 80’s, you’d be right… and this is by design. But you won’t be tackling the levels in the usual way, and that’s because of Hug’s unique control quirk.

In most platformers, your two primary controls are RUN and JUMP, and as the player, you need to determine when it is best to utilize each of these mechanics to dodge or destroy your enemies, avoid obstacles, and progress to the end of the level. But what would happen if one of those abilities were taken out of your hands? We’ve already seen games such as Canabalt that give you a platformer where you can’t stop running, and games such as Bump ‘n’ Jump where you can’t stop driving. Well, Jump’n Bounce is the platformer where you can’t stop jumping.

When you start the game, Hug will be bouncing merrily away, with a yellow dotted line following him wherever he goes. You can move him to the left or right, but you cannot make him stop bouncing. Early on, you’re offered some fairly basic challenges: jump over a gap, hop up on a platform, avoid an enemy, etc., but it doesn’t take long before things start to get complicated.

Because you can’t stop jumping, you’ll need to be constantly mindful of how your lateral trajectory will be impacted by your vertical. Your previous platforming experience may have taught you how to jump over enemies, but you’re not often asked to jump under them. You’ll need to consider your angle, speed, and the height of your bounce if you hope to navigate the tight corridors and avoid the numerous enemies. And often you’re not just facing a single enemy, but rather a whole row of them. Each of the enemies follows a prescribed patrol route, so there is always a solution for getting past them. The trick is to do it without getting splatted.

If you fall victim to spikes or enemies, you will leave behind a bright yellow splat, and then you will respawn. If you’ve managed to activate a checkpoint, you’ll start there; otherwise, it’s back to the beginning with you. Each of the game’s 50 levels is presented as a single screen, so you can examine the entire layout and start mapping the best way through the level. There are often multiple routes to the exit. However, valuable pickups are usually tucked away in more dangerous areas of the level, so it’s up to you if you want to head straight for the exit, or see if you can grab a pickup and make it back out alive.

There are only 2 types of pickups in the game. One is a yellow pickup that grants you additional points, and the other is a green pickup that grants you an extra life. These are spread fairly liberally throughout the environment, and you’ll definitely need a good supply of 1ups for the later levels. But these pickups are usually surrounded by enemies and spikes, both of which will kill you instantly if you touch them.

In addition to moving and jumping, you have only 2 other movement tools at your disposal. One is a double-jump, which allows you to get a bit of extra height, and allows for precision platforming (you can, of course, change directions instantly in midair). The second is the smash drop (like a butt stomp) that allows you to smash down through certain types of bricks. This maneuver can also be used to perform an advanced technique: by pressing the button repeatedly, you can stick close to the ground and navigate under enemies. Because of the speed of the move, you’ll have to press the button rapidly in order for this to work, which makes it a bit difficult to execute, but it can get you out of some tight situations.

If you manage to make it through the original set of 50 levels, you may wish to try your hand at the director’s cut levels. These are 10 progressively more difficult levels that are aimed at the hardcore player.

The game’s presentation is pretty minimal, and is meant to mimic the arcade games of old. The levels are constructed of basic platforms, crushable bricks, 1-way platforms, directional arrows that only allow you to move in one direction, and of course, spikes. Enemies are nondescript, appearing as little more than round or flat moving objects. In a static screenshot, it can be difficult to tell the enemies from the background. Even in the game itself, enemies can still be somewhat difficult to distinguish if they’re near a solid surface, unless you are playing on a fairly large display.

There are plenty of throwbacks to old arcade and console games as well. For example, one level has a set of bricks made to look like a ghost and a pair of cherries from Pac-Man, while one of the director’s cut levels is modeled after Super Mario Bros. World 1-1.

8 Bit Horse interviews Truc Duong of DeRail Games. We discuss the developer's gaming influences, the decisions regarding the art style and gameplay, and the overall development process. Check out the video interview below, which features a whole lot of footage of the game in action.

DeRail Games is based in Oslo, Norway, and they are focused on making games for XBLIG and PC presented in a “new retro” style, featuring basic graphics with a mix of arcade-style gameplay and 80’s platformers.

Jump’n Bounce was their first game, and it was the first of 3 planned games starring Hug, the bouncing emoticon. The second was Panic Attack - The Devil's Favorite Game, and the third was CTG.

Panic Attack takes the ever-bouncing Hug away from the comfort of his single-screen environments, placing him in large scrolling environments filled edge to edge with deadly enemies and spikes. This time, he not only needs to perform precision platforming maneuvers, but he’ll need to do it quickly.

Hug dashes through environments, fighting the clock as he attempts to avoid rows of descending spikes and other obstacles. Hug will need to use his smash dive move with much greater frequency to squeeze through areas with low clearance, but he has a couple of new tools at his disposal as well.

He now has a double-jump move which lets him cross great distances, but also requires the right timing when hopping between narrow platforms suspended over rows of spikes. And, playing on the speed-based nature of the game, Hug has a turbo meter, which lets him unleash a bit of extra speed by mashing the RIGHT TRIGGER.

The third game in the “Hug Trilogy” takes the focus away from Hug, and places it on a heavily armed alley cat who is bent on killing as many grannies as possible. Hug is still here, but now there are multiple bouncing emoticons equipped with spikes that bounce around the environment breaking blocks and causing havoc.

The cat has 4 different weapons at his disposal, each with a different firing type, ranging from straight shots, to bouncing shots, to explosives that send grannies flying into the air. But the grannies don’t just die when they’re shot; instead, the cat needs to use the projectiles to bounce the grannies into the air and send them toward spinning “granny grinders” to destroy them for good. That’s right, ground up grannies. Fun for the whole family.

Grannies plod onto the screen in long lines, moving like lemmings as they drop off of ledges and turn around when they hit walls. Specialized grannies come in the form of stationary bazooka-wielding grannies (which fire Hug projectiles), grannies on ECV’s that roll along slowly but are unaffected by your regular bullets, and huge granny filled busses that block your fire until you send the whole thing into a grinder for a rewarding bloody splat.


Unknown said...

Is that a cat with an AK?

AJ Johnson said...

Yes, Geoff, that is definitely a cat armed with some sort of big friggin gun. The only hint that the DRG guys provided with ths picture was the word "combo".

Cats plus machine guns plus combos? I have no idea what that means, but it's exciting to consider the possibilities.