Jolt: Fully Charged

A game by Darkera Studios for PC, originally released in 2018.
Jolt: Fully Charged is a colorful platformer created in the style of 16-bit classics, with nods to Sonic the Hedgehog in particular. Players take on the role of Jolt, a robot created by the Mega Drive Core as a protective measure against the game’s villain, Professor Ohm. Jolt runs and jumps through several themed areas, using his unique Bolt Dash and advanced shield system to navigate the environment and defeat enemy robots. In the game’s story mode, Jolt teams up with a robot named Cycle, who speaks on behalf of her silent companion and has unique abilities of her own.

Professor Tantalus Ohm is an expert in robotics and cybernetics, and inventor of the Mega Drive Core, which he eventually uses – along with an army of robots – to seize power and rule over humanity. Since rising to power, the professor has been working on a new device called the Calamity Contraption, which is a threat to all organic life. A resistance movement has formed, led by young woman named Joule, but her goals sometimes put her at odds with Jolt and Cycle, and she occasionally finds herself facing off against the robotic duo on her path to destroy all automatons.

Jolt is comes equipped with a 3x variable jump and a short double jump that adds another 1x. He can also wall slide, wall jump, and jump upward along vertical surfaces. His most advanced function is the Bolt Dash, which allows him to zip along in one of four directions on the ground or in the air. By default, this dash does no damage to enemies, but it allows Jolt to pass through foes unharmed and gain additional air time. Combined with his high jump, double jump, and the ability to jump up walls, Jolt is capable of reaching almost any point in the environment, making him a very capable platforming hero.

Early on, Jolt encounters Cycle, an information bot who joins him on his mission to take down Professor Ohm. Cycle rides piggyback on Jolt as he runs around the levels, but when Jolt is destroyed, Cycle jumps off and is able to navigate on her own with a different set of abilities. She is not able to move as quickly a Jolt, and she also has a shorter jump and is unable to climb walls, but she makes up for these shortcomings with an incredible amount of aerial maneuverability. She can jump five times in midair and perform three dashes in succession. This makes some areas a bit more challenging (and some a bit easier), but she is more than capable of dealing with enemies and navigating the environment.

Checkpoints are spaced at a moderate rate, and when Cycle makes it to a checkpoint, she is able to rebuild Jolt and bring him back into play. Or, should both characters perish – either in combat or in one of the insta-death bottomless pits – checkpoints act as traditional respawn points. However, when Jolt is killed, he loses any gems he was carrying, along with his score… although this does not affect gameplay; it simply means players will have a lower score tally at the end of the level.

Collecting gems is important for more than gaining points, as every 100 gems collected restores one unit of health, and a 1UP is awarded for every 250 gems collected. Health is also not restored at checkpoints or even upon defeating bosses, so exploration in search of gems is highly encouraged.

There is a bit of risk involved in exploration, and the presence of so many side paths can sometimes make it difficult to find the proper path forward, but the benefits usually outweigh the risks. The game is positively packed with hidden areas, false walls, and out-of-the-way platforms, leading to caches of gems, 1UPs, shields, and the occasional battery that permanently increases Jolt's health meter by one unit.

Shields are of paramount importance here, as they not only protect Jolt from a single hit of damage (after which they disappear), but they also grant him secondary abilities. A health-restoring shield slowly fills a counter that adds units back to Jolt’s health meter. A magnetic shield allows Jolt to draw nearby gems toward him from a moderate distance… although he can draw gems in from a short distance by dashing through them.

An electrical shield causes damage to enemies by sending out sparks when Jolt dashes. Several shields alter Jolt’s movement abilities, including one that allows him to change directions mid-dash, one that allows him to move more quickly, one that lets him fall more slowly, and one that gives him the ability to dash twice in midair.

The game has a number of obvious influences from Sonic the Hedgehog, including a couple of enemies that are straight out of Green Hill Zone, in the form of a red-shelled insect on a rolling wheel and a hovering wasp-like bot that fires projectiles from its stinger. Most enemies are killed with a bop on the head, although some spiked foes are resistant to such attacks. Unlike Sonic, Jolt is not able to kill enemies in passing since his dash maneuver does not cause damage by default. As such, players may find themselves avoiding direct attacks in favor of moving through levels more quickly, which makes early levels extremely easy.

In the early going, 1UPs are dispensed like candy, with the player encountering troves of gems and 1UP icons with little threat from enemies or environmental hazards, and early bosses move slowly and have simple attack patterns. But as the player moves into the back half of the game, he will find himself losing more lives. Enemies become tougher and more numerous, obstacles increase, there are more chances for instant death, and bosses become more dastardly.

It’s easy to lose a lot of health quickly during chaotic action sequences or during projectile-heavy boss encounters. With so much going on at once, combined with the fast movement of your character and the fact that a traditional flickering effect is used during temporary invincibility, it can be easy to lose track of your onscreen avatar. This is particularly troublesome in areas with insta-kill bottomless pits or green slime, and when Jolt is destroyed, Cycle doesn’t simply enter the fray, but rather drops off backwards at an angle, sometimes sending her into dangerous territory. And just when you think you’ve reached the end of the game, there’s still plenty left to go…

The game features 10 themed areas and weighs in at a whopping 20 levels, each of which terminates in a boss encounter. Bosses provide another nod to Sonic the Hedgehog, as many such encounters see the player facing Professor Ohm in various machinations, with a Robotnick-esque escape pod leaving when the machine is destroyed. The game takes nearly two hours to complete from end to end, and there are no save points to allow players to quit the game and return at a later time. However, the player’s overall progress is tracked, and new options – and new playable characters – await those who are able to make it to the end of the game.

Jolt: Fully Charged was developed by Darkera Studios, which is headed by Matthew Davis. The game’s programming and artwork were created primarily by Matthew Davis, with writing and additional programming by Charles Parkes IV, and a chiptune soundtrack composed by Everett Fischer. The game was developed using Game Maker Studio. The developer previously released Rise of the Clockwork Stallions, an unlicensed fan game based on the My Little Pony franchise.