From the creative minds of such diverse titles as Strongholds, Gold Keeper and Steamballs comes extreme sporting in the form of Jump-O-Mania 3D. The sport is called powerbocking (yeah, I looked it up too, and it is real), and it’s what I’d imagine the folks at Romper Room would come up with if they created an activity for adults. The game can be quite engrossing, but sadly I’m apparently not meant to be an electronic powerbocking guru. It took me quite some time to even pass the first level, and I think my success came because I finally decided to take it easy and not do a whole lot of stunts. Still, it keeps me entertained every time I load it up.
Basically, powerbocking is the act of jumping around on spring loaded stilts. In Jump-O-Mania you jump around various cities, using the items lying around the street as your obstacle course. You’ll hurdle things like toll both gates, dryers and stretch limos, and that’s just in Russia! You’re constantly moving, but you can tilt the device left and right to determine how long of a jump you’ll make. When the time comes you press the jump button to leap in the air. If you perform multiple jumps in a row you’ll get bonuses. You also have the option to perform stunts while you’re flying through the air. This will grant you even bigger bonuses, and the longer you hold the stunt button the more points you’ll get for that stunt. Don’t get cocky, however, because timing is key, and falling flat on your face not only looks painful, but it ends the round.
This is one of those games where you have to really work to get access to everything. When you start the game you have one character, one outfit, and one level. You even only have access to one mode of game play. As you conquer levels you start to open things up. Sadly I’ve only beaten the first level, so I haven’t been able to experience things like the second character or other game play mode. The initial mode is Time Trial, where you must survive for 180 seconds to beat the level. Scoring is always nice, but I’m not sure it’s a critical element here. I think as long as you last the 180 seconds you’ll beat the level. The thing is, that’s not a whole lot of fun, so you’ll find yourself being pulled into multiple jumps and edge of your seat stunts in no time. And then you’ll watch yourself crumble over a gate or ice cream freezer because your timing was off by just a hair.
The second mode is Survival, though since I haven’t unlocked it yet I can only speculate. I would imagine it’s a “get as far as you can” type scenario, given the way the game as a whole works. You can earn achievements, but it appears to be a home grown system as opposed to something like OpenFeint. My one achievement so far is “50 Falls”, so you have some idea of how skilled I am at this game. There is also an online leader board you can submit your scores to if you have an internet connection. I’m pretty sure I’ll never be in the running for top contender there.
While the game play is 2D the graphics are nicely rendered in 3D. The levels have lots of cool details if you can spare a few seconds to look around. Signs are almost legible, vending machines look full, and all kinds of details abound. I love seeing the Statue Of Liberty on the New York level, though my favorite background element so far is the bear passed out on the ground in the Russia level. The character looks really good as well, and the animation is lifelike and fluid. The only thing that’s a bit creepy is when she wipes out, because then the game sort of goes into “ragdoll” mode and some of the positions look extremely painful.
The sound effects are actually really good in this game. I love the sound the springs make when you impact with the ground, and I also really appreciate the fact that the stilts make different noises when they impact with different things. It would have been so easy to cheat in a game like this and have one sound for everything, assuming people wouldn’t pay that much attention to such trivialities. The moan the character makes when she hits the ground makes it even harder to watch her body crumple up. The music gets a bit repetitive after a while, but it’s not bad either. It has sort of a jazzy exercise beat to it.
The first time I played Jump-O-Mania I really wasn’t sure what to make of it, but now I realize it’s a quick to play, easy to get hooked on jump ‘n trick game that will challenge you. There’s no magic or mysticism to the controls, but there’s definitely something required to master the game. If you’re looking for a “not-so-endless keep running” game that’s a bit different from the norm, Jump-O-Mania might just be your thing. I’m glad I got the chance to try it.