STAFF REVIEW of Jump Stars (Xbox One)

Saturday, July 1, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Jump Stars Box art I hear the cries for local multiplayer and splitscreen games all the time, and I have to admit, I was once in the camp of yearning for more couch co-op games with my friends, but that was years ago before online gameplay was the norm, as it is today. Nowadays it’s pretty rare for me to have a friend or so over, and if I do, it’s usually for more sophisticated reasons, like dinner or playdates for the kid, so I don’t have a need for many local multiplayer games anymore as I once used to. Sure there are people out there that still gather weekly or so and do local gaming together, but no one I know does that anymore, including myself, as we all just get online and play together from the comforts of our own homes. There’s a time and a place for everything though, as having a fun local multiplayer game is great to have ready at hand for those rare occasions that you do have a friend, or three, over.

Jump Stars aims to be your new go-to for local multiplayer antics with friends, as it’s filled with numerous minigames and quick play sessions that can be customized however you deem fit for your group of friends. Yup, Jump Stars is a local multiplayer only game for 2-4 players, so don’t go in expecting any sort of single player component or online play with your friends, which was my mistake, but for the low entry price point, it’s hard to argue.

The general premise of Jump Stars is that you’re participating in some sort of demented gameshow on TV where the prize is to win and stay alive. You, and the manic host, are cute little cubes with faces, and you’ll take part in a handful of event types across 20 or so stages. You need to survive the tournament by defeating your opponents in each minigame, yet need to work together as well if you want to boost your overall scores, so things can become an interesting affair when your friend suddenly turns on you, trying to ‘cheat’ his way to a victory when you assumed cooperation. This is Jump Stars’ strength, yet is also its weakness, as it doesn’t feel as if it has one unified goal, or way to accomplish it well.

Once you’ve gathered at least one friend to come over and play with you, you’ll head into one of two modes: Tournament or My Show. Tournament has you playing through a random series of events, each of which end when there’s only one player standing. Your goal is to accumulate a high enough score by the end of the small series of events to participate in “The Gauntlet”, which requires teamwork to even come close to doing. If you want to completely customize your party experience, My Show is where you can modify each game type and stage to your, or your friends’, wishes and play up to 9 events in a row.

Each minigame is somewhat unique, almost playing out like a watered down Fuzion Frenzy or Kung-Fu Chaos for those original Xbox owners out there that remember these classic party style games. Some events will have you jumping over a rotating arm, others playing hot potato with TNT, and even one where you need to eat the pies quickly or else you’ll shrink into nothing from hunger. Sure some of them are a little wacky, but it’s fitting with Jump Stars’ backdrop.

What makes the gameplay frantic is that you can also punch either direction to other players as you’re jumping and bouncing around, knocking them backwards a short distance. You can’t deplete any health bars of any sorts, but knocking off your friends into pits or into a pillar about to drop down is how you’ll win most of your matches, as the stages become increasingly faster as it continues.

Eventually random modifiers will manipulate the levels, throwing your strategies into the toilet, as it’s near impossible to do what you intend when controls are reverse, the world is upside down or everyone jumps incredibly slow. It’s an extra pinch of chaos, surely to create some loud shouting, possible swearing and tons of laughs depending on your group of friends. Medals are awarded at the end of each event, showing your score and how close you are to hopefully participating in The Gauntlet.

This is where Jump Stars starts to have a little bit of an identity crisis, as you’re trying to obviously win each event for yourself, but you also need to all work together to raise the overall points. This can go very well, or poorly, depending on the types of friends you have. Running over your own color’s platforms will make the overall score go up, but you never know if your friends are going to help you, or hinder you in their own quest to try and get first place.

After a short while you’ll also see all that Jump Stars has to offer. There’s only a handful of actual minigames, with the number being inflated from simple skin changes to the levels. Jump Stars will wear out its welcome very quickly if you try and play for hours on end, as you’ll participate in every event type quite quickly, so unless you want some bragging rights, or had a few to drink with the buddies, Jump Stars is best enjoyed in bite sized doses.

Most of the game types are simple to pick up and understand, as it will give you a brief outline of each minigame’s goal, but there are a few types of levels that my four year old had issues getting the hang of. Sure she’s well under the recommended age for this game, but for a few of the easier stages she did grasp the concept and really enjoyed herself. It got to a point where I had to build a playlist of the rotating arm stage on repeat, 9 times. Sure I’m looking at the game more critically, but my daughter really enjoyed the stages she was able to understand the goal to, even if she’s not the greatest at jumping exactly where she means to all the time, so the younger audience should have a blast with this one.

A lack of any simple player component, even with bots, and no online really brings down the replayability, and you’ll notice the repetition kick in quite quickly if you’re playing for more than a half hour at a time. That being said, if you do often have a few friends come over and are looking for a quick multiplayer game to laugh at each other with, Jump Stars has you covered, even more so if the ones playing are a younger audience.

Overall: 6.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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