Original platformers have been a surprisingly rare beast on DSiware in years since the service's launch. There are a handful of ports of classics from the 16-bit era and of cell phone games, but made-for-DSiware platforming goodness can probably be counted on the fingers of one hand. So when Pro Jumper showed up on the shop with its goofy title, dumb-looking hero and platformy action, I had to get it.
Look at his vacant eyes...
Developed by Arc System Soft, a company mostly known for making one-on-one fighting games, Pro Jumper definitely has an absurd Japanese charm going for it. Chimaki is apparently an established character in the Guilty Gear universe, so the manual doesn't even bother to explain what exactly is that white naked thing with only a leaf covering its shame. Something tells me that even if I knew, the idea of him going from one hot spring to the next would be just as absurd.
Does that make the manual useless? Not at all, as it provides about 50% of the charm and the laughs this game has to offer. I have to tip my hat to Aksys for the localization: they knew the people buying this were probably looking for kooky Japanese crap and whoever wrote the manual was happy to provide it.
But how about the game itself? Well, there is actually not much to tell: the game is a very basic, very short platformer. You jump on platforms, collect apples, and at the end of each stage fight the same boss who keeps learning new tricks. The game would be over before you know it if not for the fact that two hits will kill you, and slippery controls will make you fall to your doom. Because of this, the game is pretty brutal.
Though admittedly this video makes it look harder than it actually is. Playing while trying to film a DS is tough.
To get through the game, you will have to learn to let go of the "run" button. You are not timed anyway, so take as long as you need. Otherwise, you will quickly realize why the game gives you so many lives for each level. Well, at the start, you don't have so many. But collect all of the apples in a stage, and you will have three more lives with which to tackle the next stage. Once you reach the sixth and last stage, you could have as many as 17 lives. And you will find that is not enough.
As much as I memorized the levels and as much as I reminded myself I wasn't timed and could take as long as I could, slipping to my death was more the standard than the exception, and I blame it squarely on the slippery controls. I still didn't feel like I was good at it after beating it, and that is not a good thing at all. Good challenging platformers like BIT.TRIP RUNNER make you feel invincible when you replay earlier levels and the improvement is more than noticeable. Replaying the earlier levels in Pro Jumper after beating the game felt easier, sure, but it still felt cheap.
Speaking of cheap, the last boss in the game is one of those bastards you cannot hit until they unleash a specific attack, opening a window during which you can hurt them. And as is always the case it seems with such bosses, that window of opportunity is short and rare, and as a result the fight is a tedious war of attrition in which you avoid attacks for several minutes, simply hoping bad luck won't make you start over again for the 20th time. By the time I beat that jerk, the charm of the game (and my enjoyment) had long worn off.
Beating the game unlocks a harder difficulty which adds more enemies in the levels, but I only checked out the first level long enough to make this observation before deleting the game forever.
There is a masochistic streak in me that makes me stick with these hard platformers long after I've stopped enjoying myself, and that pretty much explains why the score is as high as it is, along with that kooky Japanese charm and the lack of crippling bugs. I can recommend it to hopeless platformer fans like myself, but those interested in the game specifically because of the waaacky title and character will probably get all this game has to offer to them in the above videos.
Ah, I didn't want to give that impression. If you do like challenging platformers, then there is something here for you. The final boss is lame, but the 6 levels sure are challenging. But they can be overcome.
oooh, I like "kooky Japanese crap"! It makes me think of Hammerin' Hero a bit in that sense, but this game will move a whole lot faster, and that slipperiness I see is definitely a different type of challenge. Maybe next time I run out of games (which may be a while).
Maybe I'll give it a try one of these days. By the way, I looked up Chimaki. Chimaki is the Japanese name for a glutinous rice dish wrapped in a bamboo leaf which is originally from ancient China. This is what it looks like.
I'm guessing he's just an antropomorphic rice treat and the leaf covering it's shame is a bamboo leaf.