We check out the pixel-friendly Jade Order, a delightful title well worth the money for anyone looking for a retro-inspired puzzle game for smartphones.
After all these years, I still haven't managed to learn how to play on a smartphone with virtual controllers. I'd still rather use physical ones. For me, however, mobile games are best when I don't have to lug around something like that and the strengths of the format are used to their best, and it's in this fold that we find Jade Order.
Tortuga Xel offers a really cosy puzzle game with brilliant pixel presentation and absolutely phenomenal music. Adding to the package is a story that actually engages, cutscenes and all. While it's not what drives me to keep playing, it still provides a framing device for everything I do, which also makes more sense than "just" completing the challenges because it also leads to consequences in the story.
The set-up is simple and the developers have managed the balance well, allowing the first few levels to lull me into the concept and then adding more and more depth as extra layers are presented. The levels resemble a sort of maze where the goddess of light must make her way through and fight a number of enemies to prevent a darkness from taking over the world. But the problem is that the enemies don't stand still and to attack them you have to strike from the sides or from behind. Fortunately, you get to take them down in any order you like, and there's also an 'undo' button that makes everything so much more user-friendly.
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The latter helps the game never feel overly difficult, but just the right amount of challenging throughout, with new enemies continually throwing new challenges my way and forcing me to come up with new plans for how to progress through the 50 levels in total. Playing on a smartphone, in particular, makes this even more enjoyable than any other format thanks to how intuitive it is to move the protagonist around and choose, which abilities to use to get ahead.
Although the pixel graphics themselves aren't particularly advanced, I like the design and especially the colour choices, which contribute strongly to a nice retro feel. I also think the Pixel 7 Pro I'm playing on adds a really nice glow to the adventure, and it also enhances the music. If you don't have good speakers in your phone, I'd recommend headphones, because Jade Order sounds really pleasant and so 80s-like that you actually want to hear it.
If I'm going to complain about anything, I think it would have been nice to have more level variety as now it's just variations on the same theme with new enemies. Since the game isn't that long, it's never a big problem, but if Tortuga Xel intends to make a sequel, it will be required.
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7 / 10
Nice presentation. The story works well. Smart layout.