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Review: Jambuster EX
I've done the M5 a fair few times in my time. From the excitment and expectation of being in your destination whilst getting on at junction 7 near Worcester; passing the delightful town of Cheltenham; passing the junction to go to Bath on the M4; the hectic and chaotic mess that is the stretch at Bristol in rush hour; the picturesque scenery over the Bristol channel and trying to count the cars in the huge car-yards; passing Weston-Super-Mare and heading towards Devon and Cornwall to finally getting off at Exeter and enjoying the pubs and clubs there or carrying on to other sea-side towns. The M5 really has it all.
This game does not, however.
Now that's not to say it is a bad game because it isn't. It's pleasing on the eye from the get-go; the gritty "Getaway"-style fonts on the menu screen and the diverse and well thought out selection of sub-games certainly stand out, making the player feel as though they are spoilt for choice.
Playing the game shows that, in fact, the game promises an ice-cream sundae but delivers a half-eaten Mars ice-cream bar. It looks good, it tastes good, but ultimately you'll be hungry for that sundae. The player's car seemingly moves in the basic 8-direction movement style whilst CPU controlled cars do little more than follow the road more slowly than the player's. Stripping it down you realise they're actually just falling down the screen and it's your job to either avoid or hit them so they are damaged enough to cause insurance claims. It soon becaomes apparent that the fairly diverse choice in game modes really falls into 2 styles of game - avoid or bump into CPU cars.
Jambuster EX does get some things right though; the game captures the baron nature of motorway roadsides exceptionally well, though not specifically through it's detail, more over from the lack of, as the grass is lacking in any fauna or gravel detail. The vehicle sprites look good - almost apeing GTA models, though it is clear they are not ripped from the GTA games - and the attention to detail paid to the game engine when you drive into the barriers is pleasant, with sparks flying up the motorway. Menu graphics and presentation screens look especially gritty and fit the game perfectly.
Jambuster EX also gets some things wrong too though. The sound effects, though showing that effort has gone into them, don't feel at one with the game, sounding too inorganic and "stuck-on". This doesn't take over the game though and make it feel any less fun to play, and in many ways the drone of the car engine actually shows some accuracy to the almost hypnotic trance engines make on that long, lonely trip down the M5.
So with a fairly limited range of options - dressed up deliciously in a selection of interesting sub-missions - the game doesn't last well. Most gamers will have seen all there is to offer by the end of their fifth or sixth go, and many will never get round to experiencing the interesting, albeit slightly flawed, 2-player versus mode. Unlike some battery-powered bunnies i know, this baby won't last you all night.
In all, this is a very good attempt at making a very interesting subject from a very light gaming concept. Deathbringer promises to make a whole new game for the sequel and i am interested to see what comes from this project. Hopefully a new physics model will be employed, allowing for spectacular "Burnout"-style pile-ups. Hopefully some more diverse game modes will justify the detail and delightfulness of the modes featured in this game. Hopefully the game will step up and give us the definitive experience from the Tetris Racing mould. I will be thinking of Jambuster EX and looking forward to the sequel on Monday when i take the M5 on my way to Newquay...
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