Available On: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows, Mac, Linux
Played On: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Top-down shooter
Official Site: http://www.jydge.com
Release Date: October 2017
Where to Buy it: Steam, Console digital shops
I have never had such mixed feelings for a game before JYDGE. Hitting multiple platforms last month, JYDGE is an enjoyable and incredibly customizable twin-stick shooter from indie developer 10tons. The first half of this game deserves four stars, but one crucial decision by the developers completely destroyed the fun I had playing this game.
In this top-down shooter, you play as a robotic dealer of tough justice. Players progress through levels to earn medals, completing missions such as killing enemies, saving citizens, and assassinating bosses.
The key factor of JYDGE is its deep customization. As players earn medals, they unlock a vast array of upgrades to their gun, fire mode, and the JYDGE himself. Only four JYDGE upgrades and three gun upgrades can be equipped at once, so players must carefully formulate their strategy depending on the mission.
I’m a sucker for top-down gameplay. Being able to see the environment in all directions allows for more tactical options than other angles can provide. JYDGE embraces this idea, presenting players with situations that require careful planning and execution.
Each level includes a main mission which is required to progress, but it also presents two additional missions worth extra medals. In a level where the goal is to take down a boss, for example, the other missions may be to do so in 30 seconds or without being spotted. Each mission requires a different skillset and therefore a different combination of abilities. Speed, power, stealth, protection, and more must be planned out in advance and then executed in the level. Soon, an additional “hardcore” difficulty mode is added, presenting three more unique missions to each level.
The variety of missions perfectly highlights the high customization, but it also leads to the huge problem of JYDGE. Instead of simply beating a level to advance to the next, players must earn a set number of medals to unlock levels. This system isn’t bad in a vacuum, but halfway through the game JYDGE begins to present massive progression walls that must be overcome in order to advance the game.
Beating Act 2 marks the halfway point of the game. At this point, the player has played 10 levels and has realistically earned somewhere between 30 and 40 medals. However, the first level of Act 3 requires 55 medals to unlock. There is only a total of 60 possible medals available at this point. It may not sound like it if you haven’t played the game, but this progression wall is unforgivably hard to achieve.
In their own description of the game, developer 10tons refers to the rewards for optional missions as “extra medals.” In reality, they are far from extra: they are required to beat the game. The missions are definitely built to seem like optional endeavors, as some of them are just plain brutal. After a substantial amount of hours invested in JYDGE, I still don’t know how to plausibly achieve several medals.
Placing such a high barrier of entry between Act 2 and Act 3 is a terrible design choice for a multitude of reasons. First, it forces the player to soullessly grind what used to be quick, snappy, fun-filled levels.
People usually buy a $15 digital game looking for a quick good time, especially in the shooter genre. The levels hardly ever last more than three minutes, and the fast-paced action keeps the players constantly moving to new areas. That is until the progression wall kicks in. Now players are forced to rehash the same levels over and over and over again until all the fun is sucked out of the experience.
Seriously, these missions usually aren’t something an average player can just go back and achieve with one extra try. After nearly 10 hours of customizing, planning, and grinding the same 10 levels until I wanted to scream, I was still three medals away from being able to experience the second half of JYDGE.
This barrier drained the life out of my gameplay experience. It turned fun, well-designed levels into repetitive acts of masochism that I only continued to attempt because I chose to review the game.
I love the idea of the side missions. I love the idea of rewarding medals that unlock crazy new upgrades. There simply has to be a better way to incentivize players to do the side missions than to lock the rest of the game until they do. A much better decision would have been to simply ramp up the difficulty in the late game, nudging players to go back and strive for those extra medals to unlock helpful upgrades.
For grinding side missions to be fun for the player, it must happen naturally. It must be a free choice by the player; he must want to do it. Developers can guide players into this choice through rewards or even punishments, but they should never restrict progression in such a brutal manner. It just doesn’t make sense: if you’ve worked so hard on a game, don’t you want everyone who picks it up to play all of it? I cannot imagine that even half of JYDGE players, no matter how much they enjoyed the gameplay, actually made it to the end.
This massive shortcoming is quite a sad fate for JYDGE. I genuinely enjoyed my time with the first half. The controls are intuitive. the action is addicting, and the soundtrack is downright poppin’. I had a great time until I didn’t. I cannot separate my final opinion of the game from this one crippling flaw, and it hurts to say that such a promising game completely lost my interest. Completely.
Verdict: JYDGE was almost a super solid experience. The customization, strategy, and fast-paced gameplay combine to create a unique shooter experience. However, a massive progression wall halfway through the game undercuts everything that made JYDGE good.
- In-depth customization
- Fast-paced action + tactics
- Huge progression wall completely shuts down the enjoyment experience