Jack Lumber represents the first fruits of the Sega Alliance, a new initiative which will see the industry veteran team up with independent developers to publish and market new mobile games. Joining forces with Snuggle Truck developer Owlchemy Labs, Sega has chosen its first release wisely: this is a simple idea, smartly embellished, and one that benefits from a delightfully offbeat sense of humour.
The eponymous tree-feller cuts a swathe through a range of woodland settings on a mission to avenge the death of his beloved granny, cruelly crushed by a sentient pine. Jack may live out in the sticks, but he’s evidently familiar with both Fruit Ninja and The Matrix: as in Halfbrick’s game, your job is to slice through flying objects before they disappear, though the second your finger touches the screen time slows to a crawl, giving you the opportunity to hack spinning stumps in two before the clock ticks down. The caveat is that you need to draw a single continuous line rather than rely upon short, sharp swipes.
Numbered logs require several cuts, others can only be sliced in a specific direction, and some split into three shortly after they appear. Explosive barrels destroy several nearby pieces in a pinch, while those painted with a clock face briefly stop the timer. Bottles of syrup, meanwhile, can be slashed to give your chopped wood a maple finish for bonus points, or used to retake a poor attempt.
It remains disarmingly single-minded throughout, yet any repetition is offset by intuitive, precise controls, and satisfying audiovisual feedback. The action is bathed in the alluring pink-orange glow of an autumnal sunset, while the amusing onomatopoeic text that accompanies each successful swipe sees the traditional ‘THWAP!’ joined by the likes of ‘LOG!’ and ‘PLAID!’ There’s intelligent use of IAP, too: spend money on an unlockable beard, and you’ll increase the score multiplier at the cost of a difficulty hike. A fine game, then, but perhaps more importantly, the beginning of a very promising partnership.