Jetpack Joyride is the culmination of Halfbrick's work on iOS thus far and is a one-touch platforming masterpiece. It shares much with its predecessor Monster Dash – you control stocky protagonist Barry Steakfries in a machine-gun jetpack, boosting up and down with taps of the screen, dodging zappers and missiles to get as far as you can as the screen scrolls from left to right. But that's not the half of it.
The jetpack handles like a dream: taut and responsive when shooting upwards in a hurry, slackening off during the descent and capable of remarkable last-minute dodges. As well as hazards, Jetpack Joyride's course is stuffed with collectible coins, tokens and the occasional vehicle power-up – the latter are the game’s great flourish, randomly rewarding you with one of five toys that mix up the challenge. The Hog is straight from Terminator 2's bike chase, complete with leather jacket and a shotgun reloaded with a 360 degree twist, and turns the course into a speed hopping challenge; the Profit Bird is kept aloft by individual taps to flap, gobbles up coins at a huge rate, and has to dodge electrodes in graceful arcs. The Gravity Guy suit pays direct homage to Gravity Guy, a good iOS platformer in its own right, though it makes switching gravity ten times more fluid.
What makes Jetpack Joyride even better is the scaffolding of challenges and rewards around the main action. Those coins can be invested in upgrades to make the vehicles more efficient treasure-gatherers, or to buy a new style of jetpack. This ties in to small missions that give you targets on each run – collect 5 spin tokens, run along the ground for 300 metres, or high-five twenty-five scientists – that level up a lucrative player badge. So often in this type of game the only memorable runs are the long ones – this mission structure enforces different ways of playing and gives every run, however short, its own little targets.
Jetpack Joyride's a great example of the one-touch platformer, its verve and imagination more than matched by a persistent structure that even extends to COD-style prestige ranks. It's unusual to find a game of this sort deal with losing, which is obviously the majority experience, with such care – the packaging of Barry's mad dash turns it into an endlessly rewarding marathon, rather than a series of disconnected sprints.