Today I learned something about the California Gold Rush. Apparently, it wasn't all panning for gold and shooting people over claims and cussin', like Deadwood taught me. Nope. If Com2us has it right, the biggest challenge of the gold rush was getting that gold to jump itself right out of the mines, and Gold Jumper makes that seem like quite the fun prospect.
Historical accuracy aside, Gold Jumper [$0.99] is a casual, arcade-style take on the vertical jumper formula. You're tasked with delivering gold to the surface from deep in the mines of California over the course of 32 levels and an Endless mode. To get your riches out safely, you've got to bounce gold sacks up through a bizarre array of mine carts, springs, sheets and other props. In each level, you're up against a timer and you've got a set number of lives, so you'll need to watch where you're flinging your sacks.
When the game's controls are cooperative, this is a lot of fun -- and surprisingly challenging. Gold Jumper offers a reprieve from the constant motion required in most vertical jumping games, but it makes up for this slower pace with sections that require careful timing. Sometimes you'll need to fling a sack of gold from one moving cart to another, while both are on wobbling tracks of different lengths. In other sections, your reaction speed is tested with series of launching platforms that drop away as you touch them. For the most part, the one-touch controls are up to the task, being snappy and responsive, but I found myself frustrated in any long section with cloth platforms. Whether by design or not, it's hard to precisely control how far those platforms will launch your sack, and that gets to be a bit of a pain in some levels.
What I've just described is what you'll see in about 80 percent of Gold Jumper's levels, and one of the two Endless modes. That part's largely quite well done, casual as it may be. The rest of the game is, well, really odd.
After completing the first four levels of a mine, you need to drive to the next one. These in-between levels are tilt-controlled sequences where you race down a ravine on a motorcycle dodging teepees, cacti and angry stereotypes of indigenous people. There are essentially three lanes, and you just have to make sure you're occupying the one that doesn't contain any of the aforementioned obstacles until you reach the next mine. It's all hilariously weird and out of place, and more than a little tone deaf, but why ask why, I guess? If you're really curious, these sections aren't particularly good. The levels are mostly very easy, and the difficulty curve in the Endless version is messed up -- super easy for way too long, and then nearly instantly hard.
Otherwise, I've enjoyed my time with Gold Jumper. Endless mode provides a fun alternative to your standard tilt-based vertical jumper, and the competition on the Game Center leaderboards should be good. I'd turn the music offer sooner than later, and give Bike Express Endless a pass, but that still leaves us with quite a bit of mine-climbing entertainment to enjoy.
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