The world of Jazz: Trump's Journey [$2.99] is a lush throwback to 1920's New Orleans, brought to life with watercolor backdrops and great tunes. You take the stage in parades and theaters, prisons and sewers, all the way to the French Quarter as you run through the history of Trump's success. You rise from a boy with dreams of making beautiful music to a man at the top of his game.
The game you play over the course of that journey is a platformer, with all your standard platforming elements: running, jumping, collecting widgets, and so on. Trump's music has the power to stop people in their tracks - literally freeze time - which opens the way for a few clever puzzles and challenges. But imprecise controls and terrible translation keep Jazz from reaching the heights it deserves.
The translation is the worst offense, completely mangling what may be a touching story or may be a heavy-handed lesson on racism. It's hard to tell when it's presented with phrases like this:
"To be honest. I got prepared to that, but even tough I didn't lost my hope because I knew my music affected her."
We can overlook a few misspellings or grammatical errors, but this translation is inexcusably bad. Oh, and the "daring parallel with the real story of Louis Armstrong," as mentioned in the app description? Ignore that. It's a cute story, but pretty banal, and beyond the setting, the jazz and the color of their skin, Trump and Satchmo don't have much in common at all.
The controls aren't nearly as bad as the grammar, but they need to be fine-tuned. They're laid out with movement on the left side, action on the right, but movement is split up into two sections (back and forth, up and down) and action is laid out so you can't really do more than one thing at a time. If you need to, say, climb a ladder and jump or push a box and freeze time, it's a finger-twister. The game seems to delight in making you do those sorts of things from time to time. Throw in occasionally sketchy physics and strange inconsistencies in the properties of objects and you have yourself a recipe for serious frustration.
If those problems get fixed up, Jazz will be an absolute gem. Every bit of it is gorgeous. You can clamber over the menu and credits, laid out in an elegant theater. The levels, silent movie cut scenes, and animations look fantastic from start to finish. The game is accompanied by a lovely jazz soundtrack that gets better and better as you put your band together and move toward the climax. It's all downright beautiful.
Aside from the frustratingly floaty controls (and the lack of consideration the level design gives them), the platforming is quite cool. The ability to freeze time opens up interesting possibilities for puzzles, allowing you to manipulation sections of your environment and the people around you. Objects that can be frozen are visually distinct from those that can't, but that doesn't make solutions immediately obvious.
For difficulty, I'd stick Jazz at a comfortable middle of the road. It stays too easy for just long enough to get worrisome, but things ramp up apace once they start moving. There are eleven long levels, broken up into several sections that are filled to checkpoints, so you'll never have to replay much unless you want to go back for collectables. Within those tiny bits between checkpoints, however, there are occasionally big-time challenges. Usually these difficulty spikes come at a welcome moment, but every once in a while they're phone-throwingly frustrating.
I can't recommend Jazz: Trump's Journey wholeheartedly. It sells itself as a game with a unique and engaging story, and that's something it simply doesn't have. Setting aside the translation, the message of the game is still iffy at best and you'll only find parallels to Louis Armstrong if you squint really hard. But it is, for the most part, a solid, fun platformer. And can you argue with the looks, or the sound? Let's settle on a cautious recommendation, with a side of hoping for a significant patch-up sooner than later. If you decide to take a look, swing by our discussion thread and let us know what you think.
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