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‘Junk Jack X’ Review – Beauty in Simplicity

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584735_larger-1Take a quick gander at the App Store’s top apps, and you’ll see an astonishingly large amount of Minecraft-like games. Whether its emulating its visuals or open-world sandbox gameplay, it’s obvious that the genre is hot on iOS. Take Junk Jack for example, an excellent 2D sandbox game that did a good job recreating that spirit of exploration and self-discovery. Now, nearly two years after its release the folks at PixBits saw fit to release Junk Jack X ($4.99). With a greater emphasis on accessibility and an all-important multiplayer mode, Junk Jack X does a great job of expanding on the original without changing what made the original successful.

Fans of the original Junk Jack are going to feel right at home with Junk Jack X. The same exploration-based item-crafting gameplay inspired by the likes of Minecraft and Terraria makes a return. The charming visuals and excellent soundtrack also make a come back in improved fashion. In fact, from a superficial standpoint one might argue that Junk Jack X looks a bit too similar to its predecessor. However, once you actually get into the game, fans will see that the the iterative improvements make the overall experience far better.

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While we loved the original Junk Jack, one of the things we noted (for better or worse) was its steadfast adherence to sandbox gameplay. The lack of substantive goals, completely open-world game play — even the game’s minimalist tutorials all spoke to a game that almost forced its players to discover everything. With Junk Jack X, there’s a conscious attempt made to expand on accessibility. The game’s expanded tutorial, while text heavy, does a great job of introducing new players to the sheer depth offered. Meanwhile, Simplified Crafting is another great feature that offers players an opportunity to craft with in a recipe-oriented fashion vice the traditional grid crafting mode.

Meanwhile, a more robust Adventure Mode provides some overarching goals that were sorely missed in the original Junk Jack. There are even a few interesting items in the game’s IAP shop, such as hats that randomly drop various materials along with easy unlocks for the game’s recipe book and the planets that are discovered in Adventure Mode. While I didn’t think any of the optional purchases were necessary in the slightest, they still provide the possibility of even more accessibility for players (for a price).

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Multiplayer, however, is probably the biggest addition to Junk Jack X. Using Game Center, players can host or join games either locally or online. While randomized matchmaking is available, I didn’t have the most fun time with it as I’d constantly be put into worlds with players constructing elaborate death traps so I’d instantly die upon joining their world — letting them collect my items upon my death. Still, multiplayer is amazing it with friends, and to be honest the vast majority of folks will probably only fire it up with a willing buddy.

Otherwise, Junk Jack X is really just more of the same that made the original an iOS darling. Sure, there are more items to craft, more enemies to fight and more elements to explore in your randomly generated world but the core exploration concepts are the same. For folks simply looking for a sequel that simply adds more without rocking the proverbial boat, Junk Jack X is an excellent sequel. However, it’s important to note that despite the accessibility features integrated into Junk Jack X, it’s still not going to bring clarity to players that find sandbox games overwhelming.

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