Jetpack Joyride (iOS) Review

Developer/Publisher: Halfbrick Studios || Overall: 7.0/10

Hardware Used: iPhone 5 with iOS 6

Jetpack Joyride feels like one of those games that are intentionally supposed to make you nostalgic for side-scrollers. In a sense, the way the game is actually played is almost like an old arcade game, pitting you against ridiculous challenges and timing that almost guarantees you will die – the question is when. And literally, that is the metric by which you “win” in Jetpack Joyride. You are trying to get as far as you can, running from left to right, to the farthest point possible before you are fried, blown up, or electrocuted to death. Avoid as many obstacles as possible, get a couple of power-ups, and collect coins. That’s pretty much it.

When you begin the game, you probably won’t get further than 200 meters or so. Then you’ll slowly progress to 400, 500, and then maybe 2000 meters. Eventually you might even get further, depending on how lucky you are. The only thing that is guaranteed, though, is that you will be attempting it over and over again. The distance you might end up is pushed just a bit further each time when buying enhancements or one-time boosts with Coins that you find during your repeated runs through the evil (or at least, nefarious) science lab you have decided to run endlessly through with your character.

Ah, yes, Coins. Considering you need thousands of coins to even get the smallest of upgrades, you will be playing a lot of runs just to be able to use them in any meaningful manner. BUT YOU CAN BUY THEM WITH REAL MONEY!!!! As if you didn’t see that coming, right? I don’t have much incentive to purchase anything in free to play games, but when something is as grindy as earning the coins in this game, it is definitely one of the biggest motivators to pulling out the credit card. You’re probably going to be spending a good too many hours just trying to collect enough coins to buy the next jetpack or whatever random gadget they included in the game for you to use to your benefit. I suppose it is nice that they at least have Coins in the game for you to collect, but the grind is practically endless. They appear in somewhat plentiful manner, yet they almost always require you to skillfully fly your jetpack in a formation to maximize your collection of the coins. The collision with the coins is fairly unforgiving, so you will have to really be accurate if you’re running through coins to get as many as you can, since you will be leaving a few behind. Sometimes you may even have to sacrifice yourself when your reaction time isn’t fast enough to avoid the next obstacle.

As you run further through the endless, randomized, corridors of this very large science lab thing, your character will begin to speed up. This increases the difficulty considerably, since you aren’t able to see what is coming up more than half a second before you almost hit it. When you come across a power-up, such as the Lil’ Stomper, Crazy Freakin Teleporter, or Gravity Suit, among others, you essentially gain a life before dying – if you are unable to avoid one of the coming obstacles, you forfeit your power-up and revert back to normal Barry Fries the Rocket Guy. The acquiring and destruction of your power up will also clear out any of the obstacles on the screen, so it gives you a fair chance to reset your bearings and be ready for the next obstacles ahead.

The humor of the game is probably what is most enjoyable. I like the terminology they use, like calling the Teleporter power up the “CRAZY FREAKIN TELEPORTER” or the huge mech robot with rocket boosters the “Lil’ Stomper.” The names of gadgets and types of rocket packs are also fun names. The Machine Gun jetpack, the first jetpack you get, shoots bullets underneath you and kills the scientist guys below you. The “DIY Jetpack” is a balloon, which I assume let’s you control just a little bit better than the Machine Gun Jetpack, but I’m not sure if these different jetpacks are more than just cosmetic upgrades. Other jetpacks do other funny things, like shoot bubbles or 1920’s 1000 dollar bills.

I suppose it would be beneficial to buy the in-game upgrades offered. There are quite a few gadgets to purchase, and you can’t get the next tier of gadgets without buying a certain amount of stuff from the lower tier. Of course, the grind becomes longer and longer each time. I am unsure what kind of variety this game can really offer since all that really seems to happen are randomized obstacles, randomized backgrounds, and not much traditional progression. You aren’t excelling to another level. You aren’t starting from a point further than the beginning unless you spend Coins on head starts. I’d even go so far as to say the game is engineered to make you fail a lot and make you feel you AREN’T progressing so that you are more inclined to spend money to get ahead.

Once you die, you are given a chance at bonuses based on how many Spin Tokens you gather during your run. The bonuses will give you another chance, more coins, bonus distance, or a free head start on your next run. The bonuses are random, since it is a slot machine, but since the Spin Tokens are plentiful enough, you’ll at least have one after each run. You can also cash-in your tokens for 50 coins each, which may be a particularly attractive offer if you don’t win a lot on the spins.

To break up the seeming monotony of the game, there are Missions to complete. They are “interesting” challenges such as finishing the game between the 500m and 600m mark (aka intentionally dying at that point), or going a certain distance in a vehicle, or collecting spin tokens in varying amounts, among other things. Completing missions awards you from one to three stars to gain levels, which require progressively more stars. I’m not entirely sure what the point of gaining levels is, except to gain the coin bonuses awarded for achieving the next level. However, you are allowed to spend coins to complete a mission so that you can get the next mission, so there is some weird disconnect here. You don’t really gain any benefits from gaining levels, so why are you trying to do it, and why would you ever spend coins to get fewer coins? It is fairly confusing. But then, I remember that they want you to spend money on coins, not give it to you in copious amounts, so I guess that’s why they let you spend coins to make fewer coins. It’s almost ingenious, really.

The experience as a whole is relatively stress-free. You can play a couple of runs and be done with it for the day. It doesn’t notify you to go back into the game to collect bonus coins or to do something inane for upkeep. In a sense, the game is almost more traditional in this way in that it doesn’t constantly nag you and beg for attention. It also relies on skillful controls, which is rare to see in a touch-based game, especially considering touch-based controls are anything but accurate most of the time. Relying on the skill of the player is also a boon to this game since the controls do not inhibit being able to control the character as they are binary and very responsive. It doesn’t rely on any touch-screen directional pad – you either propel yourself up or let yourself fall down.

However, I wouldn’t say that the game is original or even very exciting. It doesn’t really seem like it’s trying to do anything other than provide a single, difficult challenge, and force you to grind coins for years. If there were actual levels or some other kind of quantifiable progression that allowed you to feel like you were accomplishing something overall, the game would be something great. It definitely has a foundation for good gameplay, good art, doesn’t have any noticeable bugs, and the sound design is pretty much ridiculous in and of itself. I feel a game like this isn’t being simple for simplicity’s sake; it’s being simple because it is lazy, and the intentions of the game design are not toward the experience of the user, but towards people spending money so they can bypass the monotony of dying over and over.

There are a couple of those stupid social features, like leaderboards, and “tweeting your progress.” I can’t believe people would ever want to tweet that they went 1,979 meters. I can’t believe anyone even has another friend that plays this game that they added as a friend in the iOS Game Center thing. Why these developers waste their time with these absolutely terrible features is beyond me.

 

Local Exchange: An Eruption of Stupidity

Based off the following post:

http://squackle.com/22567/screwed-up-chronicles/daves-kingdom/scam-call-from-local-exchange/

Harry Brown and Mildred Jacklesmith once had a great idea.

“Why don’t we scam people?” Harry Brown said.

Mildred, obviously in agreement, shouted at the top of her lungs.  “YESSSS!!!!!”

And so a company was born.  It was named Local Exchange and it was in San Dimas, California.  Or maybe it was in Villaverde.  Is that even a city?  To tell you the truth no one really knows what city it actually is in.  Not that it matters because absolutely all of their business would be conducted over the phone.

Local Exchange invested in a phone number that provided unlimited calling and texting.  Obviously, to scam people you need to call them unlimitedly and text them non-stop.  Otherwise, the whole scam thing doesn’t really seem very scammish!

The first order of business was to create the scam.  The scam of all scams.  A scam that everyone would believe but only the smart people would question and only the smart people would see it was a scam.  People who were smarter than them, even.  But that’s not the target market, now, is it?

The scam had been planned out in a matter of days.  First, they would call a random number and ask to speak to the “owner of the phone” to make it sound official.  Once they had the owner of the phone, they would tell them about the grand prize they had won and how everyone knows them locally but to get notoriety in different parts of the country, they were expanding their random 6-day cruise prize to different areas of California.

Once the person had given them their credit card information and social security number, they would hang up and begin to apply for credit cards and home loans with their information and take out cash advances.  And then they would invest that money into online payment systems.

Yes, life was grand in the most successful scamming company of all time.  Local Exchange posted huge profits and Harry and Mildred bought huge mansions once owned by drug dealers who fell victim to the scams.  Poor drug dealers lost their drug dens, but they weren’t the only victims to the grandest scam of all time.

I will now tell you about a lady who was down on her luck.  She thought she was the luckiest person in the world and won a free 6-day cruise to New York from California.  Oh, what a joyous occasion it was.  And all she had to give them was her name, address, social security number, and driver’s license number.  Overnight, this wonderful, nice lady had transformed into a blathering hobo asking for change at bus stop benches.  The day before she had been a worker at McDonald’s but when it came about that another Emelia Prancasa applied for a job at Burger King across the street with the same information as “Our” Emelia, that’s when McDonald’s fired her.  They couldn’t have a worker working at two fast food restaurants at the same time.  That would be espionage in the making!

Poor Emelia.  She can no longer work at any fast food restaurant because she became the most notorious fast food restaurant quadruple agent ever to be known.  Too bad she wasn’t hot cause she was quite ugly and not very attractive to boot.  Sometimes ugly people can be attractive, but sometimes they are just stupid.  Like Emelia.  Because she thought she won a 6-day cruise when in fact she won nothing and lost it all.

The end.

Moral:  Don’t give away your private information to random people who call you on the phone telling you you won a 6-day cruise.

 

ViSalus Sciences: How Being A Scam Is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

This entry is part 7 of 13 in the series Dave's Breakdown

Recently I was introduced to a… unique company.  I don’t want to say “pyramid scheme,” but it really is a legal version of it — known as multi-level or referral marketing.  Wikipedia will give you a big insight into what these terms mean and how they are related to each other.

ViSalus Sciences is a company that is in the business of weight loss.  Excuse me — I should rephrase that.

They are in the business of MARKETING weight loss products, and having you do most of the leg work for them.  That’s what multi-level or referral marketing is.  It’s a marketing tactic that markets to people, either in-person or through someone you know, rather than traditional means such as television.  They have representatives from their company come by to talk to you after you are invited to a “Challenge ‘Party'” (notice the double quotes) or some sort of get together by a friend or acquaintance under the guise that the product that they are selling is healthy for you.

It may very well be healthy for you.  It may even help you lose weight.  But when a company talks about how their product is good for you for about fifteen minutes, and then spends the next hour or so explaining how you can MAKE MONEY while using it and becoming an “Independent Distributor” (read: selling the product to your friends, and then they sell it to their friends, and you get a cut of that), you have to question the intentions of this company.

Right?

… Or are you allowed to?

There’s no question that obesity is a problem in the United States.  The underhandedness of it all comes from playing off the emotion that if you reject the product for any reason (since they say anyone can benefit from losing weight or becoming more lean) then you are seen as someone who doesn’t give a shit about their body and scrutinized for it.  Of course, it’s totally not because you don’t agree with what you are presented with, and question why it was presented to you in such a manner!  They tell you you are going to die if you don’t change the way you live.  And that may very well be true.  But what they mostly want you to do is to buy into their marketing plan.

ViSalus Sciences doesn’t care if you lose weight or not.  What they really want you to do is to market their products to the next guy, and have them market it to the next guy.  Yes, I understand that businesses exist for the sole purpose of making money.  But there is a reason why certain business ethics are in place and why business models like a “pyramid scheme” are outlawed, and others like “multi-level marketing” or “referral marketing” are walking the fine line.  The reason why these are so controversial and not legitimate business models is because they are UNSUSTAINABLE.  What happens when there are no more people to sell your product to and make money off of?  In this case, what happens when everybody is skinny?  The whole system falls apart, and only the people at the top are left with any money.

The oddities don’t stop there, of course.

When you dig deeper into (or, rather, get poured on with) the details of their referral program, it starts with you getting your ViSalus powder meal replacement substance for free when you refer three of your friends into buying one of their kits — the most expensive being a $250 “Transformation Kit.”  That’s probably a tough sell, but its the “most rewarding” from ViSalus’ standpoint when they’re trying to sell you into selling their stuff.  What’s more, is if you keep selling to people and then THEY sell to other people, and so on, you start getting checks cut to you in terms of percentages of what they buy and keep buying.  Pretty sweet, right?  And eventually you’ll get to a point where they’ll actually pay you for the lease of a BLACK BMW at 600 bucks a month!!!!  Oh, did you read the part where it has to be black?  That’s okay, if you don’t want black, they’ll give you 300 a month for something that isn’t black.

So, wait.  Did you read that right?  What the fuck does the color black have to do with any god damned thing?  I’d probably just chalk it up to the CEO of the company wanting his minions to look like a fleet of stealth fighters driving into the parking lots when they have any stupid meetings or expos for their marketing clients.  Maybe it’s an inside joke and he actually hates black BMW’s.  I don’t know what the fuck they’re trying to get at.  Besides, what happens when you repaint your black BMW into a red one?  Do they still give you 600 dollars?  It’s still technically black on the pink slip if you don’t change it, right?  Are they going to send someone to your house to inspect your car’s color?  Who knows, maybe they send a person to your house to gain intelligence on other matters, like when you take a shit or beat off.  And it doesn’t stop there… you could potentially be making millions of dollars with this marketing plan.  Hooray!  And you’re not even an actual employee of their company, yet you’re bringing in 10% of their gross income!  Makes a lot of sense.  Toss in a bunch of other random shit like a magazine subscription to the aptly named “Success” and you’ve got yourself some fireplace-burning material in addition to pumping weird chemical powder into your body and all the other benefits that come with it.

I think what irks me the most about the company, other than its obviously questionable business model is that on the first page of a Google search there are literally two to three results asking if the company and its referral marketing business model is a scam.  That is a red flag in itself.  You should not see that for any legitimate company.  You don’t search Target and see “is Target a scam?” as the second result, right?  I’m sure if you dug deep enough you’ll see some randoms on the Internet gloating about how they may have scammed Target or how some idiot doesn’t understand how a credit card transaction works.

Not only that, I have a sneaking suspicion that ViSalus themselves are actually putting these “Is it a scam?” articles up on these random web sites.  ViSalus is owned by a huge marketing company known as Blyth, and they have probably flooded the internet with articles of this nature to bury any real “evidence” of any legitimate complaints about the company.  Nearly all the articles you can find about ViSalus asking if it is a scam talk about the dicey things they may do, but end up praising them and saying how good the products are… topping it all off with a referral link to their own referral page to have you buy their shit.  If these articles were actually by individual writers, then they have no knowledge of journalistic ethics (what’s that?) since there is a HUGE conflict of interest apparent and no way to actually tell if they are saying what they’re saying just to get you to buy into it all.  This is what makes the company possibly being a scam a self-fulfilling prophecy.  They apparently say that it is a scam… only to conclude that it isn’t.  But by flooding the internet with these types of articles, it makes you question what they’re really up to.

To conclude, I’m not saying that the products they sell don’t work.  I’m not saying either that there isn’t money to be made by falling into their weird referral marketing program.  I just know that I want to stay the hell away from this company, and if anyone wants my suggestion, it would be to do the same — and make sure you skip on giving them any of your personal details.

Here’s a few extra reference materials from Yahoo-related web sites (so you know that it isn’t some fucker posing as a legit consumer):

http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/From-gang-member-millionaire-forbeswp-3869850001.html?x=0&cmtnav=/mwphucmtgetnojspage/headcontent/main/3869850001//date/desc/11/s101325

Same article as above with a different name:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2011/08/08/entrepreneurship-nothing-to-lose-and-everything-to-gain/

http://news.yahoo.com/blyth-increases-stake-visalus-sciences-20110415-153430-696.html

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110605130954AAGG2va

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070701165240AALx2cL

Update 9/12/11:

And it keeps getting worse.  Not only do they have your friends selling you this shit, they have five-year-olds explaining it to you like they know everything.  BUT HEY!  Don’t forget about how you can REFER YOUR FRIENDS!  Yes, even a five-year-old knows how multi-level marketing works — its that simple!  Here’s one video that pretty much shows how bad this company wants you to get sucked into its ploy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U091N-ZrXYk

The comments are nothing short of hilarious.  Especially the one that says:

“So many of these responses amaze me. I would be willing to bet most of these people know nothing about these shakes, eat at McDonalds or Burger King every week and talk about eating properly. I have had these shakes as my breakfast for 2 years and would drink them for the rest of my life. They have more quality nutrition packed into each one than I can get from just about any breakfast. I exercise daily, which we encourage, and eat fruits, veggies, fish, daily. No need for such negativity.”

By some guy named “TheViGuy.”  Well, that isn’t some viral marketer employed by ViSalus, right?  Wrong.  It is.

It looks like there’s even more five-year-olds-explaining-multi-level-marketing videos on YouTube, too.  Enjoy.

 

Top Ten Signs Your Girlfriend is Going to Dump You

10. Your visa card and your belt both hit their limit.

9. She’s been wearing an engagement ring for three weeks, but you don’t recall proposing to her.

8. She just started a college course that meets seven nights a week.

7. She says she has to tell you something… on Jerry Springer.

6. Her love letters come soaked in formaldehyde rather than perfume.

5. Whenever she introduces you it’s always “I would like you to meet an old friend of mine…”

4. She leaves a message on your phone and identifies herself by both her first and last names.

3. Your other girlfriend told you so.

2. The dartboard behind your photo on her wall.

1. Her girlfriends look at you, tilt their heads, and say, “You haven’t got a clue, do you?”