Jetpack Joyride shows Angry Birds the real meaning of flight

Restart. Restart. Restart. Get used to it, because that’s what Jetpack Joyride is all about. A repetitive flight through the same laboratory every time — cloned hallways, scurrying scientists, flying missiles intent on knocking you from your gravity-defying craft. This is the world of Mr Barry Steakfries — a Groundhog Day adventure.

To describe Jetpack Joyride as repetitive sounds derogatory, but it’s not meant like that. It’s used in the most politest of ways possible. It’s a game with a simple concept exploited in the name of fun.

You take control of a perky jetpack pilot whose aim is flying for as long as possible. A noble endeavour if you ask me, except that the owners of the lab, the setting Mr Barry Steakfries has chosen, tend to disagree. They’ve decided that rockets, laser beams and electrified barriers are suitable methods for prompting a premature grounding.

Your task is simple — hover through the infinite level and rack up the highest distance possible. Avoid everything that comes your way. This means using powerups (via an end-game slot machine that takes collectable tokens you find as you fly) that provide head starts and extra lives. There’s also the expected coin collecting, there to fill your coffers in the hope of prolonging your journey.

Thankfully every attempt is different — as you begin at zero, the first thousand meters are fine. They’re sedate, a gentle flight through obstacles that give plenty of warning. A little coin collecting here, a little missile dodging there; it’s all pretty bog standard. Post 1k and it gets trickier. Beams start to increase in regularity, missiles double up and the speed you move increases.

It’s like any ‘make-it-as-far-as-you-can’ game — string together powerups with a little luck in the aim of finally beating your top distance.

Transformers Are Go

Adding some flavour are the various vehicle powerups. Aside from offering an extra life (you revert to the jetpack if you hit something, as opposed to sliding on your face and ending the game), they each have different characteristics that push you towards your goal.

The motorcycle is quick and can jump — a sure fire way of quickly eating up ground. The teleporter? It’s constantly moving end-position requires skill and dexterity. A profit-bird which achieves flight through expending money elegantly drifts through the level. A walker straight out of Avatar and a gravity-inverting suit cap off the upgrades. Using them to their full potential is vital to flying as far possible.

As is pimping your ride — a store for your precious coins opens at the end of every attempt, and while most items are cosmetic (new jetpacks, outfits, gold plated vehicles), some offer one-time boosts or more productive means (attachable magnets to pick up more coins). Throw in missions that upgrade your rank, as well as OpenFeint connectivity for achievements and leaderboards, and you’ve got yourself one of the most competent iOS gaming experiences seen in a while.

Ludicrously addictive, extremely polished, lots of fun — these are adjectives thrown around too often, yet in Jetpack Joyride’s case, they’re not enough to describe it. At a mere $0.99, Halfbrick Studios have not only outdone themselves creatively, but they’re refused to overcharge. Buy it. Now.

Macgasm's Gaming correspondent. Lover of technology who can be found on Twitter. More detailed musings are located at my blog.