Hot off their last game — Bardbarian — TreeFortress‘ programmer Shawn Blais and artist Mike Gaboury are back with a new game. JumpJet Rex is an indie platformer currently available on Steam Early Access that calls back to the heyday of Mario and Sonic. After playing JumpJet Rex for a while and playing levels over and over, trying to beat my fastest time, I had the chance to speak with Shawn and Mike about their new platformer.
JumpJet Rex hearkens back to the 8- and 16-bit games that many of us grew up with. What games inspired you to make JumpJet Rex?
Shawn Blais: Surprisingly enough, the core mechanics were inspired by the infamous Flappy Bird! We created the initial prototype in the Game Boy Game Jam #3 and wanted to recreate that intense feeling of old school difficulty that Flappy Bird had. Once we decided to turn it into a full game, we drew on many of our favorite titles from the early ’90s, such as Mario, Mega Man, Double Dragon, and Battletoads. We also threw in a healthy heaping of modern time-trial mechanics inspired by titles such as Trials HD or Action Henk.
The game seems built for speedrunning. Can you tell us why? Also, what other games does the team like to speedrun?
Shawn Blais: Surprisingly enough we’re not big speed runners! The focus on Speed emerged somewhat organically. Early in development we experimented with awarding people three stars for each level; one for basic completion, one for “No Deaths” and one for “Target Time”. Once we implemented that, the entire game loop began to click in a really fun way so we decided to run with it.
We’ve also been very careful to include tons of fun stuff for players who like to take a more deliberate pace, such as a ton of hidden collectibles and fun achievements.
I feel as if the platformer has all but disappeared from AAA game development, but still alive and well in the indie game space. Why do you think that is and do you think we may see a resurgence of AAA platform titles in the near future?
Mike Gaboury: Platforming is a pretty tried and true formula, not much is being done to mix it up, which is why the Marios and Sonics of the world have pretty much dominated by AAA publishers in that genre – they do what they do quite well.
While more of the same is fine, we think people want something new now. Luckily enough with the rise of the indies, devs can take more chances. With the ability and freedom to create new ideas, as well as lower costs of development, we are seeing people come up with great new concepts that can change what we, for so long, thought was set in stone! Ideas are contagious and I’m sure we’ll see a wave of platformers in the next few years.
The game is currently available in Steam Early Access. Can you share some benefits and drawbacks to having an open audience play-test your game during development?
Shawn Blais: Early Access has been a bit of a mixed bag for us. We’ve gotten some great ideas, and have a few members who are really dedicated to the game, but we did not really get the traction we needed to achieve our testing goals.
It could be that 2D platformers are just not a great genre for Early Access, but it also seems that Early Access is suffering from a significant stigma these days, as a number of titles have failed to deliver over the past few years, so many people seem to have soured on it.
You recently added “Rage Quit Rex” mode to JumpJet Rex. Can you tell us a bit about the differences in play style?
Shawn Blais: Rage Quit Rex attempts to give you that old-school feeling of having only three lives with no continues. It’s all about sweaty palms and excessive cursing! It’s designed for gamers who really want to test their platforming abilities and the play style is much more cautious than in the normal game, as you have just three deaths to pass all 40+ levels. We anticipate many thrown controllers and smashed keyboards!
When do you hope to officially release JumpJet Rex?
Shawn Blais: We’re not announcing the date yet, but sometime in April would be a pretty good bet.
Great! I look forward to playing the full game.