As I fired up my trusty Xbox to play JackQuest: Tale of the Sword I was truly optimistic. The game is billed as a “fast-paced fantasy action platformer” where you are attempting to save Jack’s kidnapped love interest “Nara.“ After she is taken by Korg, a giant green orc, Jack pursues them into Korg‘s underground lair where he finds a sentient sword named Kuro. Not the strongest concept but hey how bad could it really be? Bad. It could be really bad. In fact, it has taken the trophy for worst game I’ve reviewed for Xbox Enthusiast.
Stylistically Blowfish Studios successfully accomplishes what it set out to with this game: to be a retro-styled platformer evoking a throwback style of gameplay. Aesthetically the retro sixteen-bit graphics and the musical score are by far my favorite choices for this game. Mechanically the character controls, while touchy and at times downright frustrating, were also not a complete failure. They are the framework that the other failures rest upon.
In terms of story, JackQuest is a hot mess. The plot device is the oldest trope in the book: save the damsel in distress. Nara sings. That is literally all we know. After she is kidnapped, she must suddenly be “redeemed” at the end of the game even though she has done virtually nothing whatsoever. She is a completely helpless character with zero agency. Nara was a plot device, a means to an end who could have been replaced by virtually ANYTHING cheapening her character to the point of being laughable. Players also meet a sentient sword whose name is Kuro who has been imprisoned within the blade by Korg. He offers to help defeat your foe who will simultaneously break the spell binding him.
Mechanically the character controls are functional but lack refinement. The sword attack feels laggy, more like a flyswatter than a blade. The attack motion also creates a strange “invincibility frame” if the enemies approach you at the right moment wherein you cannot hit them. My biggest complaint with the controls is the lack of a button map detailing all of the possible operations. As a result actions like “dash” took me nearly the entire game determine how to actually DO it. I’ve said it before but in this day and age a key or button map is critical to a solid gaming experience and this was no exception.
I have to be brutally honest here: the game is unstable. I experienced multiple game-breaking glitches in my 3.5 hours of game time. A portion of the game’s map is completely underwater. I managed to navigate about 75% of this section of the map before realizing I had missed the “fish idol” which would allow me to breathe underwater (I later retrieved the idol in order to defeat the final boss.) As a result of missing this idol, I was forced to move between save points rapidly saving before Jack’s lungs gave out. On two separate occasions when attempting to save, the game crashed throwing a “fatal error in action number 1” causing the game to exit completely.
I also experienced multiple glitches while reloading save files after deaths. On a reload, sections of the map which had been unlocked suddenly became locked and additionally hidden “secrets” reappeared even though they had already been collected. Glitches exist in every game, but issues of this caliber should be caught in development. These completely ruined my experience and left me frustrated and thankful when the story ended.
JackQuest has many serious problems. It suffers from many issues including a problematic, trope-ridden plot, terrible character development, and sub-par mechanics. While the graphics and soundtrack help to make it enjoyable and certain gameplay elements aren’t awful, it was a very frustrating experience. It’s not every day I run into a game this poor. But hopefully, if you are reading this, you won’t have to experience it yourself. Do yourself a favor and avoid this title unless frustration and disappointment are your life goals. This game is a hard pass for me.
Allen works professionally in photography, cinematography, and marketing. As a lifelong camera junkie, he channels his creative and technical energy into the craft of photography, both in digital and analog processes.
He also loves playing games of all sorts, shapes, and play styles. Most days when he’s not doing photo related things he can be found playing D&D, Diablo III, Battlefield 1, or something retro. He also is a co-host and producer on both the Min/Max Podcast and the Deep Pixel Podcast.