If Bandai Namco hadn’t copyrighted the use of minigames in loading screens, Jade’s Ascension, a twin-stick local co-op arcade shooter would feel right at home existing as a momentary diversion within a complete game.
Clearing floors of enemies while making your way up a tower with Chinese-inspired music and visuals might have you making comparisons to Bruce Lee’s The Game of Death, but cinematic and epic this game is not, with every aspect lacking in some form.
With a choice of 5 different characters, you stand in a square room defeating a random assortment of characters with projectiles from your hands or weapon – Harry Potter or Goku-esque, and you can run side to side while aiming with your twin sticks. Defeating adversaries drops coins that you can use for upgrades and your health replenishes with every level passed. ‘Simple is best’ might be the mantra of many successful arcade games, but Spanish developer Papas Con Mojo Games, while taking this to heart, probably should have focused more on the finer details of the title’s core gameplay loop, the end result feeling functional but dull.
Making this process especially tedious is the lack of sound effects from your attacks and lack of feedback from hits taken from the enemy. Your weapon sounds like a hairdryer on death’s door, barely registering at all and you’d have no idea your health was depleting if not for your health meter. Adding further to frustrations are the equally puzzling enemies, the first of which is a bird that emits a forcefield blocking your attacks but cannot attack you in any way, meaning you can run around like a headless chicken hairdryer in-hand with a bunch of seemingly friendly birds.
Upgrades are made available every few completed floors, which make the gameplay even easier, but are unable to reverse the inane nature of it. In fact, defeating enemies is less enjoyable than watching yourself be defeated as you can dispatch entire floors by standing in the corner of the room and aiming to the center of it, barely moving your joystick.
Puzzlingly there’s a tutorial lasting a couple of paragraphs, but it omits to explain the few challenges available in the game, which is quite bold as the bland conceit will hardly encourage curiosity among the few that purchase it. So, despite it not being explained, the ability to ascend fire, tree, water and earth towers with a simple boss in each does exist and represents the main point of the game. The levels differ, but the challenge doesn’t, with the player still able to kill 90% of the enemies from the corner of the room as most of the residents run around aimlessly as if they are programmed to seem like they are attacking the other players in the co-op mode. Even those that do attack you directly can be defeated this way. Unfortunately, only one portal exists to change the tower you wish to climb, and the tower on offer is random, so you are forced to continue up your current tower in the hopes of finding the one you want. The achievements are also the only clue about which you have left to get through.
You could argue that this game’s 4 players local co-op mode is where the fun is had, but I’m not sure that you’d want to willingly force this experience on others unless it’s as shared suffering of sorts. Perhaps the only feature not lacking in quality are the character and enemy designs whose smooth animation and colorful presentation look like they have been lifted from a show on Cartoon Network.
Despite Jade’s Ascension loading and running without issue, this cannot be considered a finished product, offering so little in content or fun, ultimately feeling like a free mobile game that somehow made it to consoles with a price tag slapped on it. Realistically the only people that should consider the purchase are platinum trophy hunters and children as it’s short and simple enough for both. For everyone else – this should be avoided at all costs.