Jetpack Joyride 2 is the first mobile game I’ve loved in a very long time.
I was obsessed with staying on top of the best iOS games in the early days of the iPhone — titles like the original Angry Birds, Hook Champ, and Ridiculous Fishing — but as the vast majority of mobile games have shifted to a time- and money-gobbling free-to-play model, I’ve largely stopped playing them. I have enough entertainment to juggle already; managing yet another free-to-play game just isn’t appealing.
But to my surprise, I kept finding myself opening Jetpack Joyride 2 when I had a few minutes to burn. It happened during my Dedicated Video Game Playing Time, too. Over the course of a few days, I just couldn’t stop collecting coins, dodging missiles, upgrading my gear, and getting as far as I could through each level.
Jetpack Joyride 2 is an Apple Arcade-exclusive sequel to Jetpack Joyride, one of my all-time favorite mobile games. (Maybe it shouldn’t surprise me that I love it.) The core of Jetpack Joyride 2 is much the same as the first: your character, equipped with a jetpack, will automatically rush down a hallway as you jet up and down to collect goodies and dodge obstacles. As you complete missions and gather currency, you’ll be able to upgrade your gear and buy new items and in-game gear.
But the sequel mixes things up in a few key ways. Jetpack Joyride 2 adds enemies that you have to contend with as you’re dodging obstacles like missiles and electric lines — but the new game also gives you a gun and special weapons to take the baddies out. And while the original was an infinite runner, meaning that the primary goal was to survive for as long as possible to get as far as you could, in Jetpack Joyride 2, you’ll be trying to get a certain distance in individual levels.
The switch to levels is what really got me hooked. Levels typically take just a few minutes to finish, and at the end of each one, you’ll attempt a bonus challenge to get some extra coins or fight a boss of some kind. (There’s a Mega Man-like warning alert before the bosses that always made me smile.) The structure made it easy for me to attempt a level when I had a bit of time, or, if I knew I could play for a little while, I wold often take on a bunch in a row. More than once, I told myself I’d play through just one more level but would actually work through three.
That drive to just keep going is encouraged by the game’s many upgrades you can invest in. You can improve a lot of things, including your health, firepower, vehicles, and power-ups. You can even upgrade the “factory” that passively farms some of the in-game currencies. And even though there’s a fair amount of stuff to enhance, I was almost always able to boost at least a couple of things after each run, which helped me feel like I was constantly progressing forward.
Jetpack Joyride 2’s economy also feels well designed to scale naturally with your progression. That’s different from many other mobile games, which can be weighted in such a way that you’ll want to spend real money so you don’t have to grind for currency. Apple Arcade games don’t have in-app purchases, which means developers have the opportunity to be more thoughtful about in-game economies — and I think Jetpack Joyride 2 is a model to emulate.
My biggest disappointment with Jetpack Joyride 2 is that it ended far sooner than I would have liked. The build I played had 30 levels, and when I beat the last one after about five hours of total playtime, things just ended. While the in-game map has a message that more levels will be “coming soon,” Apple spokesperson Jennifer Tam said the company doesn’t have anything to share about when new levels might be available. I can still play through the final level or grind some of the smaller arcade challenges for more in-game currency, but since I’ve already “beaten” the game, there’s not much reason to do that.
Despite the abrupt end, I still liked Jetpack Joyride 2 more than any mobile game in years. If you’re at all interested, I think it’s worth paying the $4.99 monthly fee for Apple Arcade to be able to check it out. Depending on when developer Halfbrick adds new levels, Jetpack Joyride 2 might not offer much to keep you paying for more than just a month. But whenever new levels do show up, you can bet that I’ll be jumping right back in.
Jetpack Joyride 2 will be available exclusively to Apple Arcade subscribers on August 19th.