At some point in everyone’s life, they feel like a giant robot who can destroy cities despite trying to save the day. This feeling of the best intentions, matched by an inability to not destroy everything around you, will be front and centre for anyone playing through Jettomero: Hero of the Universe. Developed by Gabriel Koenig using money from a successful Kickstarter campaign, the game focuses on a giant robot named Jettomero who has some problems remembering his purpose in life. Throughout the game, you will uncover pieces of information that slowly but surely reveal Jettomero’s place in the universe.
The game starts on a floating rock somewhere in the universe and a newly awoken Jettomero wondering what he is doing there. From this instance, you can see the hard work and dedication that has been put into the visuals of the game. Every boulder to every asteroid has been meticulously designed to provide a wonderful sci-fi experience without becoming cheesy. After being in awe at how well put together this game is, you will realise that your protagonist is alone on his floating rock. This does not go unnoticed by Jettomero, who introduces the first dialogue to the game. Whilst there are no voices or direct speech in this game, Jettomero communicates by using classic 50s science fiction beeps and buzzes. These are translated through the use of speech bubbles for us lowly humans to understand. Because your protagonist is speaking to no one in particular, you feel as though he is talking to you directly. This small feature in Jettomero’s 3D universe makes you feel sad for the lonely protagonist but hopeful that he can find his way.
From this first encounter with the bumbling red robot, you can start to explore the barren rock you are currently stranded on. This gives you your first feel for the controls and how Jettomero handles. To keep it short, Jettomero moves with as much grace as an elephant on stilts. Every movement comes with flailing arms and uncertain steps and has him turning in circles larger than the world you are currently standing in. This gives some insight into one of the primary themes throughout the game, that all Jettomero wants to do is help (albeit with a very low success rate). He can’t help being the way he is, despite the trouble it may cause for everyone else.
After you have some form of understanding on your protagonist’s clumsiness, you will notice some small yellow pick ups. These operate as your fuel in the game for when you take off to fly around the cosmos. Every takeoff comes with a big explosion and a shockwave that will topple anything and everything it comes across. When flying, you may find the controls a bit confusing to start with. I played this game on an Xbox One, and it took me most of the game to work out that the right stick was directional and the left stick was for avoiding hazards. Once you understand who to handle the controls, you can start to enjoy hopping from planet to planet.
In between bringing untold accidental destruction to millions of tiny people on their various worlds, you can zoom around and take in the sights. There are plenty of asteroids, electrical clouds (which I personally didn’t understand) and comets to see. One fun unofficial mini-game I found was trying to catch a comet for a tasty 25 gamerscore. These speedy space boulders are constantly zooming around the map, so it takes a keen eye to catch one! You get a massive rush of satisfaction for catching one, as well as your fuel meter being fully restored! When you have finished your duties in the different galaxies, which are made up of four of five worlds each, you can fly your gargantuan robot into a wormhole and start the fun all over again.
After you’ve had your fun pretending to be Elton John’s Rocket Man, you can start exploring the various planets. Every world is slightly different, but they follow a similar theme of sporadic cities being protected by tanks, UFOs, and rocket towers. It is important to note that Jettomero is completely indestructible in this game, so you don’t need to worry about health. The things that are trying to kill you are actually the humans you are trying to help and who don’t seem to want you on their planets. The planets are where Jettomero’s clumsiness really comes into its element. Everything in the Jettomero universe is destructible, meaning you can choose to crash through buildings or try to avoid them and likely fail. Every time you break something, Jettomero will tell the poor people below him that he does not mean them any harm, sticking to the theme of a very unlikely hero.
As you wander around, inevitably smashing into buildings, you will come across beacons that are stuck in the ground. When stepped on, they release new body parts that can be swapped out in the main menu. These body parts are completely aesthetical and do not influence gameplay at all; however, they do allow you to put your own stamp on the funny red robot. My favourite build was a mix of chubby cheeks, bling, hammer hands, and rocket claws. Although it is a nice addition to the game, as well as a way to drive players to move around the various worlds, you may find the fun wearing a bit thin by the end of the game. The collectables in every game lead to the same type of gameplay: land, smash, find, change, leave, repeat. I found that by around halfway through, I was limiting myself to one collectable a world just to move on to the next one.
Another big part of world exploration is the monster hunting. In every single galaxy you travel to, there will be a monster on at least one world. Coming across one feels like watching an old Godzilla movie where he fights another massive entity to the death. Imagine Godzilla vs. King Kong, but the fights are much shorter. Each fight follows the same pattern of Jettomero proclaiming the monster should stop hurting the humans, quick time events, button mashing, laser shooting, win. Overall, the fighting in this game was less than exciting, especially for a game that features such destructible worlds and giant fighters. I thought that fights that consisted of both Jettomero and monsters slugging it out would have been much more exciting than they ended up being.
After each monster fight, you can take part in a mini-game that will unlock some information about Jettomero’s past. The mini-games consist of turning dials to change letters in a paragraph until the paragraph makes sense. The further you get through the game, the more dials you have to turn to win these mini-games. After you hit four or more dials, the difficulty really starts to mount up. It was fun using your brain and looking for patterns in the paragraphs to solve these problems, but there was an obvious way to cheat them. You have the option of “testing” your paragraph to see if it is right, and each time a dial is correct, it will be locked until you have a coherent paragraph. There is also no limit on this test feature, which means you can move the dial one letter and test until you solve the puzzle. Despite feeling a little disappointed in myself for resorting to such a tactic, I felt that it was the only way to start the game and hit the ground running.
With every puzzle completed, you learn a little more about Jettomero and the humans you are trying to protect. You learn at the same time Jettomero does, so he will react to the news after the mini-game. The more information you get about the world, the easier it is to guess the ending. The storyline itself is pretty predictable after the third or fourth piece of information you receive for beating a monster, so I was not excited by what happened in the end. This was kind of a letdown for me in the sense that I had a lot of fun playing the game, but it was almost like reading a book that someone has just spoiled for you halfway through.
One standout feature that I personally loved was the music. Ambience is something that is necessary in all video games as a way to set the scene and provide a sense of atmosphere to the current scenario. In Jettomero: Hero of the Universe, the music is a constant reminder that everything you are seeing is a wondrous new space adventure for the protagonist. Every piece is written and composed by Gabriel Koenig (as mentioned on the Kickstarter page), who understands the character journey better than anyone. Every sound rings of space exploration without becoming overbearing. It is most apparent when travelling through wormholes to get to another galaxy. If you press any main button, the colours on the screen change to match the music. If you purchase this game, I seriously recommend taking some time to appreciate the sounds of space.
All in all, I had a lot of fun playing Jettomero: Hero of the Universe, but I feel like it has a ways to go. Jettomero as a protagonist is easy to identify with, and you really want him to succeed in his quest to become a protector of humans. However, I do feel like the ending could be a little more mysterious as we learn Jettomero’s purpose in the universe. Monster battles were also a little too easy and do not deviate from a singular script, meaning you are not excited to fly around and get the protagonist into more fights. The music and visuals of this game are top-notch and will be appreciated by indie newbies and gamer buffs alike. Overall, I recommend this game to anyone who is looking for a short, fun indie game to spend some time on and isn’t looking for a massive time commitment.
Developer: Ghost Time Games
Publisher: Ghost Time Games
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 15th September 2017