Author Topic: Battery Jam (Switch) Review  (Read 1038 times)

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Offline Emily

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Battery Jam (Switch) Review
« on: February 04, 2019, 03:13:41 PM »

Local multiplayer and territory capturing go together like peanut butter and jam.

Battery Jam initially began development as a twenty-week student project at Savanah College ofArt and Design. It is a competitive local-multiplayer game where four robots battle against each other ina small arena for territory. Each tile is worth one point, and the winner is whoever captures the mosttiles before time runs out. Heavily inspired by the multiplayer framework of Bomberman, Battery Jamasks players to strategize inside of a maze-based environment. Players can manipulate the arena’senvironment to influence their opponent’s movements. For example, tiles can be raised to block paths,or they can be lowered into dangerous lava pits.

Each robot is armed with a blaster gun to shoot and stun their opponents. With your trusty gun,opponents can be pushed into lava pits, earning you tiles surrounding the pit. Your gun can also beuseful for destroying objects or obstacles blocking your path. One way to secure territory is by hurlingexploding cubes called Boomboxes at your opponents. When a Boombox crashes into an opponent,you’ll gain ownership of nearby tiles surrounding that explosion. If a Boombox explodes without anycasualties, then it will create a large lava pit.

The gameplay has a surprising amount of polish for something that began life as a small studentproject. Controls are fast and responsive, and each of the gameplay mechanics are well-designed.Sometimes game developers can become overly-ambitious, biting off way more than they can chew. ButBattery Jam’s polish is a result of narrowing down the scope by focusing on smaller, tighter game design.In an interview, the developer explained, “We had seen a lot of other student games and one piece offeedback we heard from guest speakers and alumni was always something along the lines of "buildspace invaders, not GTA."

Visually, Battery Jam has a very clean, colorful presentation, making it easy to keep track of allthe chaotic action. Whereas UI junk cluttered the screen in Nintendo’s Flip Wars, Battery Jam does abetter job at integrating UI information into the game’s environment. Flip Wars also had an inconsistentart direction that looked like something straight out of the WiiWare era. By comparison, Battery Jam’sart direction features a bolder, more vibrant color palette. There are also some very impressiveenvironmental animations where the arena will go through cosmetic or structural changes.

Unfortunately, Battery Jam is anemically low on content, even for a small budget indie title.With only eight levels to play, and only two modes to choose from, local multiplayer feels very limitedand bare-bones. ‘Team Jam’ groups players into teams, while ‘Classic Jam’ is a free-for-all mode that pitseveryone against each other. Unlike Super Bomberman R, there is no reward system or extras in BatteryJam that motivates players to keep playing well. No unlockable modes, no unlockable levels, noleaderboards. What you see is what you basically get.

It’s difficult to take Battery Jam seriously as a competitive multiplayer title when it doesn’t evensupport online multiplayer. Sure, it’s a solid-enough couch multiplayer title, but it’s competing againstSwitch’s library, which is filled with titles like Super Bomberman R, Splatoon 2, Rocket League andOvercooked 2. Even Flip Wars made an attempt at an online mode. I applaud the developers for creatinga strong local multi-player game, but the absence of online multiplayer isn’t something that can beeasily overlooked. On a more positive note, you can play the game solo by adding multiple AI bots withfive levels of difficulty.

Battery Jam is an addictive local multiplayer title with colorful visuals and a polishedpresentation. But as enjoyable as the gameplay is, it’s difficult to recommend it over other multiplayertitles when the amount of content here feels so paltry and limited. The lack of online multiplayer wouldbe easier to excuse if local multiplayer had a little more meat to it. With that said, it’s still a verycompetently made indie game that’s fun to play in short bursts. Just don’t expect too much depth fromthe gameplay.