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Jack Move review: this is the best cyberpunk game of 2022

Mike Diver

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Jack Move review: this is the best cyberpunk game of 2022

Featured Image Credit: HypeTrain Digital

While Netflix’s Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has given TV a fresh injection of sci-fi energy with its bombastic animation and surprisingly moving storyline, in the gaming space there’s not been a great deal of hacker-centric shenanigans to play around with in 2022. Citizen Sleeper and even Stray have their merits and could certainly fall into the cyberpunk category - but if you play one game from this year that taps into all things future facing and undeniably dystopian, Jack Move by developers So Romantic should be where you’re pointing both your attention and your Eurodollar equivalents.

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Watch the animated (PlayStation) launch trailer for Jack Move below…

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This unassuming pixel-art role-player casts the user as Noa Solares, a hacker who divides her time between dumpster-diving for whatever old tech she can make use of in a future set after a great blackout where life as we know it now just stopped; and hanging out with her friend Ryder, who’s usually on hand to assist her with any cyberspace excursions she needs to take. Her home is a minuscule apartment in Bright Town, a settlement surrounded by insalubrious environments that only the exceptionally brave or uncommonly foolhardy would willingly venture into.

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As with many a cyberpunk-flavoured story, there’s a shady mega-corp in control, and in Jack Move that’s Monomind. Noa’s no fan, but manages to live with her frustrations until she discovers that her estranged father has been kidnapped by them. And so begins our quest proper, as we set out to find out what the heck dad’s done to attract the attention of these devious antagonists.

Jack Move / Credit: HypeTrain Digital
Jack Move / Credit: HypeTrain Digital

Noa, Ryder, and a small but impressively real-feeling cast of companions and bad eggs flesh out Jack Move’s narrative, which splits itself between real-world exploration and combat and trips into virtual realms where software viruses become as deadly to Noa’s health bar as they are your average hard drive. If you’re familiar with RPGs of the middle 1990s, especially those that landed so frequently on the Super Nintendo, then the look and gameplay feel of Jack Move will be familiar. Naturally this game pushes past the capabilities of such 16-bit hardware in many ways, but the impression - intentional as it is - is of a game out of time. In that respect Jack Move succeeds superbly well, lingering in the memory after each session like a title you adored on the SNES and yearn to revisit in the here and now. The difference: this is a game you can play whenever, right now, and you’re encouraged to.

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In particular it’ll comfortably click with those who found time in their schedule, and space in their hearts, for the likes of Chrono Trigger and Eastward, to name an older classic and a title of more contemporary resonance. But Jack Move’s easy onboarding of the player through a slowly rising difficulty curve, and its customisable random-enemy frequency and in-battle instant-win option (it’s there if you want it, though I never tried it), mean that even if the mechanics of the game are getting in the way of the enjoyable story for you, you can elect to essentially breeze through proceedings with nary a scratch on your data packets. Overcoming foes does see Noa’s stats rise however, and while story points unlock certain moves - including the title-providing Jack Moves, which are essentially this game’s take on Limit Breaks - it’s advisable to keep her levelling up as the hours tick by, so that you’re never overwhelmed.

Jack Move / Credit: HypeTrain Digital
Jack Move / Credit: HypeTrain Digital

And speaking of hours, Jack Move pulls a surprising trump card by not going on for ages. Rather than hundreds of hours of play, this compact delight can roll its credits inside a dozen, and that’s really no bad thing as our personal piles of shame mount up each and every year. What’s important is that no event is wasted, no sneaking about a junkyard is just there for filler, and no virtual reality scrap passes without purpose. Every second counts - and that’s great in a genre that so often confuses fabulous depth of content with fun things to do. I’m certainly here for any game that understands that streamlining is a strength - and Jack Move’s RRP of around £15 represents a perfect asking price for what’s in store for the player.

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To detail the game’s combat for a moment, Jack Move takes the everyone-in-order approach to turn-based play, with a clear display in the top right of the screen indicating who’s lining up next to take a swing. Only, Noa isn’t really equipped to sock anyone over the head with her fists, so she relies on a range of damaging hacks to get the job done, all of which have their own special qualities which can be more or less effective on the enemies in question. Unlocking the ability to scan enemies, especially larger and more dangerous ones, is a must, as it’ll illustrate their weaknesses. Noa can become infected with statuses which can be undone by the use of items, and the traditional array of top-ups for health and ‘magic’ (data, here) are both discoverable and purchasable in stores.

Jack Move / Credit: HypeTrain Digital
Jack Move / Credit: HypeTrain Digital

Jack Moves are readied by the receiving of damage by Noa, so strategically defending and skipping turns while she’s basically got her shields up is something you’ll do a lot against bosses, waiting patiently for the opportunity to unleash a critical strike. This caching of moves becomes a balancing act, a delicate dance, as you attempt to plan three or four moves ahead without your health bar getting wiped out. Sometimes an opponent will miss their shot and you’ll breathe a sigh of immense relief; other times the risky play won’t pay off and that’s why saving anywhere and everywhere is a good idea. It’s all very rewarding, and fun too, so while you can choose to take random battles down to zero, you’ll be doing yourself (and Noa’s vitals) a disservice.

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Beautiful of presentation with loads of detail packed into those pixels, and sporting a winningly ‘90s-feeling dance beats soundtrack, Jack Move is a treat from start to finish that anyone with a taste for anything cyberpunk-y should be making an effort to experience. Its script is sharp, with smile-forming flecks of humour aplenty, and the whole thing buzzes with a vivacity that’d be in jarring conflict with its dark themes if it wasn’t so well handled. That its makers have managed to marry the heavyweight with the light-hearted deserves praise, and while this might lack the aesthetic grandeur of CDPR’s latterly redeemed open-worlder, it’s an enveloping slice of sci-fi life that doesn’t need to be anything more than what it already is.

Pros: excellently written and paced story with plenty of sharp humour, the combat is always rewarding, gorgeously detailed pixel art

Cons: the menus can feel overwhelming at first, waypointing can be tricky sometimes with no map to follow, the short length may be a problem for some

For fans of: Chrono Trigger, Eastward, EarthBound, Cyberpunk 2077

8/10: Excellent

Jack Move is out now for PC, Nintendo Switch (version tested), PlayStation and Xbox consoles. Code for this coverage provided by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible’s review scores here.

Topics: Indie Games, Nintendo Switch, Retro Gaming

Mike Diver
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