The release of Jumanji: The Video Game surprised everyone and no-one at the same time. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, was released back in 2017, showcasing teenagers being sucked into a Jumanji video game, rather than a board game, an associated game was expected.
What we didn't expect was for it to be released just before the second reboot movie, but with a production level that seems more in keeping with the original title way back in 1995. The result is an incredibly repetitive, clunky, and story-less multiplayer game. Instead of sucking you into the game, the game, quite simply, just sucks.
As a huge fan of both the original movie and the reboot, I was excited about this title. While I knew that any associated game wasn't exactly going to be the most story-heavy and in-depth title in the world, I did at least expect it to feel like an achievement to save Jumanji. Instead, it feels like a deja vu-heavy experience, laden with disappointment.
There are four levels in all, with each one having a difficulty level of easy, medium, or hard. They comprise Jungle Hideout, a level vaguely reminiscent of the movie set; Mountain Fortress, a snowy mountain pass area; Bizzare Bazaar, a town with stalls in the streets; and Night Pursuit, which feels like the same town as the Bazaar, but darker.
Each level can be played as a multiplayer experience with a split-screen co-op or via online play, but only with friends. Alternatively, there's a solo experience in which you can choose to be accompanied by AI companions.
There is no story mode and there are no other levels, excluding a very simple tutorial, which takes place in the Jungle Hideout level. All levels suffer from the same retro-looking graphics and dicey animations, which are reminiscent of consoles at least one generation earlier. The polished screenshots on Steam seem to bear little resemblance to the reality for console players.
Deja Vu Commences
For every level, the pattern is exactly the same. Walk around a slightly boring maze-style area collecting four pieces of a relic and shooting or fighting random enemies. The completed relic is then used to open the door to the next area. Here ,you'll navigate some simple traps (which you can mostly just run through) to collect four more pieces to open another door. This then leads to a third area where you stand by a pillar to "charge" it with the jewel your team has been carrying and fire at random enemies for a few minutes.
These same basic levels then play out a couple more times before the level is declared "defeated" and the final jewel goes into a statue, instead of a door, and everyone says "Jumanji."
The only difference is that in the later maze areas, there can be animals to run from. The gameplay mechanics and tasks are identical; only the paths and enemies seem to differ slightly. To be honest, it's pretty difficult to tell since all the sections are very similar.
Characters and Customization
The one good thing about this game is that you can choose which character you play and each one has different abilities tied to their movie character. As you play, you can also unlock customizable weapons and clothing. This adds some uniqueness to the game, but it's nowhere near enough to save it.
In terms of abilities, the characters do actually feel different. Dr. Bravestone plays like a tank, with an AOE move, swift punches, and the ability to soak up a decent amount of damage. Prof. Shelley, in contrast, plays as a healer, with a nice AOE heal ability. Ruby and Mouse both play more like DPS characters, with a focus on damage.
It's great to see this difference, but it's sad to discover that it doesn't seem to actually matter. At the lower difficulty levels especially, you can simply punch, kick, and run your way through everything without even touching your weapons or special abilities, which makes them feel fairly pointless.
While you will need them at the higher difficulty level, the game still doesn't really offer many challenges, especially if you are playing with someone else.
The only real way to feel challenged is by playing as a single-player and turning off the AI characters, so you are entirely alone (the open spots don't automatically populate with other online players). However, even then. the challenge does not erase the dullness, which is the game's main issue.
Difficulty And Damage
Part of the reason why the game doesn't feel difficult is due to the fact that every level is crammed with buffs. Refills for ammo, health packs, and ability recharges were so plentiful that they were rarely needed and never depleted. Even with the AI characters picking them up as well, it was incredibly easy to find more if required.
Except when playing entirely alone, that is. Deaths were rare, even though I struggled with the aiming system for weapons, which feels unnecessarily fiddly. On the Switch, it requires you to hold down the left trigger, aim with the right analog stick, and then press the right trigger to fire. The aiming system is jerky in places and the whole thing felt awkward, especially if you were trying to also use your other buttons to crouch or hide.
The most lethal thing in the game is the animals. I was one-shotted by a hippo and that was my first and only death for a long time.
The Overall Experience
I can see that the aim was to make a well-rounded multiplayer game. The problem is that it's just not engaging. If you watch the one-minute gameplay trailer, you will see pretty much everything the game has to offer, including the naff graphics.
The characters themselves play well, with each feeling unique and reflective of its movie counterpart, but the levels don't give them the opportunity to be fully utilized. To save this game, the levels need to be more engaging and more varied. There also needs to be an online matchmaking mode so you can team up with other online players, rather than solely friends or AI companions.
There is some potential here, but sadly, it is far from utilized and the result is a bargain bin title with a big name franchise slapped on the cover. Jumanji: The Video Game is best left in that dark and dusty cupboard that it will no doubt end up in.
A digital Switch version of Jumanji: The Video Game was purchased by TheGamer for this review. Jumanji: The Video Game is available now for PC, Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.