Jane Wilde iOS Review
Jane Wilde is a side-scrolling action game set in the wild west with a twist of horror in the form of mythical creatures. On a mission from the sheriff to rid the town of zombies, skeletons, exploding dogs and many other warped creatures, Jane must fight her way through three unique towns and two train journeys to wipe out the unholy demons that are plaguing the area. The different towns and trains are zones that each consist of five or ten levels for a total of over 30 stages. Each new town has a unique theme – such as the ice fishing town, or the cemetery – and introduces a new enemy, first in the form of a boss and then having them join the ranks of the horde as difficult enemies with special powers. For example, the first boss you encounter is a charging centaur, but once defeated you’ll be taking on two at a time whilst also dealing with various other demons. The bosses are unique and fun to fight against, as each one must be taken on with a bit of strategy, even when demoted to regular enemy types.
Starting at the far left of the map, the player must make their way to the right whilst being bombarded with enemies from both sides. Starting off, Jane only has weak kick and a set of dual pistols, but as the player progresses they must use in-game gold to purchase new weapons, upgrades and special powers for Jane. The basic pistols have little knock-back and small damage but are fast-paced and don’t require reloading as often, whereas the shotgun does more damage and has a big knock-back but is slow-paced and must be reloaded often – exactly what you might expect. There’s also a mini-gun, a crossbow that paralyses enemies, and a grenade launcher that for some unknown reason is shaped like a giant fish. Cycling between weapons is made nice and easy with the use of a single button. Even switching to a specific weapon is incredibly well done – a single swipe on the right side of the screen brings up all available weaponry, which can then be selected. Although it may be fidgety in the middle of a heated battle, it’s definitely preferred over having a screen full of buttons.
The kick is used very specifically for certain enemy types – skulls, suicidal dogs, and a number of smaller enemies – but it does a tiny amount of damage and there’s no way to upgrade it, which I thought was missing from the upgrade system. There’s no way to increase Jane’s life, walk speed, kick damage or anything else; only weapons can be upgraded – although, there are a number of power-ups that can be purchased and stacked up to three times. These temporary boosts range from shooting faster, taking no damage, summoning a skeleton side-kick, or having a herd of cows rush down any on-screen enemies. They play a pivotal role in the three-star level system, and I believe many of the stars wouldn’t be obtainable without the correct powers equipped.
Each level also has three star-goals – extra objectives that can be accomplished during the level. Unfortunately, there’s no variety or fun to be had with them, as they are always the same – beat the level in under a specified amount of time, earn over a specified amount of gold, and take less than a specified amount of damage. At first I didn’t move on to the next level until I had achieved all three stars, but very soon I started to not care, as there is no reward or benefit to acquiring them, adding no replay value. I would have enjoyed this game much more if I was rewarded with gold or an upgrade for managing to obtain all stars in a level, or if they had a few twists, such as not using power-ups or only using specific weapons to complete the level. This is certainly where the game lacks, as every level feels too similar when it could have been so much more.
Something that I found strange in a fast-paced game like this was that instead of just having a longer cooldown for stronger weapons, ammo must be purchased between missions or picked up as drops from enemies, including the original pistols – which is also odd, as primary weapons usually have unlimited ammo even if other weapons don’t. Although, this does do a good job of making sure that the player doesn’t upgrade just one weapon and blast through all the levels with it; instead, other weapons must be upgraded and used in different situations. Fortunately, the game is generous with its in-game currency and doesn’t force you to use in-app purchases to progress faster. The game has a perfect balance of giving you enough gold for ammo and the occasional upgrade without having you replaying stages farming money. As the levels get more difficult, the player gets more gold and the upgrades get more expensive – exactly how an upgrade system should work. It makes it feel like you’ve earned the upgrade without boring you by having you work too hard. There’s also a stack bonus that rewards big money if many enemies are killed in quick succession, which helps the player in later levels where there are simply more enemies to blow away.
Once the main game has been completed, there’s little else to do besides going back to collect every star, which is no easy task. For 20,000 gold, Hard Mode can be unlocked, which basically puts the player back at the beginning of the game, keeping all their upgrades, weapons and power-ups but with each level now containing end-level enemies…and lots of them. This is good for fans of the game, but there’s really no motivation to play through the game again; there’s no enticing reward or true story ending to be discovered. There’s also Survival Mode, which is fun just to see how long you can last, but once again this wears on you fast. Unlike Jetpack Joyride, which encourages the player to keep going with a multitude of unlockables and an unlimited supply of fun objectives, Jane Wilde is certainly a single playthrough game. Although, it does lure players into coming back to the app daily with a gratifying spin-to-win mini-game that can be played up to five times, depending on the amount of days the app is consecutively opened. It rewards the player with free ammo or gold, but it’s surprisingly fun – even if it is just a gimmick.
The game looks great with its sharp, colourful style juxtaposed with the incredibly gory, bloodied corpses of the undead. The Scooby Doo-like repeating backgrounds are well-designed and are often rather amusing, such as the array of crazed snowmen in the ice town. Even the look of Jane herself changes between stages and the animations are funny and smooth, especially the angry face Jane pulls when going all-out with the mini-gun. Most of the time, the ambient sounds of the stage are nice and eerie but occasionally ramp up with some awesome wild west/rock mash-ups when things get heated. The story is told through still slides with dialog and is extremely brief, only appearing at the beginning and end of the game. It’s easy to see that not much thought was given to the story and the game was designed way in advance, with the developers eventually squeezing in a quick throwaway tale with a predictable and unsatisfying finale.
The game is free, so it’s definitely worth a play, but it’s a shame that Jane Wilde falls short of what it could have been, ending up as a repetitive game with little replay value. There’s no real reason to ever go back and play it again, unless you want to grind through the same stages over and over. It’s not a bad game by any means and it works great; there’s just nothing to pull the player back in. Annoyingly, the game actually kicks you out by constantly sending you to the App Store with advertisements that pop up right as you’re about to press the screen. This gets infuriating, and I had to turn off my device’s internet connection to save myself from being spammed. With a little more care put into the game’s story and more unique special objectives, Jane Wilde could have been something great. Hopefully it’ll get there in the future with some nice updates, but until then, it remains an average game in a flooded market.