Jazz: Trump’s Journey iOS Review
If asked to guess the genre of a game themed around jazz music, you might not immediately pick puzzle-platformer. Yet Jazz: Trump’s Journey, developed by French studio Egg Ball, is exactly that, a game which tells a wonderful story of the birth of Jazz in New Orleans as you run, jump and puzzle your way through a series of fiendish challenges.
You take on the role of an unlikely protagonist named Trump, a young black trumpet player who wants to move up in the world. The plot revolves around Trump’s quest to put together a band, overcome his adversaries and win the hand of the beautiful Lady Coquelicot. The framing device for the entire plot features Trump telling his story to the player on a stage, with each level a trip back down his memory lane. The cutscenes within these levels are beautifully animated, but completely silent, with subtitle cards akin to the ones seen in a silent movie. It’s a great alternative to speech bubbles or lines of text normally seen in games without vocal work.
In terms of gameplay, Jazz is standard fare. At first, it’s a simple puzzle platformer. You jump over spikes, drag blocks onto switches, and carefully time your leaps onto moving platforms. The hook in the gameplay comes on the second level, in the form of Trumps’ trumpet. By playing the instrument, you can freeze certain elements of the level. Moving platforms turn from deadly obstacles into a simple path. Destructive musical notes from speakers provide jumping boosts when frozen. Enemies can be frozen in place with a quick blast on Trump’s horn. The puzzling grows deeper when the levels present a mix of freezable and un-freezable obstacles. By the end of the game, you’ll be traversing pits of spikes whilst jumping on frozen notes and bouncing on rotating (and also spiked) platforms.
The art style of Jazz is something to behold. Muted colors combined with cartoony characters reminiscent of early Disney animations make the game feel all the more like playing through a silent film, tying in perfectly with the game’s presentation of the story. Trump, along with other various characters, is part of a beautifully animated bunch, and the running and jumping animations of Trump himself are particularly notable for adding to the game’s atmosphere. Normally, you might not notice such small details, but in Jazz they really add to the light hearted air of the game.
Of course, being a game themed around the birth of a musical genre, Jazz features some excellent background music. The tunes provide a wonderfully apt backdrop for your adventures through New Orleans, maintaining a sense of both adventure and drama as you proceed through the game’s various levels. Disappointingly, playing Trump’s trumpet within the game doesn’t actually result in any notable tune, which feels like somewhat of a missed opportunity.
The main plot of the game will take you around a couple of hours, but the game does provide you with the option of returning back to the levels in order to collect hidden photographs. These are often found in secret rooms that only appear once you’ve leapt forth into them. Collecting all the photographs rewards you with nothing but some nice artwork of the characters and the sense of satisfaction gained from unlocking an achievement.
Unfortunately, Jazz isn’t without its bum notes. Coming from a French developer, the game’s dialogue wasn’t written initially in English, so there are occasional spelling and grammar errors. Some of the platforming falls a little short, especially when the game glitches you inside the ceiling. In one dramatic case, a poorly placed respawn point had me caught in endless cycle of death and rebirth, which resulted in my having to completely exit the level in order to escape. Fortunately, these sections are few and far between, and don’t tarnish the overall experience.
One final note on Jazz. If you choose to play this game, which you probably should, play it all the way through to the very end. It’s an incredibly ambitious game that sets out to tackle an issue that most other games will often only hint at. Jazz takes the issue of racism and prejudice and puts it right there in front of you. However, that’s not even the entire picture. At the very end of the game, a single reveal puts your whole experience into a different light. It suddenly sends a message relevant to all of us, both about how we view ourselves, and how we view other people. This isn’t delivered through heavy-handed moral messages, but through simple, sublime storytelling that fits in the palm of your hand.
It might not be what you expect from your average iOS game, but then… Jazz isn’t exactly your average iOS game.