Jumper: Griffin's Story

Jumper: Griffin's Story
Jumper: Griffin's Story Cover
Platforms Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2
Genre Underwhelming action with potential
Score 4  Clock score of 4Gameplay: 5
Fun Factor: 4
Gfx/Sound: 4
Story: 5
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Jumper: Griffin's Story is a video game spinoff of a movie that was based on a novel by author Steven Gould. Yes, you read that right. It was developed by an Aussie studio called RedTribe, famous for such megahits as Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal and Space Chimps. The movie and novel follow the life of a young man named David Rice as he grows up and eventually realizes he has the ability to teleport. At first it’s a life saving surprise, but over time David starts to use his ability to his advantage. He travels the globe and "accumulates" vast riches. However, his activities don’t go unnoticed. In the movie, we are introduced to a secret society of "Paladins"; men whose job it is to hunt down and kill those with the ability to teleport, also known as Jumpers. It isn’t long before the Paladins take an interest in David.

As we follow David’s adventures, we’re introduced to a fellow Jumper named Griffin. He plays a multi-faceted role as both David’s teacher and, to a certain degree, his antagonist. He’s an intriguing character and it’s clear he’s been around the block before with the Paladins. He’s cocky and experienced and generally more interesting than the character of David. Perhaps that’s why the game follows Griffin’s story rather than David’s. But was the decision to base a game on a supporting role rather than the main character a good one? Read on to find out.

Jumper: Griffin's Story is a third person action game. More specifically, it’s a third person brawler, as that’s pretty much all you’ll do throughout. Each level is essentially a series of rooms filled with Paladins (basically just a guy with an energy baton) intent on ending your teleportation career. In some cases, there will be multiple waves of enemies before you are allowed to proceed. The level will culminate in a fight with an elite Paladin who has a few different attacks and better defenses. Upon completion of each level, you’re treated to stylized hand-drawn scenes, much like what you’d find in a graphic novel. These pan across the screen as you listen to dialogue between Griffin, the Paladins and certain other "shady" individuals.

I mention attacks and defenses. You’re probably wondering just how someone who can teleport would attack an enemy. It’s pretty simple and in theory, it’s actually a great idea. Although I’ve come to realize it’s somewhat difficult to describe in text, I’ll do my best. Imagine there is a circle around your targeted enemy (you can cycle your target to different enemies with the left trigger). That circle is divided into four quadrants; one in front of them, one behind, and one to either side. Each main button on the controller represents one of those quadrants. For example: The Y button correlates to the upper quadrant, A to the lower quadrant, and X and B to the left and right respectively. Hit one of those buttons and you’ll instantly teleport to, and attack the enemy at, that quadrant. You can quickly attack each quadrant in sequence and even string together attack chains and combos.

So that’s the attacking, but what about defense? With regard to your enemies, that circle that surrounds them is generally gray in color. However, if they are in a defensive stance, at least one of the quadrants will be red, showing you the location they are most defensive at. (boss characters will often have 2 or 3 quadrants of red, meaning you have fewer options for attack) If you teleport to a red quadrant, your attack will be blocked and you’ll receive a well-placed counterattack for your troubles. Aside from the red quadrant, you’ll also see some quadrants glow green. This tells you the enemy is weakest in that location. Attack that location and you’ll open up the ability to combo. As you combo, the green quadrant will move and you’ll have to attack the newly green quadrant next, or risk getting countered. Griffin's only defense is a rolling dodge move that is accomplished by holding the right trigger and flicking the left stick in the direction you want Griffin to roll. The Paladins will also shoot an occasional energy "tether" at you. If they connect, you’ll have to time a button press to escape. If you fail, you’ll be held motionless for a few seconds while they pummel you.

So you’re probably thinking this actually sounds pretty good. You’d be right. But you may also recall a phrase I used a few paragraphs back. That phrase is "in theory". The reason I said this combat mechanic was a great idea "in theory" is that the actual execution is pretty messy. The biggest problem is the camera. It’s controlled with the right stick as you’d expect, but it’s so inconsistent that you are constantly struggling with it, trying to keep it on the action. It also does some really bizarre things. For example, if you hold straight down on the thumbstick without moving it around at all, you’ll actually run in a tight little circle with the camera swinging around rapidly behind you. Combine that with the fact that you can’t intentionally swing the camera as fast as you can turn and you’ve got some really cumbersome controls to deal with. Even in the last level, when I had a solid understanding of the controls, I would still find myself running in the wrong direction sometimes. And lastly, for some reason the default horizontal axis is inverted. You can change it in the options, but the change doesn’t save. So every time you start a game you have to make the change. Strange.

Jumper Griffins Story Samuel L Jackson

What was awesome: Hmmm…… give me a minute. Oh, nevermind just keep reading.

What I liked: The premise of teleportation for combat is really cool. Had I been given the task of designing a combat system based on teleportation, I’m certain I wouldn’t have come up with something so clean and simple. I would love to see a more experienced developer with a better timeline and budget use some of the combat ideas seen in this game. Also, as you are fighting enemies, you’ll occasionally teleport them away to a death scenario. There are about 8 different scenarios and each one is pretty fun to see. They happen randomly as far as I can tell but it was the one moment that really reminded me of the movies. In one of the death events you grab the enemy and teleport into a car in a junk yard. As the camera pulls back you see the car is in a car crusher that is just about to do its job. As it flattens the car, Griffin jumps away and the enemy gets flattened. Good stuff.

What I didn't like: I’m not a graphics snob but this game does not look good. A lazy reviewer might simply say that it’s obvious the game was ported up from the PS2/Wii version (and it is), but that doesn’t really give the full story. Having played a litany of games on both Wii and PS2, I can say that MANY games on both consoles look very good. No, this game was clearly rushed graphically and it shows. There were perhaps 4 different enemies you fight throughout the game, but the differences between them were negligible. Normally, I’d complain that this game was incredibly short, at about 2-3 hours. But since the controls were so frustrating, the levels were visually uninspired and the enemies were repetitive, I felt like it was actually a bit longer than it needed to be. Also, I bought the game for $5 used at Gamestop, so I’m not really picky about the length.

Jumper Griffins Story Fighting


Gameplay: 5
The gameplay has a great concept but crummy controls and an incredibly awkward camera kill it. I didn’t hate it, but I REALLY had to suspend my desire for quality to get through the entire game.

Fun Factor: 4
This is where I expect a game like this to shine. I play lots of low budget and poorly reviewed games because I know that most reviewers will bury a game just because it isn’t a AAA masterpiece. Or they will subconsciously give it a low score simply because it doesn’t fit their preconceived notion of what a certain game should be. I also feel that if we only play games that review at 8 or higher, we’ll miss loads of unique and interesting gaming moments. My theory is that developers with fewer resources have to focus on getting the simple things right because they don’t generally have the budget for amazing graphics or epic storyline set pieces. Unfortunately, this is not a game that proves my theory.

Graphics and Sound: 4
As I mentioned before, the visuals are muddy and uninspired. For a game spun off of a movie that shoots in exotic locales all over the globe, this games locations are really underwhelming. You’d think fighting in the ruins of the Coliseum would be a thrill but this game made it feel like a chore. There wasn’t much in the audio department that was good or bad. There was very little music and most of the levels were only punctuated by the occasional flippant remark from Griffin or one of the Paladins.

Story: 5
I had a hard time following the story. I usually like the comic book style cut scenes but these gave me the impression that I was missing some integral information. Perhaps the problem is that I watched the movie almost a year and half ago and I don’t recall the specifics of who is who, particularly when the characters are drawn and I don’t really recognize anyone but Griffin.

Overall: 4
I would say this game was a big disappointment but I really didn’t expect it to be very good. Had it even been passable, I probably would have been thrilled. The reality is that its EXACTLY the games like this that cause people to cringe at the thought of games that are spun off of movies.

Final Thoughts: For 90 percent of the gaming population, Jumper: Griffin's Story is one you should probably avoid. But if you like "experimental" games like I do, give this a rent. You can finish it in one evening of play and return it before you realize how angry you are at me for telling you to rent it.

Jumper Griffins Story Book Steven Gould

The game is based on this book, which is a spinoff of the film, which is based on its own book.
This is what I call exciting video game licensing.