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Happy Bounce

Published by Jako Productions
Price $4.50
Primary Genre Secondary Genre

I think, perhaps, this game is poorly named. I mean, sure, your avatar is a smiley yellow face and he/she/it bounces a great deal, but I don't recommend putting "happy bounce" into Google. At least, not in the presence of your spouse. But accidental results aside, Happy Bounce is pretty much exactly what it says. A bouncing, happy... face... collecting coins and avoiding devils. Since we don't seem to have a name for this character, I've gone with "Smiley". I doubt I need to go into the plot, which is good, as I'm not convinced there is one!

The title screen is actually a level you can explore, though there's no way to "win" it. Beware of the devils! They can be hellishly fast.

Happy Bounce is a platformer that puts me in mind of my Atari 2600, back in the days when high resolution was 80 pixels across and getting a high review score for graphics meant actually having some. You control a yellow smiley face with the arrow keys, jumping up platforms and collecting yellow circles with $ symbols on them, the accepted currency of computer game worlds everywhere. Why is he (I'm assuming he) collecting them? We don't know. All we know is that he is, and escaping each screem through either the blue/green swirly portal or the pink blocks to the next screen.

It isn't all plain sailing, though. Along the way there are devils (red meanies that move in predictable patterns), ghost-like things, spike traps and the ever-deadly void that sits just outside the edge of the screen. All of these things will spell instant death on contact, and you only have one life. Smiley has no defences beyond his jumping ability, so avoid them all! Look out for the pink boxes labelled [S] - these will allow you to save your game.

Happy Bounce goes spelunking.

As you can tell from the screenshots, there has been no expense spent on the graphics. There is virtually no animation. Bizarrely, despite the title, Smiley doesn't actually "bounce" at all - his jumps have no rebound. The simplistic display is actually pretty clear, though the same cannot always be said of your objective. Given everything, it's not surprising that the game flows fairly swiftly but it did lag a great deal when Smiley jumped on/into springs. The oddest aspect of the graphics is the message box that pops up with tutorial advice or notifications that your game has been saved - it simply looks weird compared to all the low-res graphics behind it!

There is sound, but it is minimal. The Windows default "ping" that accompanies every coin collection is somewhat irritating and I'm not entirely sure it's deliberate - is Windows complaining about the sound effect in the background? Either way, this is a very poor effort. The only other sound is on Smiley's death. There were always plenty of (low quality) sounds in 2600 games - without decent graphics, you needed to engage every other sense you could, though smell and taste were tougher to do. Here it all seems a little basic.

On the plus side, the controls are very simple and Happy Bounce doesn't exactly have a complicated gameplay mechanic. Simply play through each screen, using the save points as required, and keep going. I'm guessing there's an end somewhere but I haven't yet reached it. There's no limit on the frequency you can save, though you can only have one saved game at a time. And a variety of new obstacles and enemies are gradually introduced as you progress. There's no requirement to collect every coin (which I was initially expecting), and these only really impact on your score.

The downside is fairly simple, really - this is not a complex game. It's a very traditional platformer in many respects, even down to the occasional absence of save points on particularly nasty stretches, but it soon becomes a fairly routine game with little real challenge. Other issues - my review copy didn't have a proper installer; the help text is minimal and poorly spellchecked; there is a single option in the Options menu (full screen mode, which only put the same sized game window in the centre of a large black screen); the "back" option in the Options menu was very unresponsive to mouse clicks; there are no options to remap keys; there is no keyboard shortcut for saving the game, meaning you juggle between mouse and keyboard. All minor niggles, but all indicative of a lack of polish.

I am somewhat torn by Happy Bounce. It's woefully underprepared to be released as a purchased game, but I rather enjoy the nostalgia of all those big blocky graphics and the very simple gameplay. The thing is, I don't think this is low quality graphics and sound to be ironic or nostalgic, but low quality because that's all that's gone into it. There's a simple and effective concept in here and with a bit more effort it could be a neat game. I just don't think it's ready for release yet.

Graphics 40%
Sound 20%
Playability 70%
Longevity 60%
Overall Score 48%
No Award

Published on 22 Apr 2011
Reviewed by Andrew Williams

Keywords: happy bounce review, jako productions reviews, jako productions games, happy bounce scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.