ByYaw Amanquah, writer at Creators.co
freelance game designer | osiahene.itch.io | twitter.com/yawoada
Yaw Amanquah

At first, glance Jack the Reaper looks like a doujin game but it actually has more in common with Kirby. Jack the Reaper is a 2D action platformer starring a titular character that can absorb the abilities of enemies. Sounds familiar right? However, Jack the Reaper does a few things that make it better than the Kirby games of recent memory.

Difficulty

Kirby was originally designed to be an easier version of Mario but that design philosophy has made the series grow stale over time. The first thing that will strike you about Jack the Reaper given that you don't press any buttons is a warning that the game will be very difficult. In Jack the Reaper Jack can only be hit a maximum of four times before he loses a life. Unlike Kirby who has the ability to float Jack needs to perform precise jumps lest you fall into a pit.

Jack's only way of attacking before he gains an ability is a weak short range scythe attack. Even the ability to save your progress is a privilege that has to be purchased with the in-game currency. Fortunately, for the player Jack has a few abilities that offset this difficulty so things don't become too frustrating. Jack can strengthen himself by buying upgrades at shops and taking back his lost abilities from bosses. Jack can also avoid attacks by performing a spin move that makes him intangible.

Abilities

I've always loved that the Kirby games, for the most part, give you the choice of which ability you want to use in each stage. However, in Kirby, the choice is whether you want the game to be easy or a cakewalk. In Jack the Reaper each ability has strengths and weaknesses that make you really consider which one you want for each stage. For example, there was a particular stage where I used one ability for platforming but later changed to a more appropriate ability for the boss battle.

Also, worth highlighting is how some abilities are strong against certain enemies so experimentation is always encouraged. Once you gain the power to mix abilities a la Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards you'll find yourself backtracking to older stages just to get an ability you want to combine with a newer one. Upon backtracking observant players will discover that previously blocked off areas can be accessed thanks to a new ability.

Jack the Reaper is being developed solely by Dream's Bell which is impressive considering how good the game looks and sounds. Jack the Reaper hasn't been released yet but there is a very expansive demo available for download. So if you're looking forward to Kirby: Planet Robobot you should consider giving Jack the Reaper a try.