Review: CJ: Strike Back


CJ stands for City Jumper, and CJ: Strike Back from developers Droidhen takes the infinite running genre and mixes it with a bit of retro styling to provide a comforting action game that's quick to play, but perhaps a bit too heavy in the revenue generation for a free title.

Author: Droidhen

Version Reviewed:

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Here's the thing. Many years ago, on the ZX Spectrum, I was forced to play CJ'S Elephant Antics. Thankfully, CJ: Strike Back on Windows Phone is not a traumatic flashback to the colour clashing platform game of the eighties, but something much more modern.

But there are similarities. CJ: Strike Back is an infinite running game, a genre that has come into its own over the last two years on smartphones. The graphical power and speed on offer, coupled with a need for simplified touch-screen controls, and a fast moving pick up and play game style, has seen this genre rise to popularity.

 CJ: Strike Back CJ: Strike Back

CJ stands for City Jumper, and is the role played by the nameless character you control. Sprinting up the side of the screen, you have one control - jump - and when you do you'll arc across the screen in a tight gymnastic like tuck roll. If you hit any enemies while in tuck, they'll be destroyed. And if you hit them while in a regular run, then it's game over.

Well, it's game over unless you have a shield. These are one time only power-ups that let you carry on running through your own mistakes. While you can pick up new shields (and stockpile them for future use), the main source of shields is through the in-app purchasing system. These are quite pricey (two shields for 99c/79p, up to 200 shields for $50.99) and I suspect that the majority of users will simply bypass these are play the game in a 'single mistake is death' mode - but as long as a few people do start buying shields, the developers will turn a profit.

For everyone else, the game has in-app advertising as well, with a screen width banner taking up 50 pixels or so. While I appreciate the developers need to bring in revenue, Strike Back seems to be trying to have its cake and eat it, and use both methods. Hopefully the developers will see the income streams and decide on one or the other in future releases.

 CJ: Strike Back CJ: Strike Back

Because this is a game that does deserve some attention. Yes it's an infinite runner, with graphics that feel more in tune with late nineties arcade games than the modern 3D look pushed by the likes of Temple Run, but there is a subtlety required to play the game.

Take the special powers open to you. If you can destroy three similar enemies in a row, then you will receive a power up to your character that offers speed and invulnerability as you travel further into the level. This can lead to the comical situation of trying to avoid destroying enemy type 'A' because you are one away from a trifecta of enemy type 'B'. Oh the delicious irony of avoiding the juicy targets!

You also have the ability to increase your score through multipliers. This starts at a base level of 'x10' but as you play through the game you have small goals to achieve, such as destroying two robot arms (that swing in from the side of the screen to try and kill you), or destroying three static targets, that sort of thing. You are shown the current goals at the start of each level, and if you achieve them, the multiplier will increase.

This gives the game more longevity than a direct 'beat the high score' challenge would, and also makes you use different techniques to attempt on each turn, keeping the game as varied as possible.

High score-wise, there is an on-line high score table, where you can see how you rank overall, as well as a daily and weekly table, and can compare yourself to your friends (assuming you sign in to the OpenXLive system, which is behind this online implementation of high scores). Unfortunately, there's no indication as to how many purchased shields were used for each high score, so it is slightly devalued, but it does give you something else to aim for, and does extend the life of the game.

 CJ: Strike Back CJ: Strike Back

CJ: Strike Back is a nice little infinite runner. It's not a perfect example of the genre, and staying in a sprite-based 2D view does harm it when compared to other available titles. But it does have a certain old school appeal, and with the crunching heroic soundtrack and the crisp sound effects as you jump and kill anything in your path, it does touch a nerve if you've enjoyed classic video games (no, not CJ's Elephant Antics, Classics).

CJ: Strikes Back is a good secondary title in the Windows Phone gaming pantheon. It's not going to sell a device, it won't be used as a tech demo, but it's fun, does the job, and keeps calling you back for more. Recommended.

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