Vampire fangs, blood-sucking mosquitoes, and a basement full of horrors - or is it wonders? In JARS, you follow the tale of a quiet little boy named Victor as he explores the seemingly endless confines of the basement, meeting unexpected friends and learning about his father along the way.
This, for me, is what the game is all about, disguised under the appearance of a strategy puzzle with tower defense elements. The game is pretty simple - you click on jars and protect the sarcophagus at all costs. Jars labeled with four-leaf clovers contain either Minions or useful items, while jars marked with the bat symbol contain pesky Nasties that'll stop at nothing to destroy your sarcophagus. Unmarked jars add a random element to each level - they can either be Minions or Nasties, so unbottle them at your own risk.
Each level has an impressive variety that will never make any playthrough boring or repetitive despite the simple game mechanics. Sometimes, the overall goal of protecting your sarcophagus comes with unexpected surprises, like mosquitoes needing to flip switches or bats trying to open pathways with keys. These levels remind me a little bit of the old-school Sid and Al's Incredible Toons, where you'll need to come up with the best strategies to achieve a certain goal when things are set in motion.
Adding to the excitement of each level is the ticking clock in the form of Nasties, who, once freed from their jar-ry confines, will nibble away at your sarcophagus until it's game over. You'll need to think fast and deploy either your Minions or your items to eliminate the pests. Sometimes, going head-to-head with the Nasties will do the trick; other times, you'll need to shoot them with a dart, slow them down with glue, or buy your sarcophagus some time with a well-placed protective bubble.
As for the Minions, they all have unique abilities that may or may not be useful to you in a particular level. You can also equip perks to boost your Minions, like better health, faster attack speeds, or the ability to see through unmarked jars. Mosquitoes, for instance, can fly between shelves but are way squishier than Pupas. Acorns can shoot from a distance, but, like Pupas, are restricted to the shelf they're on. You'll have to use a Pipette to transfer them from one shelf to the next, because why the heck not.
These levels remind me a little bit of the old-school Sid and Al's Incredible Toons, where you'll need to come up with the best strategies to achieve a certain goal when things are set in motion.
The awesomeness of the gameplay aside, what actually made me fall in love with this game is its narrative. I can't spoil the story for you, but suffice it to say that unlocking more cutscenes and comics was what drove me to move forward with every level. Plus, I really enjoyed leafing through the Encyclopedia, as every description is written with such humor and wit.
For instance, bats here supposedly have garlic in their brains, explaining why they fly off from vampire residences all the time (the vampires apparently chase away bats when they awake from their slumber). The artwork also complements the quirky narrative beautifully, adding a weird but lovable appeal to the whole game.
JARS | Final Thoughts
Overall, JARS is one of the most refreshing games I've played in a long while, ticking off all the right boxes when it comes to gameplay, graphics, and narrative. I never thought I'd find cartoon pupas so adorable.
Case in point: there's an unlockable roguelike mode where you play as Hero versions of your regular Minions, and the Pupa hero named Jonathan is just too darn lovable. He's got a tiny bucket helmet on and has a frown on his face all the time, but I can't for the life of me understand why he's so cute.
Still, the story of JARS is what really shines here, proving that puzzle games can have engaging narratives too - all you really need is a basement full of jars, and anything's possible.
TechRaptor reviewed JARS on Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on the Nintendo Switch.
- Intriguing Narrative
- Quirky And Appealing Artwork
- Varied Puzzles In Every Level
- Visuals May Not Be Everyone's Cup Of Tea
- Hybrid Nature Of Gameplay May Confuse Genre Fans