Lucky Joe by Mandragone Games
In Lucky Joe by French indie micro-studio Mandragone Games, you play as Lucky: a man happily enjoying life with his girlfriend Lucy. One day, some mysterious figure kidnaps his girlfriend and it is up to Joe to rescue her. So Joe is off to kill whoever is in his way to find his girlfriend.
To the Point
Its narrative setup is clearly inspired by games from the past – established without further elaboration. It reminded me of the simple introduction slideshows found in old-school action arcade machines. Just enough information to give justification for the upcoming carnage.
The game is equally simple: Find your way to the exit in each level to progress. Along the way there will be plenty of platforming, firing enemies, and traps to conquer.
Repetition starts to set in early on. Levels will start to feel familiar. Sure, the game will mix things up with different enemies sporting varied A.I. patterns, but levels feel too similar.
Thankfully, the game’s mechanics feel good. Jumping is precise, even if a little stiff. Shooting feels okay but can be punishing because of instantly-firing enemies. Mechanically it’s like a mix between Spelunky and Broforce. It’s mechanically sound, limited in novelty, but still challenging.
Since the game requires precision and fast reactions, this means that the game can get tough at times. I rarely felt frustrated with level design because I knew that levels were small and that there would be plenty of checkpoints to help me get through them.
Frankly, Lucky Joe felt, on desktop, much like a mobile game. Short enough to play in small spurts, but not frustrating enough to stop. And with sixty levels the game offers enough a generous meal if a little predictable. Those who like challenging but fair 2D action games will most likely enjoy this.
I found some issues that made my experience less fun. There are small objects that can hinder and get in the way of movement. Whether it’s a small bucket, a skull, or a big bottle, they add unnecessary frustration to the combat and platforming.
Enemies are also pretty ruthless. If they are facing a ladder I climb up they would kill me instantly. The window between getting spotted and being shot at is very small.
I was hoping for more weapons to play around with. Besides a rifle and grenades, there isn’t much else. Add to which, different locales feel like palette swaps. I kept wanting for more variety in every aspect.
The game features a more retro art style with good pixelated visuals. Items small and large are nicely textured. Never once did I squint to try and see what a small object was. Small details like hanging skeletons and ancient wall engravings did a lot to add a welcome subtle environmental ambience.
The game’s music and sound effects are well done, with SFX having a nice heft to them; combat feels good thanks to booming explosion sounds and blistering gunshots. Even the small things like the rattle of a hanging chain from the ceiling feature some foley. The soundtrack is a collection of instrumental hard-rock to kick up the wattage on attempts.
Overall I did have some fun with Lucky Joe. It’s not going to offer a whole lot of replayability or variation within its gameplay. But it’s a solid, challenging 2D action platformer to spend a couple of hours with.
Lucky Joe is available via Steam.
Check out the official trailer for Lucky Joe below: