Developed and Published by Pigeon.Dev games, Explosive Jack is a Bomberman style game with retro graphics that you would expect to find on an Atari or Commodore 64. Considering the style, you could be excused for thinking this preceded Bomberman and is just a port from one of those older generation consoles.
The story is, well, there isn’t one. Like in true retro game style it throws you in the deep end and lets you work out things for yourself. You are what seems to be a skeleton with an endless supply of bombs and a desire to blow things up whilst looking for an exit. With no intro or tutorial, you are presented with a list of stage numbers which you must complete one by one before you can access the next. The first stage is weirdly stage 0, starting you in a small room which you would be excused in thinking is a holding cell, except the fact you are armed and the button to open the door is in your room – so maybe not. The audio is very limited, from the same background high tempo music which loops and often restarts when going in and out of menus. Part of the nostalgic feel perhaps, but I would’ve prefered to leave this aspect in the past.
The goal of each stage is to reach the exit but first, you need to find the exit by blowing up blocks with your bombs. Even so, once you find the exit you also need to find the key hidden within the blocks as well. Each stage is set on a very black background with different shaped maps set out in a similar vein to Bomberman, so that every other block is an indestructible block. This is to make sure you can only move in the standard 4 directions. On each of the stages are enemies that come in various generic designs such as Knights. There are also traps like spikes or buzz saws which are a test of your timing to evade. So, the challenge of the game is supposed to be evading or killing the enemies and dodging the traps whilst blowing up the blocks to find the key and exit.
Explosive Jake is not very difficult in its defined sense, but due to some issues I found the difficulty to come from another direction. The first gripe is legitimate, and it involved bomb placement. Sometimes it can be frustrating just trying to lay a bomb and it seems movement makes it harder. You almost have to stop dead and then press the button to lay a bomb. The next set of gripes will hurt Bomberman fans, as a lot of things do not apply in this game. The bomb no longer blocks you or the enemy, so those wanting to trap an enemy with a bomb are out of luck as they walk straight through them, as do you. The bombs also don’t trigger in a chain reaction. By that I mean one bomb will not set off another and so that strategy is defunct here. The last Bomberman difference is for those that run and lay their bombs in a pattern, that is also impossible due to the bomb placement issue I mentioned earlier. The enemy AI is rigid in the fact that it will stick to the same pattern regardless of your approach, like in what happens in err…Bomberman. So, you can walk right up close and stay in the same square and the AI will not change their path to hit you.
There really is not much else to say about this game aside from its comparisons to Bomberman. There are about 40 levels in all with no different difficulty settings. I think it is relying on the high scoring method of longevity rather than achievements as you get an achievement for every stage you complete. There is a minor tweak in the settings to change the screen to have a CRT look for people with that preference, but it’s just an visual change, with no impact on the gameplay.
Explosive Jake is a very short and simple Bomberman clone. It doesn’t really stand out in any way other than trying to claim a nostalgic feel of the elder console generation. It is quite fun to play through, but the challenge level isn’t too high and as the rooms are static the game can become repetitive. It could still be seen as a quick pick up and complete for the achievement hunters.