Chromatic Dream, a small indie dev team of two, had their work cut out for them when they set out to make Jamsouls, a multiplayer battle platformer. It isn’t very easy to develop a fast paced multiplayer experience that is not only fun but also accessible. If that wasn’t difficult enough, there’s also the obligatory touch of originality that has to pervade the game–something that seems to be absent quite often from most of the recent fare offered to gamers. Nonetheless, Jamsouls manages to deliver on these points and put a smile on my face.
Jamsouls puts an enjoyable spin on the Greek myth of Pandora’s Box. It opens with a sleeping Pandora receiving a gift in the form of a jar (that explicitly states “do not open”). The game sets itself up perfectly to introduce its cast of characters. As the myth goes, Pandora opens the jar and releases all evil upon the earth. The twist comes in the appearance of these terrible beings. This time evil comes in the form of oddly cute, yet totally sinister, puppets.
Immediately, the art style shines through as you are introduced to each of the characters. Whether it’s Starvation with his endless hunger and the hole in his belly, or Madness with his lit fuse and straitjacket, it is obvious just how much attention to detail the guys at Chromatic Dream gave to the designs. Of course, the attention to detail doesn’t end here, as it is quite evident in the gameplay as well.
Jamsouls has a heavy focus on multiplayer gameplay. Providing three modes in the Arena for you and up to three other local players, it is easy to get caught up in the action for insanely fun couch multiplayer. You have your death match which sets you hunting your friends in an attempt to reach the target score first. Then you have capture the flag and, my personal favorite, Foot.
Being the only game mode that cannot be played with bots, Foot pits you against friends as you try to survive while scoring goals in a soccer-like setup. It is as simple as it can get but leads to some seriously funny moments. I laughed as everyone scrambled for the ball while defending against incoming attacks. The fact that there are actual goals at each end of the chosen arena adds a bit of challenge making Foot even more fun. These three game modes all take place in small, platform filled arenas to make Jamsouls‘ simple method of combat engaging.
You see, while there are power ups scattered around the various fighting areas there is only one basic attack in the game: the jump. In order to vanquish the other evils controlled by your friends or the computer you must jump on their heads. While it is simple it can also be insanely difficult. Rushing around the screen and trying to to get the upper hand on other players can get pretty crazy.
The insanity intensifies when you have three other individuals all vying for the same opportunities. But luckily there are some crafty power ups that spawn in regular intervals throughout the matches to help bring balance to some of the more intense battles. These range from a toy soldier that fires at enemies in front of you to a cactus that you use to beat your friends senseless; there is something to help everyone. If you manage to get enough kills and gather the souls your adversaries drop you can even activate an awesome special move.
While each playable character is unique in appearance, the uniqueness things don’t end there. After accumulating enough souls during combat each evil goes into a unique super mode allowing them to easily dish out the punishment. Starvation turns into a huge Pac-Man like creature, and death temporarily evolves into a swift and powerful grim reaper, complete with a deadly scythe. It is not always easy to fill your special meter, but when you finally do, watching your friends scurry away in fear is one of the best feelings you can get while playing. If only the joys present in Arena were present during the challenge levels.