One of my favorite things about the Nintendo Switch are the unique local co-op experiences it can, and often does, offer. Joggernauts is the latest title that piqued my interest, and has room for up to four players to join together locally. Joggernauts may look cute and colorful, but there is a deep challenge here. Even more so for people trying to go it alone, like I was a majority of the time. However, even my wife who doesn’t really play video games that aren’t 3DS farm sims was able to get into the to-and-fro switching action of Joggernauts.
Joggernauts feels like concoction of Runbow and BIT.TRIP Runner. Players take control of a handful of different characters, which can be switched for your personality, and has them getting from point A to point B. Along the way, different colored obstacles and living creatures block your path and players must switch the characters from whatever position in the row they are to the front in order to progress. Going into Joggernauts it honestly sounded really easy, but my opinion changed within the first few minutes of booting it up. There’s a lot of coordination required, and players not willing to stick with a ton of deaths should look elsewhere.
The challenge of Joggernauts is part of the fun though. I’m not one to shy away from a challenge, and dying a few times just motivated me more to plan out my movements and make sure my positions were ready ahead of time. Planning only took me so far though, because very quick positioning can be required when a handful of different colored obstacles alternate colors and blocked my path.
As players are forced forward, there are collectible orbs scattered around the level that are used when passing a checkpoint in order to activate it. This adds to the already difficult challenge of just getting to the end of the stage and coordinating movements between two characters. Is the risk worth going for the orbs if it may result in losing one of your characters temporarily? Probably, especially if you don’t want to start everything over again. Even lives are shared between characters are on screen, and I often ended up not worrying about making a jump with one character if it meant I could get the other one to the end of a tricky segment and respawn the dead one.
Even though a majority of my time was spent playing alone, Joggernauts is far more enjoyable with others. I still had a good time without others, but as a party game, Joggernauts is at its best when I was coordinating with others trying to get to the end of each stage. I do think Joggernauts would have benefited by a handful more levels, but there is still a decent amount on display, and the challenge of beating a high score adds a bit more replayability. Some of the levels are locked behind trophies that players must collect throughout stages. It’s okay to miss them during a first run, but not collecting enough the first time through will require players to go back through one of the previous levels again. This was something I was okay with though, because it not only gave me more practice, but added some much needed replayability to the overall package.
Controls in Joggernauts are mapped to just a few buttons, which makes dying over and over all the more frustrating. The simple controls were what threw me off at the beginning, I wasn’t expecting just a few buttons to prove to be such a challenge during gameplay. Maybe I’m not coordinated enough, but again, the frustration is alleviated with other players. They’re easy to pick up, but hard to master. Huddling around a screen with friends is a blast when everyone is working together, and even dying when playing with others gives some laughs as everyone is shouting around you.
Joggernauts is also an incredibly fun game just to look at. The characters are short on animations, but bleed personality and charm. The colorful and varied stages are a delight to take in, and when a friend tagged in to take a turn I was content just watching and enjoying the aesthetic. The music in Joggernauts is equally pleasant to listen to, and tonal changes often match the environments players are running through.
I was expecting an easy romp through a cutesy runner going into Joggernauts, but it ended up being much more than that. The challenge level was much higher than I was expecting playing alone, but this isn’t a game meant to be played alone, and the necessity of other players is something that Joggernauts basically screams at you early on. There’s enjoyable solo content here, if players can stand the frustration as they die, die, and die again. Simple controls make for an enjoyable experience, and Joggernauts is a really good party game, but not one players will put down Tumblestone or Smash Bros to play.
Joggernauts is available now for Nintendo Switch and PC. This review is based on a Switch copy provided by the publisher. Purchases are available here.