Back when I was growing up I wasn’t exactly the sportiest child. The nearest I got to the football field was a sensible game of soccer and my fastest 100 meters was run in Olympic Gold. Now, Joggernauts aims to bring that retro button bashing madness into the future with Joggernauts, a cooperative sci-fi platforming challenge.
Out now on PC and Nintendo Switch, this tale of sprinting space cats and athletic aliens is the work of Space Mace and published by Grafitti Games. It follows a group of elite alien athletes after crash landing in an unknown sector of space. In order to piece together their ship and reassemble any hopes of getting home, this group must run, jump, and switch through a plethora of crazy levels.
Taking clear inspiration from games like Mario and the Runner series, Joggernauts is a 2D side-scrolling challenge where local cooperation is key. Featuring room for 1 to 4 players on screen, Joggernauts throws players into an eccentric set of alien surroundings. Strange globulous obstacles, giant multicolored centipedes, and your C.O.A.C.H.’S trophy collection are all strewn around an inventive set of backdrops that mixes Rick and Morty’s offbeat attitude with a pack of glow sticks. Hi-tech wreckage remains scattered over three distinct worlds, each with their own theme. A desert, jungle, and high tech world are filled with a series of side-scrolling levels that challenge players to cooperate in order to get through a range of incoming obstacles
Players bumbling through the first alien environment of Splizorp will find a number of barriers, all decked out in their own lurid neon shade. Be it blue, pink or green, each of the color-coded challenges can only be overcome by a player of the correct neon shade. This isn’t just restricted to obstacles. Bonuses, orbs, switches, levers, and keys all come color locked. This all requires some careful and quick rearranging of character placement. Choose the wrong player to tackle a problem and the team’s shared health bar takes a hit, miss the correct jump and the rest of the level may remain closed. Even swiping keys in the correct order is essential when collecting the C.O.A.C.H.’S lost trophies.
Thankfully, swapping between characters is particularly easy. Controlling the six default characters or the remaining three unlockable athletes takes just two buttons. The initial tutorial does a great job of explaining this. One button allows each player to promote their participant to the front of the pack and another button triggers jump, all while the game scrolls relentlessly towards the finish line. It really is that simple. Avoid falling down holes, crashing into walls, or hitting the wrong color of obstacles and the finish line is practically in sight. This all adds up to make a range of challenges that seem quite placid at first, but gradually descend into a mess of neon shapes and calamity.
My very own team of commuters might be comfortable making the morning run but Joggernauts turned out to be a course too far for many of them. This isn’t to say that the game is entirely unforgiving. While a gaggle of uncaffeinated morning office workers wasn’t much use with sci-fi athletics, a single button modification makes it simple for solo players to easily control two characters at once and greatly expands the accessibility of this title. Once I got to grips with a space cat and a roving goldfish bowl, I found a game that eases players in. Complexity builds as time goes on and subsequent levels introduce new ideas and different color-coded mechanics. Joggernauts ensures that players can swap, hop, and jump through each of these before it speeds up and unleashes a satisfying level of chaos.
Despite the couch co-op mechanics and the outgoing aesthetic, Joggernauts provides plenty of challenge. A range of collectible orbs are scattered amongst each level and progression across the main world map is dependant on retrieving enough f the C.O.A.C.H.’S trophies. This provides a decent level of replay value, jumping back in to beat the latest score or grab another piece of silverware for the journey home. Additionally, the extra unlockable avatars are worth the effort.
Given the wrong partner, this effort can be considerable. Like any local co-op game, Joggernauts lives and dies by the team of miscreants you bring with you. I found this tale of tragedy turned out to be a riot. It might be short but Joggernauts is a charming interstellar Olympics. If you and your friends wouldn’t raise a question about a space cat bouncing across a massive neon frog then this is probably the game for you. Juggernaut is available now via Steam and the Nintendo eShop.