Review – Jetboard Joust (Switch)

In our neverending crusade to find all the kinds of genres and gameplay styles that can eventually be converted into a roguelike/lite, we now reach side-scrolling shoot ’em ups. Jetboard Joust is trying to add a new layer of replayability and challenge on an otherwise stupidly predictable, but still freaking entertaining genre, and it does so by trying to emulate a specific kind of bullet hell shooter that, for reasons unknown, has never managed to become as popular as its more linear brethren.

The kind of shooter I’m talking about is, and I apologize for the lack of a shorter term, “games that play like Defender“. For those who aren’t gaming historians or middle-aged, Defender was an arcade shoot ’em up released way back in the day. It was set in a constantly looping environment, allowing you to freely move left and right, defeating enemies and completing small objectives along the way, such as rescuing hostages from alien abduction. With the exception of the Fantasy Zone games (and their spinoffs) and Housemarque’s freaking amazing Resogun, I don’t remember seeing many games trying to emulate this style. Which gives Jetboard Joust an advantage over its peers, as it doesn’t feel nowhere near as generic as the term “roguelike shooter” would possibly imply.

Jetboard Joust Gameplay

See those nearly-microscopic thingies next to the “Rotovator” icon? You’re supposed to save them from enemies, if you’re even able to see them.

The gameplay is reminiscent of these older arcade shooters, with the aforementioned roguelike twist. Move from left to right, shoot everything in sight with what little health and energy you have, until the game tells you to stop. By then, two portals will open up in the middle of your current level: one will let you move to the next area, while the other will allow you to grab a new weapon and then let you move on. Besides killing foes and ensure humans don’t get abducted, this is what you will keep on doing in Jetboard Joust until your eventual demise. And it will happen quite soon, as each new level will throw even more enemies your way.

Two little elements were included to make Jetboard Joust stand out a bit more when compared to other shooters. The first is being able to use earned currency on upgrades for the weapons you collected for free. You most certainly will need to do so, as their cooldown meters and initial stats are downright pathetic. The second is the titular “jousting” mentioned in the title. You can use a brief boost to ram towards enemies in front of you, and even though you character is minuscule, the hit detection is quite forgiving, letting you obliterate ships located in a completely different postcode from yours with ease. You can’t use it all the time, acting more as a way to get away from trouble in a defensive manner than an offensive perk. It’s still tons of fun regardless.

There are many retro-inspired games that try to look like a product of their family, only to end up failing miserably. This is probably due to the high amount of layers or the unrealistic framerate that doesn’t fit at all with the limited capabilities of the hardware they’re trying to emulate. That is not the case with Jetboard Joust. The only thing that makes it ruin its retro-infused immersion is the fact that there are tons of assets onscreen at any given time, with ships and enemies taking just a little bit of screen space. The soundtrack and visuals feel like something that could have been released back in the golden age of arcades, however.


The actual jousting mechanics make no freaking sense whatsoever, but who cares, it’s fun.

Adding roguelike elements to a Defender-inspired shooter ended up fitting like a glove. They were already pretty hard and pretty replayable, so throwing randomly generated levels and upgrades into the mix doesn’t feel intrusive at all. Jetboard Joust masterfully blends retro aesthetics and the simplicity of arcade games from decades ago with an extra dose of challenge that makes it even more replayable. Being able to play this on the go is just the cherry on top of an already tasty cake.


Graphics: 8.0

With the exception of the unrealistic amount of assets showing up onscreen at any given moment, which doesn’t fit at all with the game’s 8-bit aesthetics, Jetboard Joust looks the part.

Gameplay: 8.0

It blends the simple gameplay loop and control scheme from the Defender games with roguelike elements, such as upgrades and procedurally generated levels. It works pretty well, surprisingly enough.

Sound: 7.0

It sounds like how an action-packed 8-bit game would and should. It might not be the most memorable soundtrack in recent memory, but it gets the job done.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Defender-like shooters are already hard and replayable. Adding an extra layer of roguelike elements doesn’t feel like a stretch. Jetboard Joust is tons of fun in short bursts.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Jetboard Joust is available now on PC, Switch, and… Atari VCS (hot damn).

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Jetboard Joust was provided by the publisher.