My neighbor’s cat comes to visit me sometimes. He’s a bit scruffy, rough-around-the-edges and not exactly very affable, but I’m still always happy to see him whenever he drops by. Kazutaka Tasaka’s Neko Jump (out now, free) reminds me a bit of that cat. It’s a side-scrolling endless runner that, despite not having amazing graphics or mind-blowingly original gameplay, is weirdly compelling and scrappily charming.
In it, you play as a fierce-looking ginger cat, and you need to jump and dodge your way through a danger-fraught world, collecting as many gold coins as possible along the way. The game controls pretty similarly to most other endless runners. You tap the screen to jump over pits, and swipe to move left or right to avoid enemies and a variety of incongruous objects (refrigerators, computer monitors and vending machines, to name but a few) that inexplicably fall from the sky. Enemies and obstacles come at you thick and fast, but thankfully there are power-ups strewn around the environment to make the going a little easier. When picked up, these special items do things like make your cat HUGE or give him the ability to jump much higher.
That description of the gameplay probably makes Neko Jump sound like more fun than it is. Sadly the game is let down by imprecise, floaty character movement and inconsistent physics which make it frustrating and overly awkward to play. (I lost count of the number of times I died because my character got stuck in the scenery or drifted down a chasm, seemingly of his own volition.) These issues, coupled with game’s crude visuals and animations, result in it feeling more than a little sloppy and amateurishly made.
Still, despite its various shortcomings, there’s a undeniable charm and energy to Neko Jump that makes it weirdly enjoyable. Much like my neighbor’s cat, it’s not perfect but it is fun to spend time with.
Neko Jump is a scrappily fun and endearingly absurd endless running romp that’s somewhat let down by a lack of polish and imprecise, floaty controls. It’s not perfect, but it is free, so you don’t really have anything to lose by checking it out.