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There’s a certain prestige associated with being a pilot. The dapper uniforms, the years of training and the incredible responsibility of carrying hundreds of people in huge metal birds to exotic destinations like Dubai or Nelspruit. I suppose there’s also that elusive element of flight, the ability to climb to incredible heights and soar through the clouds is a mere fantasy to all those who stare at the complicated console of a plane and try to string some sense out of the flashing lights and flickering dials. Jetstream, very fortunately, removes that element of complication associated with flying a plane and strips it down to the bare essentials: Get from A to B and avoid the turbulence, bad weather, and only sometimes use the space-time portals.

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Jetstream by South African developer Clockwork Acorn is a nifty little puzzle game that although appearing simple in its design proves to rather tricky the longer one plays. The goal is simple: Land your plane in the designated location. You’re not allowed to cross the paths you’ve already made, and the plane will always continue until it something stops its passage. Elegant in design and visuals, the game is seamless, and responsive. The plane is fast enough that it resetting an incorrect move of the wrong turn feels like a punishment. An aspect I truly loved about Jetstream and it’s something I wish more puzzle games would implement is the lack of a fail state. Rather than taking you out of the puzzle to a restart menu, Jetstream allows you to retrace your steps one move at a time, meaning you never feel like an idiot if you’re battling with a puzzle. Rather, just taking a long way around. This, accompanied by the game’s beautifully subtle soundtrack make for a truly relaxing experience.

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Speaking of length (no giggles from the back of the class, please) that would probably be my biggest complaint about Jetstream. The game is divided up into numerous chapters with exactly 100 puzzles split between them but it never really felt like enough. Every chapter introduces new mechanics, like timed clouds or spreading storms, and while they do expand as the chapter proceeds, I can’t help but feel like there were many missed opportunities to re-use earlier mechanics to complicate stages further. The only chapter that really brings everything together and proves to be a real challenge is the last one which is only eight puzzles long and I don’t know, I just can’t help but feel like there could have been a bit…more. Every stage does get more complicated as your progress through it but I can’t say I ever struggled too much.

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Maybe that’s a good thing though. Accessibility is important and no-one likes being stuck on the same levels for hours on end feeling a fool for not figuring it all out. I could argue that Jetstream could stand to be a bit harder in its later stages but one thing I will mention is that the game never felt frustrating. I all comes back to how seamless it all feels. Levels transition quickly, the movement and re-do’s are fast and snappy and the visuals are…well, they’re delightful. Simple and minimal, yet bright and vibrant. The game invites you into the clouds with the frequent use of it’s pale colours. I love it when a game visually communicates with me. Black clouds = Bad. Two blue portals = warping from one to the other. A person who knew nothing about the game or it’s mechanics could looks at any level of Jetstream (bar maybe the final stage) and know exactly what the game expects of them and I appreciate that level of visual design.

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So bearing all the above praise in mind, I must also mention that this game does look and feel like a game designed to fit mobile platforms. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact I’d be happy to buy the mobile port of Jetstream which will be coming out later this year. The controls, the segmented and unlockable levels and the minimalistic graphics do lend a very “mobile” aesthetic to the game. It’s a pity Jetstream is currently not available on the Switch as I think this platform would be the perfect home for a title like this; one that unites competent puzzle design with a mobile layout. This sort of framework also lends itself to expansion and I would love to see the dev team build on their core premise with DLC puzzles and levels adding further complications and mechanics into the fold.

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I was surprised by Jetstream, in the most pleasant of ways possible. From first glance what originally seemed like just a simple puzzle game proved far greater than I thought. There’s no unnecessary story or silly microtransactions, it’s all puzzle with zero filler. In many ways, it reminds me of The Witness, a game that although very well designed I found incredibly frustrating in its obscurity. Jetstream takes elements of The Witness, strips away all the unnecessary metaphors and just gives you the game. Although not the most complex and challenging of puzzles, still proved to be a very enjoyable experience.

Last Updated: April 8, 2019

Jetstream
Jetstream is a simple, uncomplicated gem of a puzzle game that does well to keep things accessible whilst also missing the opportunity to expand on many of the games more interesting challenges
7.5
Jetstream was reviewed on PC
/ 100

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