REVIEW: JamSouls!

Distilled down to its purest form, JamSouls! (80 MSP) is a bargain bin version of Playstation All-Stars / Super Smash Bros., minus the recognizable console mascots. Also minus looking or playing anything like a bargain bin game. You could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, as its visual splendor and price tag hide what really is a solid, dynamic, pestilence-themed arcade brawler.

JamSouls! is the literal result of opening up Pandora’s Box (well, here it’s a Bottle, as it originally was), even though it very clearly states Do Not Open / Ne Pas Ouvrir. Lucky for you (unlucky for mankind), she does, and out pops a ‘Who’s Who’ roster of evil. You’ll pick one of nine cute, yet disturbing, avatars representing all manner of very bad things (Death, War, Starvation, etc.), then battle it out in several arenas. Is it right for me to group together and label all the known evils of the world as ‘cute’? I don’t know, but I definitely want one of these babies on my shelf.

Playable locally against three friends, or versus the very adept AI, the game follows a strict motto: paths cross, chaos ensues. Like Ninja Crash before it, having the high ground is essential. There is no health bar or shield; if you get bopped on the head, you die and respawn. You have your free-for-all Deathmatch standard, which is nonetheless exciting, and an equally fun ‘Capture the Goo’ (derivation of ‘flag’) team mode, which has you pilfering the red / blue substance from your enemies’ corner and transporting it back to your own jar. There is a third ‘party’ mode that has you kicking a ball into a basket or goal, a Basketball / Soccer (for us Yanks, yes, ‘Football’ for the rest of the world) hybrid that’s only available with human opponents (sucks for us ‘forever alone’ types).

Regardless of mode, outcomes are never set in stone even with the easy conditions for victory, thanks to the constantly shifting level hazards and powerups that litter the arena. This keeps battles moving and interesting, with items that will have you flying over everyone, shrinking the competition, or using projectiles to create space. Gathering up enough ‘soul goo’ during a round gives you a super-powered form of your chosen evil, granting you a one-touch kill ability for a limited time. If you can cheat Death (both in the literal and general sense) long enough, this can certainly swing a fight your way in the waning moments.

JamSouls! - Screen

Looks even better in motion.

Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that take hold, swallowing your hours with you none the wiser, and JamSouls! is exactly that. With its gorgeous arenas, excellent soundtrack, and wholly original character artthe game is a sumptuous feast for the eyeballs and earholes that’s also destined to become a frenzied bop-’em-up classic.

14 thoughts on “REVIEW: JamSouls!”

  1. A Super Smash Brosish indie game in which you play as disturbing avatars from Pandora’s Box, available now on Xbox Live?
    My money cannot exit my wallet fast enough.

  2. To each his own. Didn’t care for Chomp Chomp Chomp nor do I like this HOWEVER I do see its charm and understand how others may dig it. Just not my cup of tea!

    1. Opinions are invaluable, especially those that differ, and I respect yours.

      I will, however, no longer talk to you. :p

  3. OK OK ya’ll talked me into trying this so I just set it to download. I skipped it when I saw it was new. I skipped it after reading your review. But now after reading the comments I’m in for a try. It looked like it was a game that wouldn’t be much fun by oneself, which is my preferred gamer preference. But the fun factor and the comments on how good the AI is and Time (yes I did that on purpose) saying his expectations were for multiplayer as well till he started….well so anyways I’m going to give it a go.

    1. Let me just say this— It will be replacing Chompy Chomp Chomp on the leaderboard (#29), and probably going up a few places on the list at that. 🙂

    2. The title and the “box” pic on the Xbox site do it no favors. After seeing the concept behind the game and the gameplay, the title makes sense, but it still is an awful name. I almost skipped it, too, until I saw some gameplay on Youtube.

  4. I’ve not unlocked it yet; the base game is too entertaining! I’m not very good, but I’m having fun … I can’t think of higher praise for a game than that.

    1. Fun always wins out. And don’t feel bad. My nemesis is the ‘box’ powerup. Constantly being killed by it, and when I try to use it, I hit a platform or wall and end up wiping myself out. 😦

      As for that mode, I’ll have to play again later. Thought it might have had something to do with playing as or winning with all the characters, but that didn’t work (unless I missed someone somewhere along the line).

  5. Cute is a great term for this game – it looks beautiful in a The Behemoth-cum-Sackboy-and-Rayman way – but the gameplay is surprisingly nuanced with all the powerups and inherent difficulty in jumping on moving targets. I have to admit it is a great sense of fulfillment when you manage a few “kills” in a direct row. This game is simply incredibly fun and worthy of being an XBLA title, IMO.

    1. Did anybody else love that Madness has a lit fuse on his head? Little touches like that show the care and attention to detail paid to this game’s construction.

    2. I like that grouping of The Behemoth / Sackboy / Rayman! Envision a union between those three ideas, and that’s exactly what you see here. The game certainty surprised me. I thought it’d be local-only at first sight, but then the AI turned out to be really well done and balanced. It’s like playing against skilled human opponents. Really fun stuff.

      And the cast of Ills is great. Hats off to the artist. Were they available in statue / stuffed form, I’d buy every character. I’m partial to Madness and Starvation myself (<—- this sentence would sound strange without context). Passion is a nice design too.

      Oh, and did you unlock that third mode for playing Basketball / Soccer? Haven’t been able to figure it out yet.

    3. I think the other mode is only playable with two players. I couldn’t figure it out until my gf wanted to play and then it showed up. We played the soccer mode and It’s honestly not that great. Great review and great game overall though.

    4. Ah, thanks for that! I’ll have to add that in to the review proper.

      It figures, too. The one thing I didn’t bother to try, plug in another controller. They should have posted that somewhere in the game, Shame you can’t add the AI for that. Still a nice option, even if it doesn’t add much extra.

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