Halfbrick’s Jetpack Joyride blasts on to Facebook

Jetpack Joyride, the highly popular iOS-based “endless running” game from Australian developer Halfbrick, is now available on Facebook. This is Halfbrick’s second title on the social network following its successful port of Fruit Ninja.

Jetpack Joyride casts players in the role of one Barry Steakfries, a character who has appeared in a number of Halfbrick’s previous mobile titles. For reasons that are never made entirely clear, Barry bursts through the wall of a secret laboratory, steals a jetpack that is actually a machine gun and then attempts to make his escape by continually running in the opposite direction to the wall he burst in through. Along the way, he must avoid the lab’s overzealous security system, which includes floating electric gates, missiles, laser beams and numerous other hazards.

Controlling Barry is simple. Clicking and holding the mouse button causes him to fire his jetpack, causing him to rise. Releasing causes him to fall. As he progresses along his endless run, he will come across collectible vehicles, each of which respond slightly differently to a click. “Mr. Cuddles” the dragon, for example, floats at the top of the screen by default but swoops down while the mouse button is held. The “Profit Bird” vehicle (an unsubtle spoof of characters from popular iOS titles Angry Birds and Tiny Wings) flaps its wings when the mouse button is clicked, requiring repeated clicking to rise. And the “Crazy Freaking Teleporter” zaps Barry to a new location on the screen when the button is clicked.

Progression in the game is mission-led. Objectives range from collecting a certain number of coins in a single run (or sometimes in total) to making use of temporary game mechanics, such as the ability to high-five the terrified scientists running around on the lab floor. Completing an objective earns stars, and earning enough stars causes the player to level up, giving them a coin bonus. Once all objectives have been completed, the player may reset their progress and try again.

Players may also purchase new items for Barry using the coins they earn in the game. These range from cosmetic clothing items to “gadgets” that can assist Barry. These items are not level-gated, so those with enough coins may purchase them at any time — and those who do not have enough coins may purchase them using Facebook Credits.

Social features in the game include a leaderboard to compete against friends and the ability to post in-game photos, achievements and status messages to the player’s Timeline. Play is not limited by an energy system or any similar mechanic, so players may enjoy the game for as long as they like in an attempt to beat their friends’ scores.

On iOS, Jetpack Joyride is a flawless example of a quality mobile game — simple to learn, hard to master and maddeningly addictive. The Facebook version certainly has plenty of that magic, but performance issues and bugs mar the experience significantly.

The game’s framerate is rather erratic on some machines. When tested on a Windows 7-based Intel i5 PC with 4GB RAM and a 1GB graphics card, it was completely smooth. On a recent Mac OS X Lion-based Intel i5 Mac with 4GB RAM and a 512MB graphics card, the game was mostly smooth with a few judders. On an older Mac with a Core 2 Duo processor, 2GB RAM and a 256MB graphics card, the game was noticeably slower, and consequently considerably easier — at least until the fast moving vehicles showed up and the frame rate struggled to keep pace with them. To be fair to Halfbrick, this may be more the fault of Flash Player’s notoriously poor performance on Macs rather than an issue with the game itself.