Jetman is an addictive side-scrolling Facebook game

jetmanJetman is a side-scrolling flash game developed by Simeon Dorsey, adapted from The Helicopter Game by David McCandless and Leandro Berreto. Jetman is a top addictive flash animation game and is easily one of the most popular games on Facebook.

At first look, it’s hard to understand the addictive qualities of Jetman. The rules are simple: you fly a little man with a rocket pack through a blue cave and try to have him avoid little rectangular obstacles. This isn’t -forgive the term- “rocket science.” The graphics aren’t impressive, reminding me of Atari or early Gameboy. Yet, perhaps it is because of these simple, dated qualities the game is so popular.

Old games kept you playing for hours because they were hard as heck. Jetman is similarly difficult. You’re given a little score indication for how long you can survive. My top scores are always in the triple digits, but everyone has friends with scores in the five, maybe six digits, meaning they had to spend a great deal of time on this game.

Simply, the game has become popular mostly because it’s a simple adaptation of a popular type of game – a side-scrolling maneuvering game. Paperboy, the notorious level on Battletoads, and numerous other games incorporated this difficult play-style, and gamers keep coming back for more pain.

jetcharThe game wisely doesn’t require players to invite friends to play; simply adding the application leads to instantly being part of the game. The game seemingly breaks many rules for developers because it doesn’t require invites as part of the gameplay.

Jetman has endured because people like the gameplay and want to share their love with their friends… and possibly prove their better at it than they are.

The game has evolved to keep with the times as well. Players can customize their little jetman by buying new models. These models cost credits, and in order to gain credits you either need to invite friends or beat your friends in a head to head format called “arena challenges.” The characters range from the classically cute (bananas, santas, ninjas, etc) to the topical (presidential candidates). If topping your friends’ high score isn’t incentive enough to keep playing, earning the high priced presidential candidates may keep you inviting friends and challenging them.

The game’s cultish following has even lead the developers to create some real-world accessories for the game. There is a “Jetman Gear” section to purchase t-shirts with the iconic characters on the game. Like T-shirts that have the iconic Zelda hearts emblazoned on their front, these shirts exploit a “nostalgic cool” element of today’s American culture that is particularly popular with high school and college age students.

The biggest knock I found outside the game itself was the poorly integrated forum. The forum tab links to the SGN Gaming Hub application, which is another Facebook application that lets you keep tabs on numerous Facebook game scores (from other games part of the Social Gaming Network) and chat with friends. However, in order to access it, you need to sign up and leave the Jetman page.

Gameplay: 7/10

Addictiveness: 9/10

Difficulty: 10/10