JYDGE by Finnish twin-stick shooter experts 10tons is for you if you enjoyed Hotline Miami, Robotron 2048, Crimsonland or JYDGE’s sister game Neon Chrome.
What’s the premise?
You’re a JYDGE, think of it like Judge Dredd meets Robocop. Legislative and executive rolled into one, a cybernetically enhanced force of judgment with a bad-ass weapon called the Gavel. You go to places full of nasty gangs, retrieve evidence, free hostages and get back out again in your flying box-shaped cop car from the future.
To aid you in this, you can modify your own body through cyberware which gives you various new skills. Become invisible while standing still, walk through breakable walls, electrocute enemies, that kind of thing. You can also modify your weapon. Shoot further, shoot ion balls instead of bullets, switch to shotgun shells, etc. The third variable is one ammo-limited special weapon like rockets or grenades.
Skills and combinations thereof
Here’s the genius part: The levels can be solved in various different ways, and each level lets you earn medals for beating it with some restrictions (e.g. kill no one, use only melee attacks, don’t get spotted…). Those medals in turn unlock more skills and upgrades.
When you play through a level for the first time it might even be entirely impossible to attain all the goals. You’ll need to figure out a combination of skills that works and marry them to a plan that fits. Do I take the Fast Feet skill so I can make it back to the car in the 25 second time limit or is it faster to take the “walk through walls” skill so I can run to my target? Should I take both and sacrifice the hacking tool that can turn off those sentry turrets?
You might have to replay a level ten, twenty times until you get it right. But every time you play, your brain is constantly firing off new ideas and approaches, and you start adjusting your loadout in small increments. Sometimes you also just throw everything overboard to respec your character in a completely new way. When a plan finally clicks into place and you overcome something that seemed impossible before, it feels immensely satisfying.
I once solved a level as a shrunken, fast-running, invisible sniper that can shoot through walls and blanket entire rooms with frag grenades before disappearing into the night laughing like a leprechaun. I could have also flamethrowered my way into the middle of things, accompanied by a floating gatling gun that de-brains perps while I scorch the place with a hail of rockets.
Each weapon and each skill changes how you solve the levels, and they are expertly built to perhaps suggest sneaking up on that victim from the bushes, but not punishing you for just waltzing in and lighting his bedroom on fire instead.
It helps that even unsuccessful attempts give you some payoff — you can keep the money you collected, and you need that to buy upgrades.
Graphics and sound
The hand-drawn title screen is great, and the in-game graphics themselves are simple and serviceable. They are in 3D but somehow remind me of 80s 2D games anyway. I enjoy the neon glows and appreciate that I can tell all the things apart with surgical precision since there is little visual clutter.
The soundtrack contains a wide variety of electronic music, from chiptunesy or retrosynthy stuff to more jazz or loungeroom-style atmospheric tracks. It helps that the music is randomized every time you replay a level, because you’ll be replaying them a lot.
I’ve solved every mission on every difficulty level including Nightmare and enjoyed it immensely. The systems and mechanics work extremely well together, the core gameplay loop is motivating and exciting, and the technical execution is spotless.
I think I got this in some bundle, but it’s easily worth the currently reduced CHF 6.75 price for anyone who likes action games. Once back at its full price of CHF 15, I would still recommend it without reservation to people who enjoy twin-stick shooters. You can play with controllers or keyboard, and there’s also a co-op mode that I haven’t tried.
Here’s the trailer showing off some of the abilities and weapon mods:
It’s currently 55% discounted on Steam for Linux, Windows and macOS, and is also available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and iOS.