As someone who grew up primarily in the 1990s, I’ve played more than my fair share of 2D platformers. With those decades of experience, it’s no surprise that I consider myself a relatively strong platforming player. However, despite its precise controls, Mr. Run and Jump’s challenging, neon-bathed obstacle courses and hard-to-reach collectibles had me second-guess my skills at every step.
Developed initially as a homebrew Atari 2600 game, Mr. Run and Jump errs on the side of simplicity with its gameplay. The protagonist, also named Mr. Run and Jump, can perform double, long, and high jumps; roll into a ball; wall-jump; and even lunge forward mid-air. This unassuming move set works in concert, allowing players to perform intricate combinations as they navigate the game’s many difficult rooms.
Venturing deeper into the game’s 20-level main campaign, I quickly started chaining these traversal options to impressive results. Thanks to tight controls, I could roll under an obstacle and immediately perform a high jump that led directly into a wall jump, a forward lunge to gain extra distance and avoid an obstacle, and use my double jump to land on a narrow platform. When these moments happen, the experience truly sings, and I feel unstoppable. But those moments of triumph come at a cost.
A keen mastery of every move in the hero’s arsenal is necessary to make it far in each multi-room stage. As my skills progressed, so too did the hardships. The initial walls with spikes and predictable enemies quickly gave way to impediments intentionally designed to trip you up. In subsequent worlds, I encountered enemies that dash forward the moment you land, mosquitoes that move lightning-fast in patterns, and even predators that masquerade as spikes planted in the ground and jump out to eat you if you get too close. These enemies often have predictable patterns, and learning how each one interacts with you is crucial, particularly in the game’s optional challenge rooms.
Thanks to this ever-growing gallery of enemies and the fact that you die in one hit, Mr. Run and Jump asks a lot of you. It requires you to have lightning-fast reflexes, strong improvisational skills, and the patience of a saint. In some rooms, I scratched my head, wondering how I could possibly get through the various obstacles unscathed. If you do take a hit, you instantaneously respawn at the start of the room. In some longer rooms, I found myself grunting and cursing as I failed just before completion.
In lieu of a boss fight at the end of each world, you must instead traverse The Void, a culminating series of platforming challenges with an ever-encroaching wall that ensures you don’t have much time to consider how to navigate the sequences. These Void stages bring together every element of the world to that point to deliver the biggest adrenaline rushes of the entire game. Though their hurried nature means they often fall to trial-and-error play instead of intentional platforming, nailing these fast-paced levels always exhilarated me.
After several failed attempts in any room, the game offers you an optional, temporary invincibility power-up or a mid-room checkpoint to help you get unstuck, but that only made me more determined to get through it on my own accord and experience the overwhelming thrill of my accomplishment. If you do choose to accept the help, it deactivates the collectibles, which are needed to unlock the final challenge: the maddeningly difficult five-level Dark World, which takes every aspect of the experience to the next level.
Mr. Run and Jump may look unassuming on the surface, but the challenges that await will have you screaming in frustration until they have you shouting in triumph. Though the trial-and-error style of each difficult room sometimes wore on me, after each success, I couldn’t wait to see what hurdles I needed to clear next.
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