I’ve been looking forward to this game. I’m sat here watching it download from the PlayStation store, excitedly chanting Jet by Paul McCartney and Wings over and over again as the progress bar fills up (if you haven’t heard this tune before, it slaps).
Anything remotely Space related really tickles my pickle. But I’m afraid to say, dear Reader, that on this occasion, my pickle was not, indeed, tickled.
The game follows Mai, a mystic, and her gang of Scouts as they leave their home planet in search of a mysterious signal emitting from deep space: The Hymnwave. The ancient Tsagas (scriptures) that Mai and her tribe follow, prophesise that the signal will lead their kind to an alien land of peace, prosperity, and happiness, in a place called the Far Shore. Emerging from a thousand-year cryogenic slumber, Mai and her co-pilot, Isao, are the first to depart the Mothership in a scout pod destined for the surface of the new world. The mission is simple: to locate the source of the Hymnwave and find the Far Shore.
I’m Afraid I Can’t Let You Do That, Joe
Jetting out into space in search of a strange alien signal is a great premise and a nod to Kubrick’s Sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. But for a game that’s all about freedom and exploration, gameplay is frustratingly limiting. There’s a steep learning curve to mastering the Jet controls. Pushing L2 to accelerate is simple enough but try to make a simple turn and you go flying into the side of a cliff, your shield shot to shit as the camera flips frantically in confusion. In an early mission, you scan the local area for alien flora and fauna. So far so good. Unable to get out of the Jet and go it on foot, you need to move precisely from plant to plant which is impossible with the speedy scramjets on. Toggling them off is no better either – you move painfully, painfully slow. A steady, contemplative mission such as this feels completely at odds with the power and speed of the game’s main method of traversal.
When you’re eventually given the freedom to explore, flying is magical. Racing the Jett back to Ground Control after completing a mission, you whizz through ravines and thick forest canopies, twisting and turning as the sunrise floods in through the trees. You truly feel the sense of speed and momentum which is perfectly complemented by excellent use of the DualSense’s haptic feedback. As you squeeze every drop of juice out of the jets, you feel the torque of the engine purring in your hands. The Jett can also ‘pop’ with a tap of X, which gives you a satisfying boost up into the air. It can also be used to interact with objects on the ground. Popping over a Ghokebloom plant and watching beautifully coloured flowers sprout from the earth is truly wondrous.
Navigating between way-points is less so, though. You’ll be told where to go next by Isao, who’ll momentarily pinpoint the location on the Jett’s nav system before the marker disappears again. Holding L1 displays points of interest in the world but confusingly the mission way-point often isn’t shown, making it difficult to progress to the next task.
I’ve Seen Things you People Wouldn’t Believe
Jett is certainly a looker. Blasting off from your home planet is a profound cinematic experience. The camera slowly pulls back until the entirety of space engulfs you, your ship a speck on the canvas of the universe. The Audio is out of this world, too. As you descend through the clouds in your scout pod, classical strings converge with Bladerunner synth, reaching a goosebump-inducing crescendo. Animation-wise, it’s clean and simple. The landscape is coloured with earthy pastels and the odd pop of neon which can feel a little dull after a while.
There are some great ideas in this game. Unfortunately, they’re diluted by frustrating gameplay mechanics and an overlong narrative with a lot of pacing issues. The problem here is that it’s trying to be both a chilled-out experience and a lore-heavy adventure game at the same time. After beating it, you’re able to play any chapter again in free-roam mode, which strips away the need to follow the story and made for a much better experience. When it reaches its peak, Jett is a profound reflection on the meaning of our existence. It’s just a shame it always comes crashing back down to Earth.