You’ve probably heard the tale of the potato chip. Someone in France ordered fried potatoes, complained they were too thick and soggy, and the chef, angry at life, cut them incredibly thin and cooked them extra long, and, instead of having a hate-filled review of his restaurant, made a new junk food to ruin a generation. But does that mean we never heard from fried potatoes again? Of course not, I’m eating some as we speak. But new things can be born out of taking in critique and trying to appease the audience, even when you do it in a totally overboard way.
JYDGE is a prequel/sidestory to Neon Chrome, the cyberpunk roguelike that just hit the Switch quite recently. In it, you are a JYDGE, a new protocol of law enforcement that’s been activated by the desperate Edenbyrg city, which is overrun by crime. The Jydge is a fully customizable, brutally strong and ruthlessly efficient new officier. You’re sent in to handle the worst of the criminals and scumbags that are terrorizing the defenseless people and hopefully making the city a better place, although you may potentially be laying groundwork for a police state that controls its citizens down to the very thoughts they have. But whatever, at least those jerk kids won’t spray paint my benches anymore.
10Tons has jokingly referring to JYDGE as a “roguehate” to stand in contrast to the small but vocal group of people who took umbrage with how Neon Chrome handled itself. Indeed, in sharp contrast to the procedurally generated motif of Neon Chrome, everything about JYDGE is static, progressive and saves. Each mission you receive will put you in a different part of Edenbyrg, with a series of medal goals to achieve and, frankly, can only be achieved through forward movement of previous medals. For example, you’ll often have the task of completing the level in under so many seconds, which is impossible unless you unlock a door. But, unlike in Neon Chrome, once you find the key and unlock the door once it stays unlocked every subsequent time you play the mission. Crates will stay looted. Walls will repair themselves, but toggles will be remembered and hacked consoles will stay hacked. Did you pick up even two credits before bailing? Good news, those are YOURS.
The controls and action of JYDGE are also similar to it’s older brother (but only older by like a couple weeks on the Switch). You have a slightly top down view of the JYDGE with a bit of insight into what awaits you in each room. The JYDGE has a ranged attack, a melee attack, reloads only when the clip is completely exhausted and can, eventually, fire a number of special, limited weapons. The walls are destructible, most of the tables and counters are as well, and the enemy needs to reload, which is the perfect time to shoot. Thankfully, that is the last of the similarities to other games, though the Shadowrun-esque atmosphere and bumping soundtrack still remain (and huge kudos to 10Tons for having the tracks listed when the level starts!).
I won’t be flippant with whom JYDGE reminds me of, but I Dredd if Keith Urban were to try and star in a film version of the game. But JYDGE is more than quippy catch phrases and a singular judge, jury and executioner enforcer (those have been around forever). The JYDGE is customizable with a series of upgrade components that can be unlocked through purchase and swapped in and out before a mission. If you want a more defensive judge, beef up the HP and body armor. A stealthy judge can stick to the shadows and go largely unaware unless you’re in front of the enemy. And, naturally, you can go on the offensive with enormous upgrades to your firepower, the all-in-one weapon, the Gavel. Your Gavel can be tweaked with a huge variety of ammo (shotgun, plasma, etc), more speciality shots (rockets, ricochet balls) and its own components, like “bullets won’t harm civilians.” This is one of the first things I unlocked and holy hell was it convenient throughout.
And these upgrades are absolutely necessary in order to accomplish all the missions and medals you’ll be tasked with. Between rescuing hostages, taking out massive targets and demolishing hideouts, the JYDGE doesn’t have a moment to breathe, but there was never anything that felt impossible. If anything, the versatility of our protagonist invited me to try and think up new and different ways to take on the tasks at hand. I personally was a big fan of busting through walls like the Kool-Aid man, while my personal taser and my laser drone rolled around, breaking things up and eliciting mayhem far, far away from me. From a first play, it actually hooked me harder than Neon Chrome did just because progress was immediate and satisfaction and payout were plentiful.
However, once I got all three medals for a mission, that was generally it. I didn’t have a reason to go back to any of the completed ones, and the game didn’t really give me one. I don’t think that’s a fault of the game, far from it: JYDGE makes sure to deliver maximum payout, entertainment and thrills while things can still be done. Once it’s done, though, that’s the end of the saga. The enemies might change their walking patterns, and it can be fun to be hilariously overpowered and decimate previous missions, but that’s more of a perk and a quirk than a “feature.”
JYDGE and Neon Chrome are the yin and yang in the world that 10Tons has created. On the one side, you get a fast, powerful and delicious feast that you’re satisfied with but don’t necessarily plan to eat again. On the other, you get a very particular, peculiar dish that doesn’t always go down perfectly, but you’re potentially compelled to try it again as long as it wasn’t ghastly the last time. I’m a roguelike person: always have been, always will. But I 100% see and get the appeal of the locked parameters that JYDGE has, and I think it’s super smart to have both options available while utilizing all the awesome stuff that 10Tons has created (atmosphere, weapons, soundtrack and scenery destruction). You may decide you like one better than the other, but I’ll let you be the jydge of that.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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