This review is spoiler-free. Find out more about Jettomero here.
All you can do is try your best.
Jettomero: Hero of the Universe is gorgeous. The game has a 2D, comic book art style akin to Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but with hyper vibrant colours more reminiscent of early superhero comics. This superhero comic aesthetic matches Jettomero’s behaviour—Jettomero is a superhero—and like Batman in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, he faces both support and criticism of his vigilante behaviour. You can try your best to help others, but is there a time when the best thing to do is nothing at all?
You control Jettomero, a giant robot determined to save the humans. The simple gameplay moves between four main phases: stomping, battle, decryption, and flight. While none of the phases are deep, the designer did well to interleave action(battle), puzzle(decryption), and free-form exploration(stomping, flight) to combat boredom or fatigue. Unfortunately, the gameplay loop gets repetitive, but in this 2-3 hour experience the bountiful visual and aural treats kept me interested.
While on a planetoid, Jettomero bumbles around while terrified humans fight back against you, impeding your already clumsy movement. Optional cosmetics, body parts, are lying around for you to find and deck Jettomero out with. (My favourite parts included the “cool glasses” and “sheriff’s star”.) Getting these cosmetics can have a price, as Jettomero’s clumsy actions smash the tiny human buildings below you, killing the very people you’re attempting to save. I repeat- these cosmetics are optional. Surly his profuse apologies will make the humans understand.
I found the camera positioning frustrating as it continuously adjusted to ensure Jettomero was upright. This led to pressing “up” doing something dependent on camera orientation. This is in contrast to Super Mario Galaxy’s camera which allows Mario to be upside down.
Sometimes Jettomero finds Kaiju terrorizing the planets and you initiate battle with them. These battles are quick-time events where you must input different button sequences without error. Following successful battles you discover encrypted information about your past which can be decrypted by solving a small puzzle, namely a set of Caesar ciphers.
After that, Jettomero blasts off in search of another Kaiju terrorized planet to save. Much like the planet stomping sections, there is little guidance on exactly what can be done while flying around in space. It’s like a playground. Smash through asteroids, chase comets, and avoid fuel-depleting space storms. Several achievements can be achieved in the flight sections. One I couldn’t get was via yellow asteroids which begin classic fly-through-the-rings challenges. I found Jettomero’s flight speed too high for this. Perhaps variable power thrusters would work well here, but not all controllers have this. I configured my Steam Controller to use gyro aiming which is particularly satisfying for flight.
A lot of care was put into the sound design. On loading screens, try tapping face buttons to play some simple music while waiting. Notice the layering when you power your boosters and the filtering when you pause to adjust cosmetics. The chill, electronic soundtrack pulls you in then suspends you in a relaxed state.
Pause and enter photo-mode to freely move the camera and get that perfect shot. Tell your own story by adding custom captions. You can also add one of many photo filters and even un-pause to play with the filter turned on.
Jettomero is polished aesthetics and charm with repetitive gameplay. It’s clear from the thoughtful sound design and included photo-mode that the game was meant to be a more meditative experience, and there it exceeds. I’ll keep the soundtrack close at hand as I bumble around like Jettomero. All you can do is try your best.