Announced and released on the same day, Jack Lumber, was both a surprise and a curiosity. As the first SEGA Alliance title, Jack Lumber was developed by an external independent developer by the name of Owlchemy Labs and published by SEGA. Per the SEGA Alliance description, SEGA also provided marketing and production support as well as creative consultation. The end result is a fun and unique game that definitely has that SEGA spirit, despite being developed by an external developer.
Jack Lumber’s story is simple: you play as a lumberjack who is avenging his granny who was crushed by a tree. How do you take revenge on a tree? Simple, chop them to hell. The game can best be described as Fruit Ninja meets The Matrix. Each stage kicks off with an epic Thor-like cutscene of lightening striking Jack’s axe, followed by Jack smashing a forest full trees into the air. As the logs fall, the player must wait for the opportune moment to place their finger on the screen, which will cause time to slow down (thus creating a bullet time effect).
Logs continue to slowly twirl as the player is tasked with splitting the logs from one end of the stump to the other. Some logs have multiple stumps requiring both horizontal and vertical cuts, while others require a cut in a certain direction. Special items like clock freezing logs, bonus round maple syrup bottles and explosive barrels constantly mix things up and are gradually introduced as players make their way through the game. Once the player has traced through every log on screen, lifting ones finger causes Jack to slice through your traced line, chopping (or not chopping depending on your tracing skill) the items on screen. Your score for each round of logs depends on how many logs you’ve chopped and how quickly you’ve traced your chops. The score is also influenced by special moves like the straight shot and the aforementioned items.
At the end of each stage, an animal friend is launched into the air and the player is tasked with “saving” the animal by not chopping it. If you succeed in this, the animal acts as a trophy that sits alive and well in your cabin. The cabin is the home base of the game, where players can access the map screen, receive letters from the game’s characters and purchase power ups and accessories that either enhance gameplay or change the decor of the cabin.
As you can tell by this short review, Jack Lumber is a simple game, but don’t think that it’s an easy game. The genius comes from the game’s progression, in which gameplay gets more and more frantic thanks to the increasing additions of new logs and items. The art style is also fantastic, feeling like a mix between John K. of Ren & Stimpy fame and 1960’s Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The story, as I mentioned, is simple but it has some very funny moments. Especially once characters like Ranger Bob and Jill Timber come into play.
It should also be noted that despite the similarity to Fruit Ninja (chopping stuff as it flys into the air), Jack Lumber has much more thought put into it. Chopping logs is less of a fast slicing reaction to what you see on screen, and more of a fast planning of your route through the moving onscreen objects. The fact that time slows as you chop also helps in making things challenging, but not frustrating. At the introductory 99 cent price, Jack Lumber was a must buy. Now, at the regular $1.99 price, Jack Lumber is still a must buy. I know I’ll continue to support SEGA Alliance if they release titles like this in the future.