There’s a scene in Back To The Future II, where Doc Brown turns to Marty and says “Justice moves swiftly in the future now that they’ve abolished all lawyers”. Of course, the next evolution of that concept would be the Judge Dredd comics. A bad ass with the powers of policing, sentencing, and executing, all in one swift motion. Enter Jydge, newly released on Steam, and attempting to pound its gavel loud enough to be heard over the cacophony of other top-down shooter titles.
Don’t pass ‘jydgment’ (not sure why U’s are outlawed in this dystopian future, and Y’s are more popular), on this title because its yet-another-top-down-shooter. There are some nice caveats tossed into the gameplay that reqyires an immediate stay of execytion (sorry, its what happens when you play Jydge for a few hoyrs… hours). The first is a system that allows character customization and interchangeable options for the main weapon. The second is a fast-paced stealth approach to most in-game scenarios. Failing results in a “mistrial” and an opportunity to try again.
Together these two features offer replayability and entice players to explore item combinations. For example, missions may revolve around rescuing all hostages, doing so in 20 seconds or less, and checking every loot box on the map. To do so, you’ll probably want to equip stealth based ‘cyberware’ (items that enhance your abilities), and sharp pinpoint weapon mods. These mods can also be upgraded to increase damage. Allowing you to move with ease, get behind enemies, taking them out before they alert their friends. However, if the mission calls for destroy all enemies, sub-bosses, and survive for 50 seconds–then it’s past time to strap on all the explosives and drone options you can find. Players are rewarded with medals which unlock more items for purchase should they complete one or more of these mission requirements.
Swapping between skills and weapon mods will help mask the fact you’ll be playing through these missions more than once. Medals also unlock progressions through the games IV acts, with approximately 20 missions total. There is almost no way around this either, as some of the mission requirements necessitate a different loadout. I am not a big fan of being forced to replay levels to progress, game designers often use this method to inflate gameplay times for players. After the fifth mission, Jydge does offer a “hardcore” mode for earning more medals with different requirements. Replaying those missions in hardcore mode does add more difficulty, and I found myself striving for the most efficient combination of weapon mods and items on my 2nd or even 3rd playthroughs.
Dark and dingy back alleyways, lead a path to six criminals holding two hostages within a home. Globs of rain masks my footsteps. Two enemies patrol past the living room windows, and that’s the moment I chose to crash through them and execute the lawbreakers. Spinning around I blast the next hoodlum through the flimsy door in the hallway before he enters the room. Before I can read them their last rites, I fire a rocket at the garage, executing two more, and I empty the remaining bullets at the bastard pacing behind the bar. Two more steps and I rescue the hostages. When it works, it’s a ballet of death and you escape with all your medals. Sadly, there are far too many times it doesn’t.
It’s hard to differentiate glass from walls, especially on your first playthrough. Enemies will come shooting at your drone making a beeline for your device and not detect you 2 feet from it, other times they do. There are no vision cones or other indicators to signal imminent detection. It is also pretty ridiculous emulsifying enemies with your very loud weapon and somehow retains any semblance of stealth, but the game allows it provided you are sneaking up behind targets. These frustrations are highlighted when trying to complete a stage for medals requiring stealth to progress.
Visuals are decent, but not great. Audio work ranges from the forgettable to pulse racing. Controls are on par with every other top down in the last ten years. Yet Jydge doesn’t pretend to not be something that it’s not; it is another top-down arcade shooter. However, intermixing medal requirements with the need for situation appropriate loadouts, much of the genre’s known repetitive impurities are not only masked but made palpable. Jydge can be as straightforward as banging a gavel, which isn’t a bad thing if that gavel can be customized fifty-ways from Sunday.