A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The gameplay, which can be challenging, encourages perseverance and using logical thinking skills.
Positive Role Models
The main character in this game is caring, as evidenced by his concern for his father, and curious to find out the secrets in his family's basement.
Ease of Play
This game's difficult primarily because there are a lot of controls and functions to learn as you go. It's a spin on a tower defense game in which you must protect wooden sarcophagi against 'nasties' and to do so, the player must learn to use many different types of minions and power-ups. A detail-oriented mind will thrive at this, but it can be challenging for those who find themselves easily distracted and forgetful. The levels themselves though, are not overly challenging once the player has its mechanics in hand.
Violence & Scariness
In this game, 'nasties' like ants, spiders, and bats attempt to break into wooden sarcophagi (and distract you from other missions) while the player places minions that will combat the nasties or uses other tools to defeat them, like darts or glue. This means that players will see depictions of stylized creepy crawlies disintegrating into dust, or vice versa. These attacks and defeats aren't graphic, but there's nevertheless plenty of fighting between these small creatures.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that JARS is a downloadable tower defense game available for Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac. While the aesthetic of the game is spooky, there isn't much to be afraid of apart from the depictions of spiders and bugs. Even then, the hand-drawn images are so stylized that the so-called 'nasties' don't resemble real insects. Overall, the game's tone is humorous and light as an homage to monsters and scary stories without the actual horror. Players unlock comic strips as they progress through the game, many of which playfully subvert expectations -- for instance, the main character comes across a frightening figure only to find they're helpful and kind. There's cartoon-y violence involved in defeating the nasties each level, but it's far from graphic. Meanwhile, the writing contains references that may evade some younger children -- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, for instance -- but the gist of the plot is clear regardless, and the light-hearted tone is pleasant even if the player doesn't fully understand the jokes. The control scheme could be clunky, resulting in a larger challenge to wrangle than the actual content of the levels.
Is It Any Good?
This is a fresh and fun spin on the tower defense genre that's hampered by strange design choices. The somewhat clunky design decisions in Jars are apparent in the gameplay controls, which are separated into two distinct menus rather than one streamlined one. Additionally, there's a moment in the story mode where you must use a particular species of minion that players can only purchase through the in-game store. If players don't have the money, they must go back and grind levels or play the hero mode for a considerable amount of time -- which can be a frustrating experience. Additionally, the progression often feels unbalanced, with most levels skewing toward too easy, and a few quite difficult ones peppered in randomly. Still, among the plentiful levels (there's easily 10 hours of gameplay here), there are some delightful stumpers.
The quality of JARS' art is delightful, and it does well to provide players with comic strips and animated cutscenes as they progress -- a chance to see Victor and his pals feels like a worthy reward. While the story itself hangs together loosely, the worldbuilding is fantastic. JARS delivers most of the details about Victor's environment through encyclopedia entries that the player can view between levels. The entries go into depth on how certain minions and nasties came to be in the voice of Victor's father, providing insight into that character. Overall, the game is a decent casual puzzler with the added benefit of beautiful visuals and an endearing story. Despite a few clunky aspects, it's worth the buy for hours of gameplay alone.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.