Indie Quickie: Jack Lumber

It takes a lot longer to fully review a game than it does to get a good sense of what a game is. Even with a full-time staff of writers it would be impossible to fully review the thousands of games that are released every year. Indie Quickie is our way to offer snap impressions of the countless indie titles small teams and one-man game studios are releasing literally every single day, and to help guide players to worthwhile games they may not have heard about before.

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What is it? A line-drawing, log-chopping action puzzle game, starring an angry lumberjack with a burning hatred for trees yet a love for critters of the forest and, of course, his dear Granny. Tree huggers beware!

Who made it and where can you get it? Hand chopped and crafted by Owlchemy Labs, Jack Lumber was originally released on mobile devices before being adapted for personal computer gaming via Steam, where it sells for a regular price of $7.49. (The game is currently featured as part of a week long Steam sale for only $2.25!)

How much did we play? It took me around an hour and a half to cut through 15 stages, earning 40 stars and axing through too many logs to count.

Any technical concerns or hardware requirements you should know about? Not really. I mean, some of the cutscene sequences are fuzzy, as if they were simply blown up from smart devices for larger PC monitors without a proper resolution upscale. Having gone through a recent PC death I’ve also come to wish this game supported Steam Cloud so my previous save file could have been recovered.

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Why should you play it?

    • Log Ninja: It’s hard to play Jack Lumber and not be reminded of Fruit Ninja. The similarities are obvious: Logs are tossed up into the air and it is your job to chop them down to size before they fall out of the screen, and without missing a cut. Playing further, you will quickly discover that this game has a gameplay style and personality all to its own. Logs fly across the screen from all sides in seemingly scripted patterns, and at just the right moment you have to click and hold down the left mouse button to enter lumbertime–the Jack Lumber equivalent of Bullet Time–which slows down time and provides a brief window for you to drag the cursor through each log. Once the timer runs out, any un-chopped logs fall out of view and points are lost, while those that are successfully cut get added to the level high score tally. Axe lines must also be drawn through the center of each log, not the bark, or else they will count as misses. As the game progresses, different hunks of wood with unique cutting requirements are introduced. Some have curves that need to be followed, some have arrows indicating a one-way chop direction, some contain a number requiring that you drag the cursor through them equal to the indicated number, some contain power-ups like a temporary timer pause, and some come in bundles of multiple pieces of wood that only open up to reveal their pattern when the axe draws near. This isn’t some frantic slashfest. While it is important to be quick on the draw, careful timing and precision are even more crucial to stacking up a high score and a 3-star golden sash reward.

    • Granny Got Run Over by a Pine Tree: Beyond entertaining, accessible gameplay, Jack Lumber stands out for the sheer absurdity of its plot. You see, Jack hates trees, because his poor granny was sent up to the big flapjack house in the sky after a pine tree fell on top of her. This pine tree later turns out to be some sort of evil, arboreal cult leader that not only killed Jack’s grandma, but the grandpappy of a rival female lumberjack as well. Thus you have the setup to Jack’s vengeful line-drawing romp through stage after stage of whimsical human on tree violence. Environmentalists might flip out over the animosity toward plant life, but relax, it’s all in jest. Humor is slathered on even more, thick like syrup, as Jack receives letters from other folks in between stages, like a secret admirer and a forest ranger named Bob who very much wants to swap recipes with Jack sometime. Jack’s cabin, serving as the menu interface for selecting stages and whatnot, also becomes home to various forest critters rescued during his quest for revenge, namely a snarky beaver who spouts off so-stupid-their-funny one-liner puns. I bet you’ll break into a chortle as the furry fellow lets lines like “I’ve got 99 problems but a birch ain’t one” rip.

Parting Thoughts: Jack Lumber‘s roots as a mobile game are readily apparent, but thankfully the clicking and dragging of a mouse naturally replicates the same smooth accuracy of the original touchscreen interface. Not once did I get a sense that I was playing a game that felt compromised or poorly adapted to PC play. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s hard to say how many more levels I have remaining, but I get the impression that I’m at least halfway through. It doesn’t seem like there is a ton of content, but replay value has already proven strong as I have gone back to previous stages to improve my rankings, complete little side objective errands for granny (complete a level with no more than four misses, score a x7 combo, split 100 logs, etc) and harvest more log money to spend on bonus items like power-up syrups and beards, hat costumes and decorative pictures for the cabin wall. Once completed, each world offers an endless mode so you can keep on chopping until three errors are made. The game also does a good job at balancing the difficulty curve of easy to play but challenging to master. Like a mobile title, this game is best in casual spurts, for when you need an easy going entertainment break from more serious games or, of course, the stresses of real life. In this capacity, Jack Lumber is more fun than a cabin full of wise cracking forest critters.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!