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Open-ended, world-building sandbox games are spawning at an increasingly rapid pace on iOS of late, with each offering a slightly different twist on Minecraft's addictive mix of exploration, scavenging, building, and crafting. While Terraria builds off of the Minecraft vibe in some interesting and adventurous ways, Junk Jack X copies it a bit too blatantly. Lack of originality aside, that's not entirely a bad thing. Translating many of the familiar-looking gameplay and visual elements to 2D works fairly well, offering moments of fun for patient players with collection obsessions.
Easing into the experience is a little smoother this time around compared to the first entry. As with many similar adventures, you're dropped into a block world, given a few basic tools to tinker with, and sent off on your merry way to battle nocturnal creatures, dig below ground to mine for materials, build structures and gear, and carve out your niche in the sprawling 2D world. While the original Junk Jack threw you into the deep end and forced you to figure many of the crafting and gameplay elements out for yourself, this sequel gives you helpful tutorials to explain the basics. Perhaps even more useful is the auto-craft option that now lets you build items with a simple tap once you have the recipes and the crucial ingredients gathered.
An exhaustive list of buildable items will fuel your desire to push deep into this vast virtual world to harvest materials, though getting around isn't a particularly easy or intuitive process. Swiping to the left or right moves your little miner, though without the aid of ladders or other specialized gear, you can only climb up a single block height. This makes it easy to get stuck when adventuring underground. Fighting off monstrous attackers is equally cumbersome, as you have to tap them rapidly to attack. Mining blocks by tapping is the default control scheme too – it's rather uncomfortable – but at least you can swap that to auto in the options menu. Accessing the building menu, however, isn't a fluid process either. The on-screen buttons aren't nearly as responsive as they could be, which makes for some awkward transitions.
The bottom line. Junk Jack X certainly has some of the absorbing potential of the games it nods to, but the fun is harder to come by thanks to tricky controls that get in the way.
iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running iOS 5.1 or later
Neat art style. Lots of stuff to collect and build.
Controls are awkward. Menu buttons aren't very responsive.