Super Jagua is a 2D platformer where you play as a dog trying to save his girlfriend from a demon. To accomplish this, we must conquer 33 brutal levels with a grand sum of 15 lives, no continues. Right from the get go you’ll notice a lot of similarities to Super Mario Bros 3 such as certain animations, enemies and UI. There is no denying that this is a love letter or clone of the Super Mario Bros series but it still manages to be a fun romp through familiar territories.
There are few graphic options and the game can only be played using a 4:3 ratio bringing back that retro annoyance of being easily blind sighted by enemies/objects just off the screen. It’s a design decision to stay as true to 8Bit games as possible though having an option for Widescreen would have been appreciated. Starting up the game proper you will see a Mario 3 like overworld map with the long line of levels awaiting you. Most of them don’t have midway checkpoints but are short enough to never become too frustrating and will immediately make you feel like giving it another go.
One of the major differences from the Mario series is that you can only take one hit before you are down for the count, no turning into a miniature version of yourself here. There are 4 unique items to collect out of bricks, them being a red bone that shoots horizontally, a white bone that shoots vertically, an umbrella to give you better midair control and finally a pair of glasses to see invisible secrets scattered throughout. Equipping any one of them will allow you to take two hits from enemies before losing a life so you’ll be glad with whatever you happen to receive. Each of those items are useful in different situations so learning how to use them efficiently can make some levels far easier.
The only object you don’t technically need are the Glasses as you can enter the invisible warp zones without them, though it is a risky affair trying to guess where they are with just 15 lives total. Enemies are mostly cutesy creatures, most of which are just going about their own business. For some odd reason there is no point system so killing them is completely unnecessary as they will get you no extra lives due to a lack of points. Luckily this is not the type of game to be completely unfair and you can go back to older levels to farm a few lives as needed via coin collecting. The difficulty itself is just easy enough as to not feel cheated and with it having great controls, most deaths will be on us.
It still packs quite a punch however, this is one made for those with more experience into the genre, similar to Mario: The Lost Levels. The springs, the auto scrolling levels and the underwater sections are all here and ready to test your skills once again. A minor gripe I have with this title is that a shadow under your character would make some levels much better as whenever you jump too high you’ll have little clue as to where you are. Another slightly more annoying design decision is the lack of saving your progress so you’ll have to beat the entire game in one go. The previously mentioned warp zones will allow you to skip a few levels if you know where they are so finding them is key if you plan to play in short bursts.
Every few levels lead to a boss fight against a giant creature such as a fish or a dinosaur that are all defeated by jumping on or with the bone item. They only take 3-4 hits so if you currently have a bone it’ll be that much easier. There is one final hidden boss after the last level that makes up the level 33 for those wondering why there are only 32 blips on the over-world. There are several themes to explore after every few levels that keeps things fresh. Sadly, the music is nowhere near as varied and will get a tad old after some time.
Super Jagua is sold for less than a dollar and what it does offer for that low price is a steal. It may be similar to Mario in most regards though it clearly understands what made them so great and does enough as to not feel like a complete retread. Like an NES game it only uses two buttons not counting the Dpad for attack and jump so it is easy to pick up yet something that will challenge even the veterans of the genre. If you are looking for both a challenge and a blast to the past, Super Jagua is sure to satisfy both of your needs.