JARS – Review
Follow Genre: Tower Defense
Developer: Mousetrap Games
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Platform: Switch, PC
Tested on: PC

JARS – Review

Site Score
Good: A neat twist on classic tower defense gameplay
Bad: Switch version has clunky controls
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We’ve sung the praises of Daedalic Entertainment’s offerings before, hailing them as one of the best sources for point-and-click adventures. To our surprise, JARS, their latest offering, turned out not to be a point-and-click title, but a tower defense game instead. Developed by Mousetrap Games, JARS certainly looks charming at first glance, but looks can be deceiving. The most important factor for any good tower defense game is how well it plays, of course. Should you open up JARS or is it necessary to keep the lid on tight?


Given Daedalic’s knack for storytelling and JARS’ charming art style, we were hoping for a narrative-driven experience, but unfortunately, JARS was off to a bad start. The opening cutscene, which was presented without words, shows our protagonist, a young boy known as Victor as he reminisces about the time he spent with his father. We learn that Victor’s father was a bit of a weirdo, who spent his time dissecting animals, much to the dismay of Victor’s mother. When Victor and his father are about to dissect a bat, it turns out the animal is alive. It bites Victor’s dad, causing him to go insane and leave the house. After the flashback, Victor accidentally knocks over a jar of pickles while attempting to catch a mosquito larva. His mother sends our young protagonist into the basement to get a new jar of pickles, but while down there, Victor finds far more than just preserved vegetables…


The game’s highly detailed key art (shown above) is very Burton-esque, but JARS’ in-game visuals feature less detail. Even so, the hand-drawn cartoonish gothic aesthetics employed here look great. We couldn’t help but be reminded of the art style of Courage the Cowardly Dog, especially with some of the enemy designs, such as the rats. We did feel some of the animations felt a little stiff and janky, but that’s a minor gripe all things considered.


With no voice acting present and only generic spooky music playing in the background, there isn’t a whole lot that we can say about JARS’ soundscape other than that it’s utterly bland. It’s a shame, because the entire atmosphere of the game could’ve been improved through better sound design. We also ran into a strange issue with the sound cutting out during the opening cutscene, though we’re not sure whether this was a glitch or intentional.


While JARS is technically a tower defense game, Mousetrap Games has made some changes to the classic gameplay formula, providing players with a fresh take on a worn-out genre. The game presents you with a series of single-screen stages, and your aim is to prevent one or more treasure chests (or sarcophagi, as the game calls them) from being opened by rats, spiders, or other disgusting vermin. To do this, you have an arsenal of nasty critters at your disposal, including zombie hedgehogs and mosquitos. Each level presents you with a shelf full of jars. These are typically unlabelled, although some are color-coded, and contain items, enemies, or allies. To win a level, you’ll need to open every jar present and defeat every enemy using your own arsenal before the sarcophagus can be opened.

The game’s challenge lies in the fact that you never know what a jar contains, and so you’ll never know when an enemy will slowly start heading towards the sarcophagi. This does mean that a stroke of bad luck can ruin your day: if you open several enemy jars in a row without having built up your own defenses, it’s pretty much over. Likewise, sometimes you’ll need to enhance your minions with power-ups in order to be able to stand a chance, but you’ll need to obtain the items first, which involves -you guessed it- opening more jars in the hope to find them. This approach keeps the game challenging and fresh, although it can lead to unfair difficulty spikes. These can be somewhat mitigated by going to the game’s hub, which is styled as a lab, where you can change which minions appear in jars and which powers they can have equipped.

If you want to make any serious progress in JARS, you’ll need to be prepared for some grinding as well. Upgrades will need to be purchased from the lab, but in order to do so, you’ll need to rack up enough points -which are used as in-game currency. This means that when you hit the occasional difficulty spike, you’ll be forced to revisit older levels to gather more points. Thankfully, the game does shake things up by randomizing the contents of the jars and even their placement occasionally. This means that you won’t feel like you’re playing the same level over and over again all that much. These slight variations can really make a difference between feeling motivated to replay a level or becoming burned out and quitting the game altogether.

As you progress through the game, new gameplay elements are gradually introduced, such as the need to flick light switches, and eventually, the game even moves away from having to defend the sarcophagi, instead tasking the player with other objectives, such as staying alive until a timer runs out. While these provide a feeling of variety, they don’t shake up the gameplay enough. The real feeling of variety comes from playing the game in its second mode, called Hero Mode, which sees you take control of Victor directly, letting him climb ladders to reach the jars. This mode puts a simple but exciting twist on the game’s formula.

One area that could use some improvement was the game’s control scheme. Moving the cursor felt clunky and we were surprised that there was no touch screen support in handheld mode on the Switch. This applied not just to the game’s levels but also to the interface while navigating the lab and the menus. While we didn’t have the PC version at our disposal, we couldn’t help but shake the feeling that JARS was designed with mouse controls in mind rather than those of a controller.


JARS is a solid, if unengaging tower defense title. The gameplay is solid and the visuals are fitting for the atmosphere the game tries to convey. However, the bland soundscape and lack of decent storytelling prevent the game from being great. The clunky controls make us hesitant to recommend the game on console, so if you’re thinking of picking up JARS, we suggest going for the PC version instead.

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1 Comment

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