He’s a lumberjack and he’s okay! More than okay, in fact, he’s brilliant.

Aptly described as “the thinking man’s Fruit Ninja,” Jack Lumber is the newest member of Owlchemy Labs‘ family, published as the first game from new mobile initiative SEGA Alliance. It is the story of one burly man against an entire forest, seeking revenge on behalf of his dear Granny, who was murdered by a pack of vengeful trees. Armed with his magic ax and ability to slow time, Jack cuts through swathes of forest to avenge her death, meeting new friends and endangered animals as along the way.

The object of Jack Lumber is to cut through as many logs as possible; players tap, hold, and drag their finger tip across the screen to slice the blocks of wood length-wise in one unbroken loop. As the levels progress, the logs take on new modifiers, like time-based bombs or one-way arrows, to increase the challenge, with points awarded based on the player’s ability to axe through every log within the time limit (known as “Lumbertime”). On the last screen of each level the player is given a chance to save an endangered animal displaced by Jack’s deforestation, who then makes his cabin its new home. Each of the 25 levels can be replayed multiple times, with up to three gold stars awarded based on how close the player gets to the high score. These gold stars are then used to unlock new sections of forest for Jack to take on the next challenge.

The cabin serves as the menu screen, and from there you can view your rescued endangered animals and buy items from Granny’s Cupboard, using the points accumulated during gameplay. Items to purchase include syrups that provide in-game boosts and power ups, like Blue Spruce Syrup, which allows you to retry a missed or failed log, or Cayenne Syrup, which allows you to cut frozen logs without first crossing through a heated one.

Players can also buy a variety of lumberjack beards that act as handicaps to increase the game’s difficulty, like the The Trailblazer’s Beard, which speeds up the logs during Lumbertime, or Father Time’s Beard, which cuts your Lumbertime in half. The beards can also be stacked or worn all at once to boost point bonuses and provide the ultimate challenge. If you’re feeling boastful once you’ve nailed a new high score, you can use Twitter or Facebook connectivity to brag online to your friends.

Recent updates have also added photos and hats (though I’ve yet to purchase any, given that they’re expensive and it’s time consuming to earn all the points). You can also buy points in a variety of bundles, though it’s by no means necessary to enjoy or complete the game.

In the time since I first played Jack Lumber at PAX Prime 2012, it has quickly become one of the most-played games on my iPad. And that’s not because I have an abysmal selection of games (I own Scribblenauts Reloaded AND GTA: Chinatown Wars thankyouverymuch). The gameplay is easy to pick up and the pursuit of points and gold stars providd ample fuel for my ever-present competitive streak. In fact, I found my attention span usually outlasted the life of my fingertips, which wore down several times while playing the game for review.

I’m still not sure how something so highly polished and well put together could go for so little. The graphics are crisp, vibrant and clean; the audio limited but well polished. The opening theme is fun and bouncy and blends well with Jack Lumber‘s rural setting. The art style, a bright, cartoonish take on retro themes (at times reminding me of Ren and Stimpy) could easily command a much higher price. Combined with the game’s high replay value, Jack Lumber is easily worth $12.99, making it’s actual price of $1.99 quite the steal. I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a few bucks to burn in the App Store.


Here’s the Rundown:

+Like a tougher Fruit Ninja, with a distinctive art style and sense of humor all its own
+A variety of beard-based handicaps will provide fresh challenges to keep you playing
-Extended gameplay will wear down fingertips and necessitate constant screen cleaning
-Plays to a few undesirable iOS trends, like monetizing points that you can otherwise earn

9 and 9.5 represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.

Jack Lumber was developed by Owlchemy Labs and published by SEGA Alliance. It was released on August 16, 2012, at the MSRP of 1.99. A copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.