A lot of people are disappointed with Minecraft - Pocket Edition. Through tears and clenched fists, they complain that it's not nearly Minecraft-y enough, with key features in the proper grownup PC version missing from the iOS and Android versions. We would counsel those folks by buying them a beer and telling them to be patient, updates are certainly coming down the pipe. Oh, and by the way, have they tried playing a game called Junk Jack?
What's it all about?
Junk Jack concerns the adventures of a dungaree-clad construction worker, usually seen with a pickaxe in one hand and a cigarette in his mouth. With his fair complexion and his fondess for moustaches, we reckon he could be the illegitimate offspring of Mario and Princess Daisy (though we can't prove it without a paternity test, so don't quote us on that).
Jack inhabits a pixellated world that's resolutely 2-D and day-glo brite, with a jaunty little bit-tune running in the background. What's also notable about his world is that it's an open sandbox, and he can travel in a (theoretically) infinite direction either left, right or straight down.
Using his bare hands he plunders resources from the surrounding environment - wood, stone, clay - and combines them to create tools. With those tools he can then engineer even more complicated materials, structures and tools, and in so doing become the master of his domain.
Of course, the game doesn't tell you any of this. Other than the rudimentary basics (first you'd better figure out how to make a torch before it gets dark and the beasties come out to play), you're supposed to learn and discover all these wondrous things for yourself. Or you could just cheat and look them up on the internets.
Why do we like it?
Whilst the inspiration is obvious, Junk Jack manages to capture the same qualities as Minecraft without being a total "I'll see you in court" rip-off. The control scheme is simple and direct - no onscreen joypads here, just swipe in the direction you want to move, or tap the block you'd like to demolish, and away you go.
The menus for crafting are cunningly designed too, so the art of building and engineering is never more complicated than it needs to be. Once you've figured out how to build your item (whether by trial and error, or by a recipe you've picked up on your travels), just throw the ingredients into a 3x3 grid and hey presto.
Of course it's entirely possible that Junk Jack, a game you'd approach as a stop-gap whilst waiting for Minecraft - Pocket Edition to get a proper update, might surpass its predecessor and develop a major following in its own right. There's an advantage in building a new game from the ground up, as opposed to shoe-horning a much bigger game into a portable device, and this is a textbook example.
Junk Jack is available now on the App Store for iPhone, £1.99