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Sunday, February 18, 2024

This game might have the worst name ever, but it’s actually pretty fun

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Data suggests that approximately 18 trillion new games are released on Steam every day. It’s difficult to stand out, so it makes sense that developers have gone absolutely bananas with videogame names lately. Case in point: a game called Bananaguy came out today, and this week also saw the debut of Pong Pong Crows, I Commissioned Some Dogs 2, Dickland: Tower Defense, KILLBUG, and a number of adult games that I’m not comfortable sharing with you, dear reader.

Throwing together random words and calling it a Steam page seems to be a working strategy. Still, I submit that the worst game name to appear on Steam this week, or maybe ever, is Jected – Rivals, a free-to-play early access arcade racer that’s actually pretty fun.

The “jected” part of the name is an unfortunate shortening of “ejected,” which happens to be Jected’s coolest gimmick: press a button at any time to launch out of your car and continue the race in air. It’s a neat trick when you time it right, because most tracks have shortcuts over hills or through canyons that cars can’t reach. When you get back to the track (or run out of fuel in your jetpack), a button press instantly recalls your car.

It’s part driving, part flying, and also a splash of destruction derby—your car has a health bar and if it blows up, you’ll have to find an unoccupied one on the track. Matches play out in a Fall Guys-style elimination structure with four total activities. All of the activities were races in the match I played this morning (sometimes car only, sometimes jetpack only, sometimes both), but there are 13 activities in total, including a dedicated demo derby mode.

As a fan of extreme sports games that don’t take themselves too seriously, Jected seems to have the right idea. I’m detecting inspiration from Ubisoft’s Riders Republic and Sony’s PS5-exclusive Destruction AllStars, and I dig it.

The rub is that Jected is very much in early access. It’s pretty barebones at the moment: three cars, two free characters, and what seems like a modest pool of tracks. There’s also no tutorial that I could find, so expect a rough go of it while learning its strange controls.

Handling isn’t great either—the car I drove took steering inputs as a suggestion and it always seemed eager to flip after catching any air. Taking tight corners or squeezing through small gaps with the jetpack is similarly clunky, though some of that comes down to choosing when to ‘ject or not to ‘ject.

I really like the improvisational maneuvering of the air game. I’d often spring out of my car with no particular plan for my return to the asphalt, trying to cut corners and pick up extra jetpack fuel to stay in the air longer. Those were the best moments in my short time with Jected so far, though with so little going on with its current build, I think I’ll wait for a few updates before playing much more. Basic features like leaderboards, squad mode, and progression systems are currently bullet points on a three-month roadmap.

But, you also have nothing to lose by giving it a shot right now. It’s free and a quick 7GB download. It is a shame about that name, though—I prefer the one that developer Pow Wow Entertainment announced the game with last year, StuntFest. A little generic, sure, but at least it’s more descriptive of the game’s goofy charm, and anything is better than Jected.

I’m also a little concerned about its free-to-play model. We know how hard it can be for modestly popular games to subsist on season passes or microtransactions alone, and I’d hate to see Jected join the pile of games that shut down too soon.

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