The insane variety of games out there on Xbox Live Arcade is quite staggering. You have all sorts of older games, like Joust and Gauntlet, as well as originals such as Hexic and Space Giraffe. However you will usually find that some of these games are average at best and others are bad rip-offs of other games at worst. The one basic rule of thumb with these games is that they are usually built around one particular gameplay concept that is expanded into an entire game.
This is most definitely the case with Screwjumper! Somebody seems to have got the bright idea that it would be awesome if someone made a game about a guy, or gal, falling down a mine shaft at high speed and crashing into things. And not just free falling but speeding down the tunnel and bashing into any green highlighted objects that you come across. Heck since you're in the middle of falling down a mineshaft you might as well fling some dynamite at things in your path. If this sounds like a seriously bad trip, well it is.
What's amazing is how bad of a mess this game actually is. The basic concept of controlled free-fall mixed with lots of destruction in the environment doesn't sound all that bad in theory. The problem lies in the execution. If this were just about lots of speed and destruction the game would be a lot better. But it isn't and that devastates the game.
Storyline, as sparse as it is, has you as a sort of eco-terrorist set out to destroy the EAC mining colonies, which are harming their resident planets. You are trying to collect the bounties that the natives have put out on the EAC mines, in an effort to stop the harm. To do so you need to speed down the tunnel and destroy enough green objects to lower the barrier guarding the reactor. Fling a stick of dynamite into the reactor and it initiates a countdown timer where you have to speed out of the mine shaft before the explosion. High speed barreling down a bunch of tunnels dodging objectives does sound like a hoot.
Even though the first two levels start off with you plummeting down the mine shafts and trying to break the green objects, dodging the few red ones, and then summarily escaping in reverse, all at super high speed, things sour quickly. The red objects become dominant very quickly and you have to avoid these since they can kill you. This forces you to spend more time crawling down the tunnels at a snails pace and then only accelerating when you see an opportunity. With how much this turn of events forces you to slow down it almost plays like two entirely different games.
Since you are essentially forced to crawl down many of the tunnels the game slowly but steadily becomes less about speed and kills the entire game. This isn't exactly a pretty game nor is the sound the best so without gameplay what does it have? You could do these graphics on the PlayStation 2 if not the PS One and the game uses what I have to assume are a free collection of sound effects. They sound so generic and cheap that I found myself playing the game muted for as long as I was able to put up with it.
For what essentially amounts to a ten dollar purchase you are really not getting much of anything here. There are plenty of games on XBLA that offer a more interesting experience at the same price. There is no reason to settle for a game that is this boring and disinteresting when there are dozens of others out there that are actually worth the money you blow on them. Screwjumper! borders on sadistic, abusing its players with bad gameplay and horrendous everything else. Do yourself a favor and avoid the pain.