Also available on PlayStation 4 and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 01/23/2022 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
From the brilliant mind that brought you Epic Dumpster Bear and Epic Dumpster Bear 2: He Who Bears Wins, the video game indictments of unrestrained capitalism that you never knew you needed, comes JankBrain, the video game indictment of cryptocurrency and global plutocracy that you never knew you needed. I, along with my friend Jordan, have a truly bizarre and irrational adoration for Epic Dumpster Bear, so when we saw that a platformer in the same style starring one of the bosses from Epic Dumpster Bear 2 was coming out on Switch, we knew that we had to play it.
JankBrain, like Epic Dumpster Bear, is a 2D platformer that is, truthfully, rather simplistic. That’s not a criticism, though; it doesn’t get bogged down with added gimmicks or anything. The only gimmick here is the humor. As far as control and mechanics go, the only major differences between JankBrain and Epic Dumpster Bear is that JankBrain doesn’t slide nearly as much as Dumpster Bear did, and JankBrain has a laser attack. While you can still bounce on top of most enemies to damage them, it doesn’t do nearly as much damage as the laser. The bounce is really more useful for landing safely than dealing damage. The music, while not as catchy as Epic Dumpster Bear’s in my opinion, fits the action in the game better; most people who went in blind without any Dumpster Bear experience would almost certainly say that the music is better in JankBrain.
I keep comparing JankBrain to Epic Dumpster Bear not only because they’re the same style of game because they’re at least ostensibly in the same bizarre universe. I think. JankBrain was the boss in World 4 of Epic Dumpster Bear 2, so they definitely exist in the same universe. I haven’t finished all the bonus levels in JankBrain, so I’m not sure if the Dumpster Bear will make an appearance there, but at the very least, the titular character made his debut as an enemy in the second Dumpster Bear game. They also have the same type of humor. The premise of JankBrain is that JankBrain is an alien from a species with a body mass that is roughly 90% brain (make sense considering that he’s just a brain with arms and legs), but rather than argue about philosophy like everyone else on his planet, he wants to go subjugate another planet, so he goes to Earth and, seeing how obsessed with money we are, decides that the best way is to take over the global economy by stealing all of the gold from the world’s central banks. From there, the cutscenes after each boss lampoons how money is at the core of all human existence and, eventually, how stupid and actually worthless not only fiat currency but also cryptocurrency is. For a teacher of history and economics like me, it’s fantastic.
JankBrain is definitely not nearly as smooth or polished as a AAA platformer like Mario or Donkey Kong, but for a $5 indie game, it’s extremely competent and a ton of fun. The controls are tight, and while the hit detection is a little bit screwy – you’ll find yourself dying to hits you’re positive you should have avoided albeit barely – it’s a ton of fun. The levels themselves are a great balance of easy to clear but very difficult to 100%, and the bosses are extremely challenging until you figure out the pattern. All in all, it doesn’t have the charm that Epic Dumpster Bear does, but it’s an arguably better-made game. If you’re a fan of platformers, you absolutely owe it to yourself to play JankBrain.