Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another Retrogame you probably Never Heard of: Jumpman Junior

When I was a kid, all I really wanted was an Apple II. All the cool kids had one and I wanted to be a cool kid. My dad came home one glorious afternoon when I was in the fourth grade and told me that he bought a computer. I was ecstatic. My Apple II was finally here. He opened the large Toys R Us bag to unveil an Atari 800XL. What the hell is that? We already had an Atari in the house - the 2600. What the hell am I going to do with this - it's a 2600 with a keyboard.

It took me a little time to get used to my Atari 800. It wasn't as cool as the Apple and it wasn't as popular as the Commodore but it still had some nice features. It was the first computer that I started programming on, which I would end up making a career out of but happily the languages became a bit more complex than BASIC.

10 print "hello world"
20 goto 10

Anyway, getting back to the game. Spy Hunter was a pseudo-computer hit as was Jungle Hunter but the game that stood out on the 800XL was Jumpan Junior. I was surprised that whenever I bring up Jumpman Junior in conversation (which doesn’t happen too often) I will find, if I am lucky, one out of ten that have even heard of it and they only knew of it because of its Commodore and Commodore 64 brethren.

To give a quick synopsis - apparently terrorists planted bombs on Jupiter and it is Jumpman Junior's job to go around and dismantle the bombs (I am really curious how Google and other search engines are going to handle 'terrorist planted bombs on Jupiter' - wonder if it will get me on some FBI watch list). As a side note, what is up with the unoriginality of gaming developers in the late 70's/early 80's? Mario was originally Jumpman, and then there was the Commodore Jumpman, followed by his spawn - Jumpman Junior. Can they not come up with something besides Jumpman? Was Leapman, Skipman, Bounceman, and Hopman taken?

Epyx release Jumpman Junior as a sequel (sort of, it was pretty much the same game just with different levels) to Jumpman released in 1983. While similar to Donkey Kong and even more similar to Donkey Kong Junior, Jumpman Junior takes the concept of the original platformer and adds a bit of speed (that you could pick from 1-8 how fast you moved), some damn fine music for the era, and more difficult enemies to avoid than some rolling oil drums.

I am not going to compare Jumpman Junior straight up to Donkey Kong (which I more or less did tongue-in-cheek in the previous sentence). Donkey Kong is the Godfather of video games and should be treated with respect. But, Jumpman Junior added some elements that were missing from Donkey Kong. The enemies were tougher to dodge - especially the random shots that come from just about anywhere. The graphics definitely didn't compare, Jumpman Junior looked more like someone was playing a game of hangman then creating a character but it was 1983.

To sum up, if you are reading this and you have a European Wii, you can get it for Virtual Console. Supposedly it was going to come out for the American Virtual Console but at this point, it is simply not going to happen. The only other way that you can get your hands on it would be to emulate via the computer, or pick up an 800XL (or Commodore, I suppose) from eBay and break out some serious floppy disk goodness.

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