Creating a good first impression isn't the easiest thing in the world, especially if the audience is made up of experts. An even more difficult task is to sustain or improve upon that good impression over a period of time. Jumpman succeeds in both cases.
In the face of cynical comments like "It's probably just like the rest of the climbing-motif games," Jumpman easily conquers that skepticism and establishes itself as a software classic. No true arcade-game fan who takes joystick in hand and begins to manipulate Jumpman around the screen will be able to walk away without adding this product to his Atari, Commodore 64, or Apple collection.
It's tempting to compare Jumpman to the much more widely ballyhooed Miner 2049er. The comparison would be unfair. Jumpman is much, much more. The basic premise is simple: you are the Jumpman, a superhero whose great leaping ability is needed to thwart the dastardly efforts of the Alienators. The Alienators have infiltrated the 30 levels of Jupiter headquarters and booby-trapped every floor with bombs. Utilizing your jumping abilities, you must defuse all the bombs on each level and save command headquarters. It all sounds rather simple and clear-cut. Not so.
30 Levels, 5 Variations
As hinted, Jumpman comes with 30 game levels, each one unique. The 30 levels are divided into three difficulty levels with five game variations in all. The three difficulty levels consist of a beginner's level, made up of eight "easy" floors; an intermediate level, consisting of ten moderately difficult floors; and the advanced level, containing twelve very complex floors. The other two game variations are Grand Loop, which lets you play all 30 levels consecutively, and Randomizer, which allows you to play a random selection of all levels.
It is this variation that makes Jumpman the excellent game that it is. Each level presents a different type of problem. Some are out-and-out hand-eye coordination tests, requiring excellent reflexes and quick thinking. Others, however, demand that the player call upon cleverness and imagination in addition to joystick gamemanship. For example, Hot Foot, one of the ten levels in the intermediate game, is impossible to complete unless you discover the correct sequence to defuse the bombs.
In the Atari version, reviewed here, the game begins with a full-blown title page, complete with delightful animation, excellent music, a game demo and, if you have played before, a review of previous high scores. Pressing SELECT starts your game.
You are first asked to select a game variation and difficulty level by using the OPTION key. Next, after pressing START, you indicate how many players, from one to four. Once the preliminaries are out of the way, the contest begins.
The first level scrolls down from the top, accompanied by the title of that particular screen. The title is then replaced by a variety of information: the number of the current player, the difficulty level, the number of remaining Jumpmen (shown by small renditions of Jumpman lined up eager to get into action), the player's current score, and the player's remaining bonus points.
Once the screen has settled into place and the necessary information is displayed, one of the seven Jumpmen allotted at the beginning of each game appears somewhere on the screen. What else appears depends on the level being played. It always is an arrangement of girders, but it might be accompanied by upropes, ladders (stationary or moving), and/or floating elevators. The number of combinations is amazing, and the configuration of the girders is always unique.
Off And Jumping
During play, Jumpman scurries about the structures on the screen with astonishing animation as he attempts to overcome obvious obstacles and copes with other hazards such as speeding bullets which come out of nowhere, floating blocks that home in and fire at him like a cannonshot, and swooping bats.
Jumpman is moved by pushing the joystick in the direction you wish him to travel. Make him jump by pressing the fire button and pushing the joystick in the direction you want him to jump. Be forewarned: keep the joystick pushed in the given direction until the jump is completed. Otherwise, you may very well see Jumpman clinging desperately to the lip of a girder, legs kicking and arms flailing, only to fall to his demise.
Scores are achieved in a number of ways: by defusing bombs, killing creatures, discovering and defusing hidden bombs in the puzzle levels, and by completing levels. Also, points are awarded for any Jumpmen remaining at the end of the game. Also, bonus scoring can really add to your score. Each screen begins with a bonus score total of 1500. Every few seconds, 100 points are deducted. Any bonus points remaining at the completion of a screen are added to the total points score. Obviously, the quicker Jumpman defuses all the bombs on a given level, the more bonus points will be added to the grand total.
Jumpman comes with the several additional options. First, you have the option to change jumpman's speed. Simply press the appropriate number on the keyboard, from 1 to 8, anytime during play. A medium speed is selected by default if you make no selection. Changing the speed of Jumpman changes your strategy. Jumpman is a little more difficult to control at high speeds.
High Scores Recorded
A vanity board allows players to record high scores. A High Score screen appears at the end of any game in which a player qualifies. He or she may enter via joystick up to three initials next to the score achieved. All information is then automatically saved to disk. In addition, a letter will appear to the right of the score indicating at what level the score was achieved. For example, a letter B will appear by the score if it was accomplished while playing at the beginner's level. High scores can also be cleared, assuming no write-protect tab was placed on the disk, by simply pressing the CLEAR key while the game is initially loading into memory.
All in all, Jumpman is a fine game. There are excellent hi-res graphics, intricate animation (wait until you see Jumpman scurry up or down a rope), and enjoyable but unobtrusive circus-like music that plays at the end of each level. These and other nice touches reveal the degree of attention the writers paid to small details and put Jumpman head and shoulders above most other games, climbing games in particular.
Epyx, better known for its adventure games (especially the Dungeonquest series), has created what should become an arcade classic.
Automatic Simulations, Inc.
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Retail price: $39.95