Jumpman

jumpmanJupiter Station, sometime in the future.  Terrorists have planted bombs throughout a complex and there’s only one man for the job.  Creator Randy Glover and Epyx introduced the world to that man as the perfectly named Jumpman.  To give some context to this, I had to give a buddy a lift to get his car the other day and he was telling me that his own kid recently encountered some retro games.  Through a bit of conversation over some truly well known classics like Pac-Man and Mario Brothers, we started to dive into other classics that might be a bit less well known.  This made me wax nostalgic for some of my old favorites.  And I will never forget when my neighbor brought Jumpman into my life.  He told me he couldn’t believe how lifelike the character was…

The story behind the game is basically non-existent.  I don’t even know when I discovered there was a story, in fact.  What I remember with perfect clarity was the level selector.  You had 5 game modes: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, Grand Loop, and Randomizer.  The idea was you could play all 30 level (grand loop) or tackle the levels in batches of 10: beginner to advance.  But the one I liked was Randomizer because you never knew what you’d get next.  Eventually I got to the point where I wanted to play through all 30 levels but try as I might, I never actually made it through all of them.  I played every one, but never beat the 30 in a row.

What made Jumpman so special was that every level was different.  There were a few that were connected (Grand Puzzle I, II, & III or Robots I, II, & III) but each offered a different challenge.  One level might have you dodging bombs falling from the sky (Bombs Away) while another might have you shooting alien space ships (Invasion).  Every level had “bombs” to diffuse, but they looked as much like bombs as humans look like Zeta Reticulans; they are both vaguely the right shape, but no one would confuse the two.  You diffused the bombs simply by leaping and touching them.  That’s some skill!  Invasion, for instance, only has one bomb to diffuse at the far end of a 3-tiered screen, but try to get that while enemies are attacking you!  Follow the Leader had a number of clones that would come running after you but they had to copy you first.  The best thing to do was do a lot of random stuff before you started diffusing bombs because they’d have to do the same thing and that would buy you time. One that I really enjoyed was called Mystery Maze: the whole board is invisible and only opens up as you explore it.  To the best of my memory, that board did not have these “tracking bullets” but it was still challenging.  Similarly, Now You See It would have the board toggle between visible and invisible with each bomb diffused; only the ladders remained.  My favorite was Figurit.  This level had the unique quality where, with every bomb you touched, the board would change.  This mission would take a number of attempts to get right but I bet I still remember the order.  Vampire had 3 bats that would track you throughout the board and Dragonslayer was similar to Invasion but with a dragon that you could shoot with an arrow.  But if you missed…

The excitement was ramped up by bonus points.  Complete the mission in a certain amount of time and you’d get extra points; useful for getting that extra life to survive the 30 missions.  Almost every level had one additional challenge: tracking bullets.  Well, tracking might not be the right word.  They’d float out as casual as a walk in the park but the minute they were in line with Jumpman, a gunshot would go off and it would come whizzing towards you.  Luckily, there was enough time to jump… most of the time.  But add that to a falling piece of masonry in Look Out Below or bombs that actually ran away in the aptly titled Run Away and you’d be surprised how hard that actually was!  The levels also had ladders and ropes; ladders sometimes would lose pieces while ropes were monodirectional: an up rope could only be used to go up, for instance.  This would be a lot of fun in a level called Jungle.   I think the hardest mission was called Hailstones, because there were three towers and a handful of hailstones that would fall.  Once they started, you could time it pretty well for the two side towers, but the middle tower was always challenging.

The graphics were typical of 1983 and my pal was not entirely right about the anthropomorphic look of the titular character.  Like the bombs, he was only vaguely human-looking, but that was what we had back then.  I mean, we had Asteroids and Pac-Man.  To actually see a person shaped being running around with moving arms and legs… that explains why he thought the character looked real.  As for the levels… I don’t know what building was set up in this way!  I know my job has setup each floor of our building with a different theme, but that’s “Asian-pacific” vs. “English Pub”, not floating freeze stars (Freeze) and killer roosters (The Roost)!  If only life could be a bit more strange…

As readers know, I like to include a trailer of the games I talk about but I doubted this game ever had one.  Then I had a thought: having never completed the game, I wondered if there was any footage of it.  I often say YouTube might have been one of the best inventions of our lives.  Amazingly, someone compiled all 30 levels with the ending included.  Thanks to DerSchmu for posting this.  I always wondered how his story ended. Finally after nearly 40 years, I get to see it! I hope Jumpman got to go home, relax, and maybe have a family.  ML

This entry was posted in Entertainment, Games, Reviews, Science Fiction and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Jumpman

  1. scifimike70 says:

    The trailer reminds me of how much simpler video games used to be when I was younger. Thanks, ML, for introducing me to Jumpman.

    Liked by 1 person

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