by Marcus Estrada
[dropcap]B[/dropcap]ack in the 80s Epyx was a big name in the game development scene. They created many classics which fans still love today – including a little game called Jumpman. This 2D bomb-diffusing platformer was a big success and as such saw a huge amount of ports in subsequent years so everyone could get a taste of this fun, challenging title. Then we saw Jumpman Forever arrive on Kickstarter in 2013. It was a hard fought funding campaign but by the end they just made their $20,000 goal. Although not made by original designer Randy Glover, developer Midnight Ryder Technologies did have the rights so this is effectively an official product.
In 2014 Jumpman Forever launched on both Ouya and PC and it is a tremendous shame. As someone who enjoys a round of Jumpman here and there I fully expected the classic title’s remake to be just fine. But it’s not, and instead it actively tarnishes the fond memories one might have associated with the previous games. At the onset it doesn’t look like this is the case at all. Loading up Jumpman Forever provides a very simple, but pleasing visual aesthetic which is a definite blast to the past. Levels still maintain a very accurate look but can now run in HD resolutions. The bright pixel art is fantastic as well.
It’s the moment you begin playing that it becomes obvious that they floundered by attempting to stay “too authentic” to the source material. Your goal is simply to carefully platform around levels to defuse bombs while avoiding obstacles. Protagonist Jumpman is springy and fast, but is incredibly quick to die. This was always the case, but the modern game turns this from challenge into incredible frustration by not offering precise controls. At multiple times it seemed impossible for me to get him to let go of ladders, leading to too-high death tumbles. On other occasions jumping itself felt out of sync which led to other perilous falls. One thing I never liked about Jumpman was the long falling animations and they’re retained in full here. Honestly, they feel even longer.
The biggest sin any game can make is to have deaths which are not due to poor player skill but do to game-related quirks. That alone is enough of a death sentence for the project to me, but there’s more. A new protagonist named Red was introduced and she’s pretty cool in theory. She can boost up twice as high as Jumpman but can’t stop bombs while they’re shielded. As such, this adds in a new layer of strategy to not only take out bombs in the “proper” order but to be able to time your visits when their shields disappear. Unfortunately, just because you stop everything else doesn’t stop to wait. Those ever-present and meddlesome bullets will continue trying to kill you so you must often abandon a bomb in lieu of saving Red’s hide. The concept is fine but the execution proves unenjoyable.
Then there are the multiple crashes and general lack of polish I’ve noticed while playing Jumpman Forever on PC. The game has inexplicably crashed at different areas of play which makes it hard to determine what exactly the issue is. As for its polish, outside of the graphics and level designs it doesn’t seem much care was put into any other aspect. For example, the tutorial text at the very start includes broken letters and other typographical errors. There’s no doubt that the developers held Jumpman in the highest regard when they made Jumpman Forever but they appear to lack the technical expertise or time required to honor this classic property.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg”]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]