Jurassic Park 2
No, this isn't the trailer for some exciting summer blockbuster at the multiplex; it's actually the background plot of Jurassic Park 2, Video 61's interesting new platformer / side-scrolling shooter for the Atari 8-bit computer line (64K minimum).
JP2 is an original game that was, apparently, coded by a Czech software house in an unlicensed "tribute" to a certain storied movie franchise in the mid '90s. It's marginally similar to a number of other dinosaur-themed platformers that appeared on a number of consoles in the early '90s, but relies on background cinematic context more to provide a sense of ambience than it is crucial to understanding gameplay.
This isn't an easy game, and its high degree of difficulty does make it something of an acquired taste, but JP2 can be recommended for being a highly polished and entertaining effort that is a welcome addition to the 8-bit software library.
JP2 is a complicated, modern platformer, and gamers who come to this game with expectations of a simple blastfest should park their assumptions at the door.
Gameplay begins with no useful ammunition or tools, and you are given very low energy levels; you'll be expected to find what you need to survive in the general gaming environment. Unfortunately, the provided instructions really don't tell you what you need to do in order to complete the game, and you'll have to use your well-honed gaming instincts -- and large doses of luck -- to make your way through the game. The dinosaurs in this game are also big, mean, and nasty, and just love to snack on intrepid explorers. Expect to die a lot in this game.
Useful items can be found throughout the game in the satellite dish-shaped objects that can be found on nearly every screen. It's important to explore every one of these receptacles, as some of them contain highly useful ammo or, in the case of keys, tools that you'll need to progress through the game. Players can select desired items and weapons by pressing downward on the joystick, but controls tend to be overly fussy and you'll often find that you've fired one of your precious bazooka shells in the attempt to select a key or diskette.
I've been advised that it is possible to finish the game, although this clearly will be a challenge without invoking any cheats during gameplay. JP2 is a big, long, and tough game, and only the most tenacious player will advance even to the easiest screens of this game.
JP2 features an excellent title screen that is emblazoned with an -- ahem -- unlicensed reproduction of the famous Jurassic Park logo. Unfortunately, only PAL computers will display this screen; it'll just a blob for everyone with NTSC computers.
JP2 was originally programmed for PAL computers on floppy disk and cartridge formats, so a few problems do occasionally pop up during gameplay. Transition to different screens should, for instance, be smooth and fluid, but the screen will occasionally jump, jitter, and shimmy before settling down.
Aside from the occasional graphical glitch, JP2 boasts some of the better graphics to be found in latter-day 8-bit efforts. Your crushed helicopter can be seen at the top of the first screen, and all obstacles, hazards, and vegetation are very finely detailed.
Monster animation is very impressive -- you can actually watch pterodactyls flap across the top of the screen! -- and each of the many different screens have a high degree of graphic detail. Each of the monsters are very distinct from each other, and all of the accessories at the bottom of the screen are nicely detailed.
Gaming detail can be lost in JP2's rather drab colour palette, however; screens are largely limited to dull browns and blues.
Many European games of relatively late vintage have distinguished themselves in the 8-bit library with stunning sound effects and innovative gaming soundtracks, and JP2 -- happily -- doesn't stray from this winning formula by one single note.
Both the "Eurodisco" title song and game soundtrack are uniformly excellent, and will make you think that Giorgio Moroder has been dropped into your 800XL. The music is never intrusive, and the -- count 'em -- five different available soundtracks should provide enough musical variety to satisfy even the most jaded ear. Music can also be muted by pressing "6" at the title screen.
Platformers have both their fans and foes -- and you know who you are -- and any decision to purchase this particular game will probably depend on individual gaming tastes. Even the most vocal opponent of the genre, however, couldn't disagree that JP2 is a particularly well-made title that should provide hours of entertainment to the average gamer. JP2 is also, surprisingly enough, one of the few Super Mario World-type platformers available for the 8-bit line, and kudos should go to Video 61 for recognizing -- and filling -- the very large gap that previously existed in the 8-bit gaming library with this entertaining import title.