Saturday, May 14, 2011

Leaping with Jumpman, into obscurity.

You know me, I love myself some obscure platformer games.
Back in the late 1990's, I stumbled upon the shareware version of a platforming game entitled Jumpman Lives. It had twelve levels, with each level having some new feature possibly not seen before. After some time, I got a plug-n-play C64 unit that had Jumpman Jr; the sequel to an title I had never known about, then when I began researching stuff (thanks Wikipedia), I found out more about the Jumpman games.

Basically, the original, released in 1983 mainly for the Commondare 64, was a platformer where you controlled a pale white figure with a red shirt and magenta pants, collecting bombs (but I called them cereal pieces due to their "O" shape.) on Jupiter. Yea. Jupiter. Apparently there's a fraction of Jupiter that's habitable with green girders and blue ladders, and it also has flying white squares that latch out at you, and even missiles that come out of nowhere. Sure it didn't make sense, but of course it worked, and it was pretty addicting.

They had a shorter but much more difficult sequel entitled Jumpman Jr, which had twelve completely new levels but still had the same basic principles and objectives as the original.

Then came the one I was most familiar with; Jumpman Lives!. This one was unofficial and released only on PC (DOS to be exact), and had levels that previously existed in the two only-existing predecessors, as well as some new exclusive levels to this version. The shareware version only goes through the first 12 levels while the full version does what you'd expect: giving you the full-length game and probably one of the most confusing and difficult-to-use level editors ever. Trust me. I've never figured it out in the entirety of my life.

Though one fatal thing I have to address was that the last time I played Jumpman Lives!, the controls were unresponsive and sloppy as f$%k. If you want to try this one out, you can grab a download of the title here, but don't come crying to me if your controls are screwed.

During the remainder of the nineties and from 2000-2005, several other Jumpman-related games and remakes also surfaced, with one of them being Jumpman Zero, which gave Jumpman a new rolling ability to help survive those long vertical drops, and thus prevent his legs from being broken. Jumpman 2 and Jumpman 2049 were two other Jumpman games that were being worked on at the time, but they never saw the light of day and both were canceled. The only one that was actually easy to instal and play was Jumpman: Under Construction, an effort to re-create the original game(s) and also provide an engine for one to make their own Jumpman games from scratch. Unfortently, development stopped only after the third public beta was released in Christmas of 2003, and afterwards, the forums where you could download level packs by other users also went down. But thankfully the site itself is still intact, so you can download it and (try to) create up some levels (And if you can figure out the "appearing/dissapearing platforms upon collecting a bomb" gimmick out, then you're golden).

It's sad to see one of my longtime favorite series bite the bullet at the last second. More or less, I'd wish Chris Leathley, developer of Under Construction, or someone else whom has privileges to the game would just step in and complete the editor, make some things easier to put in (like pre-loaded dragon textures), add more features, and just overall finish up the project with fully-working Jumpman/Jr./Lives! levels recreated down to the finest detail. Please Chris, seven years is more than enough.

1 comment:

Clark Kent said...

You are right! I've been looking for "Jumpman Under Construction" related stuff for years. The forum moved 2006 or so from one server to another but both forums disappeared some time later. There can absolutely not found anything about it anymore (and I searched a lot, even with the wayback machine). Chris does not reply to any mail, almost like he would be dead (but new FuturePinball versions - another project from him - are released now and then). One chance remains: what about Randy Glover? If we can contact him we would find out what happened as he was involved in this project...