Wednesday 28 October 2015

Jetpac (ZX Spectrum review)

Developer: Tim and Chris Stamper
Publisher: Ultimate Play the Game
Released: 1983

Jetpac is a single-screen shooter that was also released on the BBC Micro and the VIC-20.

Your objective is to assemble a rocket by collecting the pieces scattered around the level and then add six fuel pods to launch off to the next planet. The rocket only requires fuel for four levels but does eventually break apart and you must repeat the initial steps. Gems, elements and gold items can also be picked up for bonus points but they're usually in close proximity to the never-ending supply of aliens that try to kill you. The joystick (or keyboard) is used to move your character around the environment and by pushing Up you can use your jetpack to increase altitude. The fire button shoots your Laser Phaser and a nice feature of the latter is that you can hold it down for rapid fire. In some ways it's like a non-scrolling version of Defender (1981, Arcades) with its twitch style gameplay, and the constant need to access each situation with speed and accuracy makes for some fun shooting action. The collision detection is spot-on, the controls feel fluid and precise movements are easy to pull off. The play-field wraps around so you can fire out one side of the screen and the bullets will continue onto the other side; this comes in handy and means that you can watch your back when lots of enemies surround you. Although there are a few enemy types that become smarter as you progress the level design is sparse with only one layout. The SFX are a low-point as they're generally of low quality and the weak explosions sound more like someone passing wind!

Jetpac is an awesome shooter with fun gameplay, perfect controls and a steadily increasing difficulty curve. Although it's hugely enjoyable its main flaw lies in the lack of stage layouts as a few more designs would have easily pushed it into the top-tier of its genre.

Random trivia: A sequel called Lunar Jetman was released on the ZX Spectrum in 1983 and on the BBC Micro in 1984.

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