Jazz Jackrabbit is a 1995 side scrolling action platformer for the PC. A Mac version was also released and a re-boot was made for the Gameboy Advance in 2002. It was designed and published by Epic MegaGames who, apart from having the most awesomest name in the gaming world, also produced such classics as Jill of Jungle, One Must Fall 2097 and Unreal. In 1999 they dropped the ‘Mega’ from their name and made Gears of War. So yeah, these guys know how to make games.
Jazz Jackrabbit provided PC gamers at the time with something they had been longing for; Sonic the Hedgehog. The game has no connection with the Sonic universe, but it only takes a few minutes of gameplay to see that Jazz Jackrabbit borrows heavily from the 16bit sonic games. Luckily, it expands greatly on the Sonic model and is much more than a cheap imitation.
For a start, Jack Jazzrabbit can shoot. Not only that but he has a reasonable arsenal at his disposal. Apart from the basic shot, all the other weapons take ammo which must be collected, but this rarely poses a problem as ammo is fuckin’ everywhere in this game. It also helps that a lot of the enemies are huge, slow-moving targets.
The levels are short, like Sonic, and are littered with secret areas full of extra ammo, power-ups and items. And lets talk about the items for a minute. No, the items are only there as a way to collect points, so while they are not crucial to the game, you may be forgiven for making a double-take at some of them. You’ve got your run-of-the-mill gems and carrots, but there are also such oddities as floppy discs and even Super Nintendo controllers. That’s right, Super Nintendo Controllers are on a PC platformer. I wonder if someone got sued over that.
But back to the levels. There are two things I love about the levels in Jack Jazzrabbit. Firstly, I can’t think of a single instance of falling down a pit or hole to my death. Sonic is notorious for these ‘abyss’ traps and the leap-o-faith that has to be perfectly executed in order to avoid them. Another awesome thing about the levels is that every now and then there will be an arrow pointing in the direction you need to go. Now I’m not saying that the game holds your hand, it’s just that in a game with as many secret areas as this one, its easy to lose your bearings and arrows really do come in handy.
Each stage (I think) has a large red diamond to collect. If you finish the game with the red diamond, you get taken to a third person racing-type level. It looks like the ugly cousin of Mario Kart and you’re the only one there. The object is to collect as many carrots and possible. I neither love nor hate these levels, so while I would grab the red diamond if I saw it, I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it, either.
No game is perfect, of course. The biggest gripe I have with Jazz Jackrabbit is its god-damn fucking timer. The levels have a time limit, if you don’t make it to the end before the time runs out, you lose a life. I fucking hate it when games have this, but in Jazz Jackrabbit’s case, it’s not intrusive enough to spoil the super-awesome gameplay. There was a sequel, Jack Jazzrabbit 2, released in 1998 which was essentially more of the same, and a third game, Jazz Jackrabbit 3D, was under development but never completed.