By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman
he original Jazz Jackrabbit back in 1994 was successful mainly because it was a PC clone of Sonic the Hedgehog. Hey, back in ’94 (jeez…I can’t believe I’m talking like it was ages ago) CDROMs were still gaining popularity, and PC graphics rarely, if ever, managed to look as good as their console counterparts. Jazz Jackrabbit tapped into the market of people who owned computers and didn’t want to buy anything else, but still wanted to play console-style games. I owned Jazz 1, and I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t as good as Sonic the Hedgehog, no matter how much it wanted to be. Jazz 1 had so many similarities to Sonic that it bordered on downright shameless, but hey…like I said…for a PC game, this was innovative.
When Jazz Jackrabbit 2 was announced, I’ll admit it…I groaned. Not because I didn’t want a sequel, but because I had heard it was going to be 2D. Considering that Sonic the Hedgehog has made the leap to 3D on a number of occasions now, you’d expect Jazz to do the same. But the little bugger just didn’t want to, so Jazz 2 is 2D. And what an oddball 2D experience it is.
Okay, let’s get this right out in the open here. Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is one of the weirdest games I’ve ever played. Not because of any particular gameplay innovation (although there are definitely a few there) but actually because it simply feels unlike anything I’ve ever played before. Ready for this? Let’s do it.
Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is a side-scroller that wants to be a first person shooter.
Sound odd? It is. Very odd, in fact. I have no problem saying that Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is the Unreal of platform games (if such a thing is possible). Let’s look some of the features of Jazz Jackrabbit 2: 16 bit color, hardware acceleration, dynamic lighting, scaling, rotation and warping, 32 player multiplayer (including CTF support!) and 12 different weapons, most of which can be powered up. Plus, the game ships with a level editor. What’s going on here? It comes as no surprise whatsoever to me that Cliff Bleszinski helped design both Jazz 2 and Unreal. From the first time you load it up, it’s fairly obvious that this is hardly your average sidescroller.
…at least technically, it’s not. What makes Jazz so bizarre, is that while it has tons of advanced engine features, the gameplay follows the same tried-and-true platform formula. The end result is a very unique and somewhat addicting game that baffles the mind, because while it plays like everything else you’ve ever seen, it looks, and subsequently feels like so much more. There’s really nothing new to be found in Jazz’s overall game design, so instead you get over 30 well laid out levels that unfold in a pretty linear fashion.
The game also has weird sense of humor that sets it apart from other platform games. The whole "idle animation" thing started with Sonic the Hedgehog (at least…I think so) but man…Jazz Jackrabbit 2 takes it to new levels of lunacy. Dopefish fans will be pleased to know that the lovable scamp makes an appearance in one of them, and there are tons more. When you’ve got some time to kill, take your hands off the keyboard, and watch for a while. You’ll get some fun responses.
Like the original Jazz Jackrabbit, the game can be played with a keyboard, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Since it’s a console game, and a 2D one at that, the equipment of choice here is a gamepad. You don’t need one of those fancy 200 button gamepads, any old two button one will do just fine…but if you’re planning on actually playing through the game, I’d strongly suggest picking one up. The game will let you use just about any controller you have, which means if you’ve got a flight-sim style joystick you can use that, although don’t expect to have the smoothest gameplay in the world. Just for the heck of it, I tried Jazz 2 with my Logitech Wingman Formula Force steering wheel…and yep…it worked. Hey…I was curious. :)
The single player game is divided up into five "episodes" (the first of which is available as shareware) each one having a boss, and each one being themed differently. If you didn’t know about it, you’d think that these were all completely disjointed levels with no story tying them all together. Apparently there is, although until I read the instruction manual I had no idea. The intro movie is entertaining, but it doesn’t shed any light on the plot, instead it feels more like the intro to a cartoon show. Jazz looses some points for having no storytelling at all, but then, that’s not really why you’d play this game. Jazz Jackrabbit 2 isn’t really about storytelling, or even its flashy graphics, although lord knows they are flashy. It’s about fun, addicting gameplay, and the occasional laugh. The levels go by fast enough that you’ll find yourself getting addicted in no time (it’s hard not to get addicted to a game that’s not especially frustrating) and after it’s all done you’ll wish you had more, or more likely you’ll place it in the back of your collection, never to be seen again.
Of course, if you find yourself wanting more Jazz action, there’s lots more out there. Sites like Jazz2City have tons of user made levels, and they’re actually pretty fun. Multiplayer is always an option, although I found the whole experience very odd. The problem with Jazz Jackrabbit 2 deathmatch, is that all the players are teeny tiny guys, just like in the single player, but in solo play, you’re not trying to hunt down one particular person. I guess you can blame it all on the fact that I’m not especially good at it, but I didn’t care much for Jazz deathmatch. CTF is pretty cool…odd, since I’m not used to 2D capture the flag, but it’s nice that they stuck it in there.
Pretty much the bottom line regarding Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is that while the game does rely on an old school gameplay model, it manages to pull it off in its own weird way. You’ll get no arguments from me that there are better titles in the genre, but what Jazz Jackrabbit 2 does manage to prove is that console games can still be fun, and they don’t have to be released for the GameBoy to do it.
- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief here at loonygames.
|Credits: Bargain Bin logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Bargain Bin is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited and like, in poor taste, dude.|