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NFG (Administrator) #1
Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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Subject: Important Games: Jumpman (Atari 800, 1983)
Much like the other Important Game I wrote about (Miner 2049'er) Jumpman is a platform game.  It didn't have the same comedy as Miner, but it made up for it with a similar kind of variety and a rock solid approach. 

[Image: /grafx/games/Jumpman-0.png]

The controls were perfectly honed, this time with a speed and fluidity that set it apart from anything else before or since.  When Jumpman jumped into a platform, he'd wriggle his way to to the top of it, so all you had to do was touch it with any part of your body, and you'd find yourself on top of it quickly.  This was an integral part of the action, as so many jumps were too far to land feet-first.  In addition, a walking fall of more than one platform-height would cause you to die and tumble to the bottom of the screen - you learned to jump.  A lot.

This tumbling often saved the day: while completely uncontrollable and bouncing randomly, if you happened to tumble into the last 'bomb' you were trying to collect, you'd beat the level.  A life was only lost when you hit the bottom of the screen.

[Image: /grafx/games/Jumpman-1.png]
In this level, you couldn't see through the fog until you cleared it yourself. 
A recipe for repeated death!

Every level was different.  Some had enemies, some had a random floating bullet that'd shoot towards you if you were horizontally or vertically aligned with it.  Some levels had ropes, some had ladders, and many of them had level structures that would dis- or re-appear when you collected a bomb.  As is normal for a game of the era, memorizing the hazards and patterns is critical.  Jumpman's thirty levels were more than enough when your pathetic skills made it hard to remember and defeat a level.  If you despaired of ever seeing the later levels, there was a 'randomizer' game mode, where you could play the stages in random order.

The sequel, Jumpman Junior, was more of the same but with an added dose of disdain for the player.  It was much harder, and much more frustrating for it.

[Image: /grafx/games/Jumpman-3.png]
Walking off this height would kill you.  Jumping was safer.

Released originally on the Atari 800, it was ported to all of the popular systems of the time (that'd be the C64, IBM and Apple II). 

Kendrick #2
Member since Oct 2007 · 316 posts
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Jumpman Junior was also famously ported to the Colecovision, which made it impossible to play with the giant grippy 8-way joystick thing. I remember reading somewhere that each Jumpman level constitutes a separate piece of executable code, because each level had slightly different features and functions that didn't carry over into each other. It's easily the game I spent the most time with on the original Commodore, second to the Bard's Tale.
NFG (Administrator) #3
Member since May 2011 · 2485 posts · Location: Brisbane
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You're right about the code, mostly.  No doubt there were re-used elements, but it was not a game that lent itself well to a construction-set kind of system.  This came up during the 2003 development of the Jumpman Construction Kit, when the author (not the original) tried to duplicate all of the functionality of the original game, in order to re-build the original levels.

He said that each level basically had its own rules, and his app kept getting bigger and bigger as he added more and more tools to cope with what the original did.  Pathfinding robots, triggers in all kinds of places with all kinds of effects, falling blocks, chunks of ladders you could carry, bats, fog, hazards that made you jump in random directions, UFOs, falling bombs...  What a bloody great game, eh?  =D

Interestingly, Randy Glover (the original author) created a level for this construction kit.  To no one's surprise it was balls hard, and I could never beat it.  Wish I'd kept a copy of the new program, now that the site's offline...
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