Posted in PS1
As time moves forward things that were fresh and new at one period can fall out of fashion the next. With video games there’s often a direct relationship to technological advancements that marks the transition from popular to passé. It could be argued for instance, that the concept of a high score lost relevancy as the growing console market shrank Arcades out of existence taking the nomenclature with it. Even now with this current generation of consoles we can mourn the loss of something as stalwart as the “Start” button. Of course the opposite is true as well, there are things that simply “just work”. It’s why RPG leveling progression is - like it or not - leaking into almost every other game genre.
Jumping Flash! came out right when consoles were making their way to 3D. This was 1995 and Mario 64 - arguably the first to get 3D Platforming right - wouldn’t be out for another year. Jumping Flash! has a creative approach to platforming in a 3D world. If it wasn’t made clear by the title the game is driven by the jumping mechanic. As a robotic rabbit named Robbit, you take giant leaps and bounds across each level’s landscape . Collect all four JetPods in a level and move on to the next as you work your way towards defeating the game’s antagonist who has ripped out chunks of your world to create a floating Resort in space. It’s hard not to find something liberating about being so spring loaded you can jump to the top of a skyscraper in a single bound. The game also cleverly avoids the issue of invisible walls which still plague modern games, by marooning you on tiny planetoid who’s edges spell death.
But where Jumping Flash! works with it’s sensation of aerial feats it also shows it’s age in other aspects. The controls are awkward, we’re talking 1995 and the dual shock wouldn’t come around till the end of 1997. Forward and backward movement are locked to the D-Pad. You can only turn when going forward which makes backing up when you land on the edge of a ledge cumbersome. Also looking up and down is curiously tied to the right trigger, you have to hold it down and use the up and down D-Pad to look in those directions. This design choice means you can’t look around and move at the same time. The game attempts to solve the problem of looking by making the camera point down whenever you jump, but it feels like a solution to a problem the games own controls introduce.
The issues with looking are especially noticeable on the few stages that don’t emphasize jumping and instead place you in a dungeon like environment where obstacle avoidance becomes key. A map is thrown in on each level to make scanning the environment a little less necessary. With how hard it is to maneuver your vision firing your weapon at enemy’s is almost pointless. Once more another design choice is added to solve this problem: special weapons. Bottle rockets, roman candles, cherry bombs and spinners can unleash a torrent of annihilation. Special weapons more effective and so plentiful that they make attempting to stand still and aim at your enemies rather useless.
That’s not to say that this game is all bad. The music is by Takeo Miratsu is great. Levels are clean colorful environments avoiding the muddy brown graphics that painted other games from the same time. Exploring the levels is a fun albeit short experience with a total of only 18 levels. Your first play through won’t take more than 2 hours. The game offers it’s most challenging element in the form bonus stages not required beyond collecting more power ups and growing your score. There is a new game plus that shortens the length of time available per level and moves the location of Jetpods. You can unlock a mode that lets you jump a ridiculous six times, as well as run and power slam downwards. Why they didn’t include the running and slam to begin with is a head scratcher because by the time you get these moves you’ve already completed the game.
There are elements of an entire console that can qualitatively over shadow it’s library of games. The PlayStations jaggy textures and tiny resolution make it less palatable to modern gamers eyes over time. From a strictly polygonal perspective it’s like comparing an Atari 2600’s 2D to a 16-bit consoles era graphics. However, timeless games can still cut through these limitations and shine. Unfortunately for me Jumping Flash! just isn’t one of those games.