- Jetpac (1992 on Atari ST)
Description official descriptions
Jetman has crash-landed on a distant planet, with ledges suspended in mid-air and populated by various nasties, and he must escape and find his way home. Your first task is to retrieve each of the three parts of his spaceship, in order, and carry them over the base part. After this, you must collect enough fuel to be able to fly away, again by picking it up and dropping it over the ship (you don't have to actually make contact with the ship in doing this). Once you've filled the ship up, you can fly on to the next level, in which you must again refuel.
Each level contains various bad guys, with different attack patterns; you have a laser to shoot them for points, and must avoid contact with them. Diamonds can be collected for bonus points, and you get an extra life after every 10,000 points.
- Jet Pac - Alternative spelling
Credits (ZX Spectrum version)
Average score: 80% (based on 10 ratings)
Average score: 3.8 out of 5 (based on 38 ratings with 4 reviews)
I like the simple, pick-up-and-play gameplay. The controls are simple and responsive, the graphics fairly sharp and quick; generally the whole simplicity.
Like most early games, the difficulty curve is a bit off in that the game starts a tad too hard, too fast. It also suffers from being highly repetitive. The only replay value comes from trying to beat a set high score.
The Bottom Line
This is an early title by Rare Inc. (later responsible for the Donkey Kong series and Nintendo64 gems GoldenEye 007 & Perfect Dark). Interesting to see where their roots lie in this game and others -- they originally programmed arcade machines and this game shows it. Anyway, good simple fun that is OK for a few minutes but gets old fast.
ZX Spectrum · by Tom White (12) · 2004
Contrary to what some people might think, Jetpac was not Ultimate’s debut title. That honor goes to Dingo, an arcade game nobody has heard of. The company decided that arcade titles were not their thing, and started turning their attention to the ZX Spectrum. One of Jetpac’s selling points was its simplicity.
As Jetman, you need to gather parts of your rocket ship and drop them down into your rocket ship. When you manage to get all the parts, you must also get some fuel canisters to power it up. Once you have collected these as well, you then make your way inside the rocket and fly off to the next level. Sounds easy? Think again. Flying through the screen are various nasties that must be avoided at all costs. Items can be collected for bonus points. Originally released for the ZX Spectrum, the game was later ported to the VIC-20 and BBC Micro.
Although using the joystick makes controlling Jetpac much easier, it is good that Ultimate catered to those users without one. The game’s low resolution means that the sprites are quite big, and there are a lot of zingy sound effects as you thrust and blast your way through each level. The animations are very good; I like how the rocket flashes pink to indicate that you can enter it, and the launching of the rocket – complete with thruster engines – is spot on.
The VIC-20 version is quite difficult. You always start each level on the bottom-most platform, which appears to be invisible, and you can’t get up to the higher ones without losing a life, as too many enemies are blocking the way up.
There is also some poor collision detection in some places. When a fuel canister is dropping down, sometimes it won’t connect with Jetman and you are forced to get said canister before another one can appear. There are even times when, while shooting at an enemy, my shot will go straight through it rather than destroying it.
The Bottom Line
Jetpac is a timeless classic that anyone should have in their collection. The VIC-20 version of the game is quite good, but it suffers from its high difficulty and questionable collision detection. Rare’s owner, Microsoft, looked back through Ultimate’s catalog once upon a time and found out that its simplicity was why it was successful, and released a remake only for Xbox 360, leaving PC users to go find one somewhere else.
VIC-20 · by Katakis | カタキス (43051) · 2020
— Fun twist on the basic arcade platformer
— Graphics are simple, but clear and colorful
— Fast-paced and action-packed
— Perfectly responsive controls and fluid performance
— The sound is limited to fart noises
— Limited multiplayer
— Lacking support for peripherals
The Bottom Line
Jetpac is a golden age-style single-screen arcade platformer, with its main twist on the formula being that rather than jumping around you use the namesake jetpack to move around the platforms.
Like in many of the classic arcade platformers you have secondary and tertiary goals. Stranded on the moon you first have to rebuild your rocket, then fill it up with fuel to move on.
Collecting the ship parts and delivering them back to the rocket is made more tricky by the hostile aliens that constantly bounce in from off-screen. Blasting them with your rapid-fire laser and collecting the occasional bit of treasure grants you some extra points as you aim for that highscore. Once you've filled up the rocket you can blast on to the next level, with a new layout and maybe some different baddies to pulverize.
There's some significant momentum to your movement, but it never feels random or overly slippery, but rather makes it fun and engaging to move around the screen.
Unlike many other action titles on the 8-bit micro's, movement is super responsive, and the game blazes ahead at a very fluid pace.
The graphics are very simple – a testament to how early in the Spectrum's life it arrived – but everything is well-drawn and clear, and there's plenty of color, as well as some fancy color cycling effects on lasers and explosions that give the presentation some extra sparkle.
The sound is even more primitive, the beeper making fart-like noises as you blast around, but it works for the game.
Other than in the presentation, the game's age shows in the limited support for peripherals and input methods. The only joystick type supported is the Kempston variant (which also means one joystick max), and keys aren't redefinable, making it possibly a hassle to play if you have some other setup such as the +3's joysticks.
There's basic multiplayer functionality, allowing two players to take turns and compete for a high score. It's a bit of a shame that neither this game or its sequels supported simultaneous multiplayer, as racing a buddy to the next fuel tank or gold bar could have been great fun.
All-in-all, this is a great arcade title that's still tons of fun to play, easy to pick up but endlessly challenging, and fast-moving enough to never get stale. Despite being such an early Spectrum title it's held up as one of the best to grace the platform, and is well worth playing still as even the sequels didn't capture the same simple fun.
ZX Spectrum · by lights out party (73031) · 2020
1001 Video Games
Jetpac appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.
Rare included a version of Jetpac in the Nintendo 64 release Donkey Kong 64. Players could unlock the game by finding 15 banana medals. Taking a picture of 6 Banana Fairies unlocks the game for regular play in the "Mystery Menu" option.
- ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment)
- March 1991 (issue #42) - Included in the list Greatest Games of all Time in category Shoot-'em-ups (editorial staff choice)
- Computer and Video Games
- Golden Joystick Award 1983: Winner Game of the Year
- Retro Gamer
- September 2004 (Issue #8) – #52 Best Game Of All Time (Readers' Vote)
Related Sites +
- MobyGames ID: 14600
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Contributors to this Entry
Game added by Martin Smith.
Game added August 31st, 2004. Last modified August 17th, 2023.