Jet Set Willy

aka: Jet Set Willy 360, Jetset Willie, La Casa de Jack
Moby ID: 14745
Commodore 64 Specs
Conversion (unofficial) Included in See Also

Description official descriptions

Cult hero Matthew Smith followed up Manic Miner with a seminal platform game. Having struck it lucky in the first game, Willy now owns a lavish mansion with over 60 rooms linked together, and must tidy it all before his housekeeper will let him sleep.

Unlike in Manic Miner, here all the rooms can be freely traversed from the start. Each room has its own hazards, such as spikes, guardians (ranging from demonic heads to giant penknives), and ropes which can be climbed and grasped in mid-air. Touching a monster or a stationary hazard, or falling a great distance, causes instant loss of a life and places Willy back at the room entrance.

The route through the house must be navigated carefully, due to the multiple entrances to some rooms - this is perhaps the first action game where mapping is an advantage. Another innovation, to the chagrin of players everywhere, is manual protection - a sheet of colour-coded numbers.

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Credits (Commodore 64 version)

By
Based on the original Spectrum version by
The music was arranged by
Using a method devised by

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 78% (based on 12 ratings)

Players

Average score: 3.6 out of 5 (based on 59 ratings with 2 reviews)

Its JSW, lovingly converted with extra screens on less memory

The Good
A beautiful conversion - with a surprise for those familiar with the 48k Spectrum version- its got about seventeen extra screens, despite being made on a 32k machine. Smooth as any version, Roy Coates converted the original almost faithfully, the extra screens being amongst the best in the game. The in game sound is excellent, the graphics as good as the machine can do- and despite being in BW - it feels like it was well worth the wait for a conversion that feels like an upgrade. Many games of these sort of games work better on the keyboard and suffer from the infinite-death situations (at least if you have cheated to infinite life), and JSW is no exception. It is intriguing to see that this version kept those aspects in both his Manic Miner and JSW conversions- presumably feeling they were part of the charm of the originals.

The Bad
Die, once and keep dying in the same position..annoying now, annoying then.

The Bottom Line
No JSW fan should feel complete will they have played this version.

Dragon 32/64 · by drmarkb (105) · 2015

The quintessential ZX Spectrum game

The Good
The ZX Spectrum had many unique and excellent games - from the lightning fast 3D Deathchase to the sprawling epicness of Where Time Stood Still and the unique art-experience of Deus Ex Machina. However, of all the games which were released for this budget-priced computer, Jet Set Willy is perhaps the most quintessential title of all.

Written by Matthew Smith at the age of 18, Jet Set Willy was the sequel to a popular game called Manic Miner, which itself was inspired by other games such as Donkey Kong and Miner 2049'er. However, where these older titles involved a small set of single-screen levels which had to be played in a fixed order, Jet Set Willy gave the player access to a vast, sprawling mansion which the player was free to roam around and explore at their leisure - arguably, this was actually more fun than collecting the items to complete the game!

To be fair, there had been other games which offered non-linear games, especially in the realm of text adventures, but JSW was essentially the first platformer to offer this level of freedom, and it was certainly the first to offer such a large map. Better yet, there was a strong sense of humour running through the game, starting with a plot which poked fun at the "yuppie" lifestyle which was developing in eighties Britain, and continuing through the surreal layouts and names of the various rooms within the mansion; there's nods to American counter-culture comics, mild jabs at other popular Spectrum games and several visual jokes - in one room, Willy gets turned into a flying pig! And when you die, a Monty Python-esque boot descends from the top of the screen to crush poor Willy!

Then too, there were a number of technical innovations within Jet Set Willy. The use of data-compression to enable the creation of such a large map was one such example, as was the implementation of background music via interrupts. Even the loading screen offered something new, using the Spectrum's "flash" attribute to create an animated image without affecting the loading mechanism. And JSW was also the first commercial game to use a copy-protection mechanism, in the shape of a colour-printed card containing codes which had to be typed in before the game would start.

There are a few other things of note about JSW. For starters, the original release was bugged and impossible to complete. Initially, the publisher claimed that this was a "feature", but later on sent the details of a fix to some of the leading computer magazines at the time, making Jet Set Willy the first ever commercial game to receive a post-release patch...

Later on, a magazine published a type-in which could be used to create a new room for players to find and explore. So Jet Set Willy is also perhaps the first ever commercial game to have a third-party mod published for it!

The Bad
Aside from the aforementioned bug, there's a few issues with Jet Set Willy. The gameplay is very much focused around pixel-perfect jumping, and there's a few areas (e.g. the Banyan tree) which are virtually impossible to pass.

However, the only unforgivable flaw lies in the two facts that Willy will always respawn at the point where he appeared on the screen, and he dies if he falls too far. It's possible therefore to get irretrievably stuck in a death loop, where Willy keeps falling to his doom until he runs out of lives!

The Bottom Line
Groundbreaking, heavily quirky, slightly flawed and playing to both the strengths and weaknesses of the host hardware, Jet Set Willy is one of the greatest video games ever made.

ZX Spectrum · by Jamie Mann (17) · 2015

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Jet Set Willy appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Author

The author of Jet Set Willy wrote the game and its predecessor Manic Miner before he was 18.

Conversion Differences

The Amstrad version of Jet Set Willy was the original official expansion of Jet Set Willy by Software Projects. This expansion was written by Derrick P. Rowson and Steve Wetheril, and contains 132 rooms. This expanded version is the basis of Jet Set Willy II: The Final Frontier.

As a way of compensating Dragon owners for the absence of colour, the programmer added 13 extra rooms. However the rooms are not easily found.

Copy protection

As ZX Spectrum games were distributed on audio cassettes, piracy was a major concern. Jet Set Willy was the first game in the world to feature copy protection, in the shape of codes (printed on a coloured card) which had to be typed in after loading the game.

Game patches

The original release of Jet Set Willy was buggy - entering The Attic led to memory corruption, and the game would crash if the player subsequently entered The Kitchen! Initially, the publisher claimed that this was a feature, but later released a fix, making Jet Set Willy one of the first commercial games to have a patch produced.

Mods

Approximately a year after Jet Set Willy was released, the computer magazine Your Spectrum published a type-in which added an extra room to the game. This was perhaps the first third-party mod ever released for a commercial game.

Music

The music playing in the background is If I were a Rich Man from the US Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, first performed in 1964.

Unreleased Conversions

Circa 1989, Paul Taylor and Carl Whitwell worked on an Atari ST conversion of this game for Software Projects -- late enough in the title's life that the painstaking port (disassembled code read off the Spectrum's monitor and typed into the Atari's keyboard, screen data dumped as hex and dictated to a typist) was never released to the commercial market. During the same period Shahid Ahmad worked on an Amiga port that met a similar fate of obscurity.

Awards

  • ACE (Advanced Computer Entertainment)
    • February 1991 (issue #41) - Included in the list Greatest Games of all Time, section Platform-based Games (editorial staff choice)
  • Happy Computer
    • Issue 04/1985 - #3 Best Game in 1984 (Readers' Vote) (Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum version)
  • Retro Gamer
    • October 2004 (Issue #9) – #7 Best Game Of All Time (Readers' Vote)
    • May 2007 (Issue 37) - #6 in the "Top 25 Platformers of All Time" (poll)
  • Zzap!
    • May 1985 (Issue 1) - #5 'Ten tackiest top-sellers'

Information also contributed by PCGamer77 and Pseudo_Intellectual.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Martin Smith.

Commodore 64 added by B.L. Stryker. iPhone, BBC Micro, iPad, Electron added by Sciere. Windows Phone, Tatung Einstein, Commodore 16, Plus/4, Memotech MTX, Xbox 360 added by Kabushi. Atari 8-bit added by subjugator. Atari ST, Dragon 32/64 added by Игги Друге.

Additional contributors: Sciere, Alaka, Игги Друге, formercontrib, Patrick Bregger, mailmanppa, piltdown_man, Derrick P Rowson, Karsa Orlong, S Olafsson, Jo ST, FatherJack, Jamie Mann.

Game added September 12, 2004. Last modified May 5, 2024.