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Jammin

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Released: 1983

Genre: Puzzle

Format reviewed: Commodore 64

Publisher: Taskset

Developer: Taskset

Just look at that screen. You can almost smell the herbs. Those famous Rastafarian hues of red, gold, green and erm, blue creating a technicoloured patchwork, like a quilt stitched by a ganja-toking granny.

But you really need to see Jammin’ moving to experience the full headache. Those strings of circles are conveyor belts that carry your high-fiving hero Rankin’ Rodney around the screen and later levels can become a seizure-inducing mass of blinking, interlaced colour. Even with his distinctive wobbling dreadlocks, it’s easy to lose Rodney in the blur. Yet concentration is crucial.

You can only move to another space of the same colour (the multicoloured diamonds conveniently allow you to hop off anywhere), and therefore you must carefully plan your route around the jigsaw, as you attempt to return the four instruments to the centre of the screen.

And of course, you really need to hear Jammin’ playing. The music is cleverly constructed, with drums continuously throbbing in the background, which are joined by a bass line when you jump onto the belts. Pick up the guitar, sax, keyboard or trumpet and a glorious melody kicks in, giving you the full sound and turning you into a head-nodding hero. This building up of the music in layers makes me think of an embryonic Rez and the way the tune goes wonderfully off-key when the rubber-legged thief nicks your instrument has echoes of PaRappa The Rapper, another game with a unique rhythm to its action.

Those Taskset boys were certainly forward thinking and this is typical of their leftfield approach to game design (Retro Gamer has a ‘Making Of’ on their most famous creation in the pipeline). Special credit to Taskset’s coder Tony ‘Gibbo’ Gibson, the mind behind Jammin’ and its sequel, as well as other inspired oddities such as the alcohol-fuelled Bozo’s Night Out, Seaside Special with its political seaweed flinging and the street-smart Ghetto Blaster. If you’re reading this Tony, please get in touch. We’ll bring the tunes, you bring the tales…

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