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Jet Set Willy

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Released: 1987

Genre: Adventure

Format reviewed: Atari 8-bit

Publisher: Tynesoft

Developer: Tynesoft

Submitted by: Ian Marks

I’ve been getting quite into the Atari 8-bit scene recently. It was a computer I was jealous of in the early eighties. My friend Guy had one, and it was brilliant. Now through the wonders of eBay and jumble sales I have an Atari 400 and an Atari 65xe of my very own, and I love them. Brilliant times can be had playing Star Raiders, Pitfall, Defender and many, many more quality titles. Atari owners were spoilt, and I’m guessing that what they didn’t want in 1987 was a vastly inferior port of a ZX Spectrum polluting their machine… that game was Jet Set Willy.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Jet Set Willy. That game defines my gaming childhood. On the Spectrum it is a masterclass (well apart from the bugs obviously) of how to write a great game. Jet Set Willy is brilliant, better than brilliant, but not on the Atari.

Why does the Atari version fail, well for quite a few reasons. Firstly Miner Willy is quite an iconic character. He looks the same on all the other conversions, so why not on the Atari… here he looks like he’s been stretched on a medieval rack, as he seems to have developed very long limbs. Sadly he hasn’t learnt to animate these limbs properly, and he flickers and jerks about the screen.

More seriously the key aspect of why Jet Set Willy was such a great game is missing, the pixel perfect jumps and collision detection. These are eschewed for some reason in favour of a demented jump, and some really shonky death scenes.

Together these two things conspire to scupper Atari Jet Set Willy. It doesn’t look right, and it doesn’t play right. There can be no more serious accusations than those. Miner Willy should have stayed away from the Atari, which is a shame because it should have been his inspirational home, what with Miner 2049 originating there.

If you have never played Jet Set Willy then play it on a Spectrum, or a C64, or an Amstrad CPC, but on no account judge the game by its Atari incarnation… that just wouldn’t be fair.