Jazz Jackrabbit is a game platformer developed in 1994 by Epic MegaGames for PC (MS-DOS). It was clearly inspired by Sega’s Sonic: The Hedgehog but it itsn’t just a clone.
- Fast paced gameplay but this isn’t just Sonic:
- Ranged shooting and refillable life bar, like Megaman or Metroid.
- Level layout isn’t so straightforward than in Sonic.
- Many episodes. Every episode is composed by planets (worlds/stages) with a theme. Those planets are divided in levels (same as Sonic acts). There are usually 2 levels by planet (3 when there is a boss combat).
- Bonus level minigame (free movement 3D, similar to Sonic 3 bonus levels, but not same and with corridors).
- There are many Powerups.
- There are two ways of playing this game:
- Running quickly, shooting-spamming.
- Slowly but picking up all objects and searching for secret places.
- The music is cool.
- Secret zones across the levels.
- Sprite graphics are simpler than in Sonic. Actually, far worse.
- Gameplay is a bit simple for an adult player. There is no much to it other than shoot and run.
- Game pacing is a bit arbitrary, just some examples:
- You can get speed boots but there is a secret on your way, so you must stop and waste the boots or skip it.
- You may want to go quick but, sometimes, there are too much hassles and things blocking your way.
- Bosses can be spam-shoot to death and there is only one boss per episode.
- Fake sliding physics on ice.
- Super-speed is cool but it’s hard to control, which makes it annoying on some cramped places of the levels. It’s also too fast so makes it hard to react.
- The bonus level, because of the corridor design and bad controls.
This game also shares some flaws with The New Zealand Story:
- Bad contrast in some level background and enemies. Of course, that makes harder to react there unless you memorize the level or spam the blaster, or both.
- The game level is slightly confusing and sometimes there are no-go-back zones, so it’s difficult to get all items/secrets.
Why to play?
If you like fast-paced platformers like Sonic, this game could be for you. If you like other ranged shooting platformers, like the mentioned Megaman or Metroid, Jazz might be good for you too.
Just keep in mind that this game not the same as those mentioned:
- This is classic platforming so it isn’t a metroidvania. No room-crawling.
- This is fast-paced but it isn’t Sonic, you don’t go bouncing on things.
If you understand that, there is no reason to try it.
How to acquire
You can just buy a bundle of Jazz Jackrabbit with the original CD (9 episodes), plus the Holiday Hare 95 episode, in gog.com. If you find it out on discount the price can go as low as $2.49. In any case, you can just download it shareware and try it.
Version / Platform
I’m reviewing the CD-ROM version of the game in the bundle released in gog, but I also played the vanilla the game and it’s shareware.
To understand the future for Jazz Jackrabbit, I think the best thing I could do is to just review the sequels and “remake” to know what happened with them.
Jazz Jackrabbit 2
There is a sequel for Jazz Jackrabbit, which was just numbered “2”, lucky us. It was released on 1998.
The sequel was released on 1998 with better graphics, multiplayer and it solved some gameplay issues. Sadly, they added annoying sound effects and the soundtrack is also worse.
This game established the saga but also died with it. Why? The game sales weren’t very good, even if the first game has been very popular. The reason for this might be:
- The game came just too late. It may be a good title for 1994 or 1995, but 1998 isn’t the best time for an old-school platformer. 1998 players would like a 3D platformer. Or something new.
- Maybe bad marketing and distribution by Epic Megagames?
Jazz Jackrabbit 3
Aka Jazz3D, this sequel was canceled in year 2000 during development (because lack of publishers after Jazz Jackrabbit 2 failure). The game incorporated some interesting ideas that inclined the game to the metroid-like side. Maybe it could work, but again they should be releasing it on 1996 or 1998.
On the other way, Jazz was all about going fast. 3D and shooting, sure, but it should be fastpaced.
Jazz Jackrabbit 1 (GBA, 2002)
Yes, Jazz Jackrabbit was released with that name for GBA. But this wasn’t a really a remake. The only thing in common is the game title and a hare shooting turtles. It seems they totally forgot what it made Jazz 1 interesting. A tip: no, it wasn’t the hare ears.
To be honest, if they’re going to make this again, it’s better they just let the IP die. Well, they actually did.
Jazz Jackrabbit Saga
That should explain it. There is not future for Jazz Jackrabbit unless they manage to remake or just reinvent the game while keeping the essence of Jazz 1 & 2, which is unlikely.
Games like Jazz Jackrabbit
- Sonic: The Hedgehog (Sega MD). It’s unlickely you don’t know this game if you know Jazz Jackrabbit. And impossible after reading this review.
- Jill of the Jungle. It was published two years earlier by Epic Megagames and it’s good. Puzzle driven. It’s freeware.
- Xargon. The Apogee title that competed against Jill. Freeware and worth playing.
- The New Zealand Story (NES). Various weapons to shoot with and there is something like the hoverboard.
- Megaman 5 (NES). I must mention this.
- Super Metroid. Also, this deserves mention.
Sonic was a superior game in the technical side, as Jazz only had better soundtrack. But I just enjoyed more playing Jazz than Sonic back on the day.
- Carrot: to recover health.
- Diamond: to unlock bonus level.
- Shield and force shield: 2 and 4 strength protection respectively.
- Speed Boots: very fast movement.
- Hoverboard: to ignore gravity.
- Invulnerability (sparks).
- Attacking familiar: seems a parrot, but I don’t doubt about its magic nature.
- Jazz: extra live.
- Fire rate up and speed up.