ZX Spectrum cover art
|Developer(s)||Tim and Chris Stamper|
|Publisher(s)||Ultimate Play the Game|
|Platform(s)||ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, Commodore VIC-20|
Jetpac is an arcade-style shooter video game developed and published by Ultimate Play the Game and released for the ZX Spectrum and VIC-20 in 1983. It was also released for BBC Micro in 1984. The game is the first installment in the Jetman series, and is the first game to be released by the Ultimate company, who were later known as Rare. The game follows Jetman as he must rebuild his rocket in order to explore different planets, while simultaneously defending himself from hostile aliens. Jetpac has since been included in a number of other Rare titles such as an unlockable minigame in 1999's Donkey Kong 64 and part of the 2015 compilation Rare Replay. The game was later included in a game compilation on the ZX Spectrum Vega. It later spawned two direct sequels and a 2007 remake, Jetpac Refuelled, which was released for the Xbox Live Arcade service.
The game was written by Ultimate co-founder Chris Stamper and graphics were designed by his brother, Tim Stamper. Jetpac was one of the very few Spectrum games also available in ROM format for use with the Interface 2, allowing "instantaneous" loading of the game when the normal method of cassette loading took minutes. The game was met with critical acclaim upon release, with reviewers praising the game's presentation and gameplay. It later won the "Game of the Year" title at the Golden Joystick Awards in 1983.
The game world is presented in a horizontal wraparound and consists of three platforms which Jetman can maneuver onto. Jetman must assemble his rocket (which spawns in pieces scattered around the map), and then fill it with fuel before taking off to the next planet, where the procedure is broadly repeated with alternate procedures. In addition, the player has to defend themselves from the planet's aliens, and for bonus points collect valuable resources which occasionally fall from above.
After the first level, the rocket stays assembled and just requires refueling. However, every four levels, the rocket resets (giving the player an extra life) and the replacement has to be built before it can be refueled for takeoff. Each new model has a new design with a higher number written on it, although the core gameplay remains unchanged. The enemies change forms each level (cycling back to the first after eight levels) and each alien has a different pattern of movement which means they can be dealt with in a different manner.
Development and release
Ultimate Play the Game was founded by brothers Tim and Chris Stamper, along with Tim's wife, Carol, from their headquarters in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in 1982. They began producing multiple video games for the ZX Spectrum throughout the early 1980s. The company were known for their reluctance to reveal details about their operations and upcoming projects. Little was known about their development process except that they used to work in "separate teams"; one team would work on development whilst the other would concentrate on other aspects such as sound or graphics. While developing Jetpac, the Stamper brothers closely studied the burgeoning Japanese gaming market and had started to practice developing games for their upcoming console, the Famicom, later predicting that the ZX Spectrum had a limited lifespan.
Jetpac was one of the few Spectrum games also available in ROM format for use with the Interface 2, allowing "instantaneous" loading of the game when the normal method of cassette loading took minutes. The game used the common technique of placing planar sprites with image sprites atop another, which often created overlapped colours on both ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro versions of the game. The game was also able to run on the 16K version of the Spectrum.
The game sold a total of 300,000 units for the ZX Spectrum and generated £1 million in revenue for Ultimate Play the Game, which enabled the Stamper brothers to gain a foothold in the early video gaming market. After the game's release, Jetpac was parodied in a long-running Crash comic strip named Lunar Jetman. The strip, designed by John Richardson, lasted from July 1984 to October 1991 and gained popular reception from readers. To develop the comic, photographs had to be processed manually on a photo-mechanical tone and then transferred to paper, later being fully colorized in the late 1980s.
The game was critically acclaimed upon release. Crash praised the graphics and presentation, citing that they were of "the highest standard" and added that it was "difficult to find any real faults" with the game. CVG similarly praised the graphics, stating that the presentation was "superb" and the gameplay was considered addictive. In a retrospective review, Chris Wilkins of Eurogamer noted that the colourful graphics and sound effects were advanced for the time, but what truly made for a "faultless" experience was its simple gameplay.
ZX Computing praised the game's playability and replay-value, stating that Jetpac was "a very well put together piece of software". The game was number one in the first Spectrum sales chart published by CVG. The ZX Spectrum version was voted number 73 in the Your Sinclair Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time in 1993 and was voted the 14th best game of all time by the readers of Retro Gamer for an article that was scheduled to be in a special Your Sinclair tribute issue. The game won the title "Game of the Year" at the 1983 Golden Joystick Awards.
Jetpac's popularity further spawned two sequels, Lunar Jetman (1983) and Solar Jetman (1990). The latter, however, was not released for the ZX Spectrum due to disappointing sales of the original NES version, although a version for the Commodore 64 was finished but never released.
Since its release, Jetpac has been included in a number of other games developed by Rare. The game is playable in Donkey Kong 64, where it could be unlocked to play in Cranky Kong's laboratory after obtaining 15 Banana Medals. Beating Cranky Kong's high score rewards the player with the Rareware Coin, which is necessary to beat the game. The game was retained in the April 2015 Virtual Console rerelease of Donkey Kong 64 on the Wii U, despite the property being technically owned by Microsoft. An enhanced remake of Jetpac, entitled Jetpac Refuelled, was released on the Xbox Live Arcade in March 2007. Microsoft's E3 2015 press conference unveiled the compilation title Rare Replay, which has a selection of thirty games from Rare's lifetime game library, including the original Jetpac and its two sequels and remake, making the Jetman series the most represented in the collection.
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