Jazz Jackrabbit - Underrated Classic
Jazz Jackrabbit (1994)
In 1994, when I was four years of age, every month my family would buy "CD-Rom Today," which was a magazine that included with it a CD full of demos of recent games. Even at the age of four, I played a lot of computer games. One such game I can never forget is Jazz Jackrabbit by Epic Megagames. The shareware version of the first Jazz Jackrabbit game only included the first episode. But I played it over and over again, loving the vibrant colors, original characters, and fast-paced gameplay. The game quite obviously borrowed some elements from Sonic the Hedgehog; the game focused on speed excessively, even comparing itself to Sonic in the readme.
In this game, you take command of Jazz Jackrabbit, a space-travelling green hare, who travels from planet to planet in an effort to save the beautiful princess Eva, who he happens to be engaged to. It sounds like a pretty absurd story, but all the elements of the game blend together beautifully. Jazz Jackrabbit, the hero of the game, is madly in love with Eva and much humor ensues in the game's many cutscenes. Jazz's enemy, Devan Shell, has captured Eva. Devan Shell, as you can can infer from his name, is a tortoise.
What many people don't know is this game is where Cliff Bleszinski of Unreal and Gears of War fame achieved mainstream success in the gaming world. He, along with Arjan Brussee, a Dutch programmer were the main coders behind Jazz Jackrabbit.
Jazz Jackrabbit 2 (1998)
In 1998, I found Jazz Jackrabbit 2 in a video game bargain bin. I wasn't even aware that there had been a sequel. So of course I bought the game, considering I loved everything about the first one. Was Jazz Jackrabbit 2 a disappointment to me?
No, it exceeded my expectations in every possible way. Everything about this game was amazing to me. The game was even more colorful, the scenery was ridiculously detailed, the music was insanely catchy. Everything about it was perfect. The game also offered a maximum resolution of 640x480, which compared to the first Jazz Jackrabbit was pretty impressive. You could play as Jazz's brother, Spaz Jackrabbit. A later version of Jazz Jackrabbit 2 was later released, titled Jazz Jackrabbit 2: The Secret Files. This version added more tilesets, and the option to play as Jazz's sister, Lori Jackrabbit. Each different playable character had different abilities which could be used to overcome different obstacles. The game came with Jazz Creation Station, (JCS) which could be used to create your own levels. You could make your own tilesets as well. The possibilities were endless.
The most significant improvement, however, was online play. The online community boasted a fairly strong membership at the time. Many game servers were online at a time. The game's list servers were sponsored by won.net at the time, which helped boost its popularity significantly. You were able to customize the way your rabbit looked, changing the fur and gun color of it. Online play was fun, with their being three main modes of gameplay. Battle, Capture the Flag, and Treasure Hunt. Battle was just straight-up, every man for himself, classic deathmatch. Capture the Flag pitted two teams against each other, scoring points by capturing the enemy team's flag. And finally, in Treasure Hunt, the individual rabbit who collected the set amount of diamonds and then reached the exit-zone of the level was victorious.
Overall, these games have great nostalgic value to me, besides being very polished games. Much of my time has been put into playing JJ2 online, and building levels with the JCS. The only site related to the game that I can find that seems to have a community is Jazz2Online.com. This is apparently the hub of the community these days. Judging from the listservers, however, JJ2 doesn't appear to have too much activity these days. If you've never played either of these great games, I strongly recommend finding a copy of them somewhere. It doesn't appear to be sold in stores anymore though, so I'll leave actually obtaining a copy up to you.
2008 - Nathan Coors