Reviewed: April 4, 2007
Released: March 28, 2007
When people think of the famous software developer, Rare, a lot of games can come to mind. For some it might be more recent Xbox 360 titles like Perfect Dark Zero, the long awaited sequel to the smash hit from the Nintendo 64 or perhaps the addictive and under appreciated - Viva PiŮata, currently the only game of itís type on this console. For others it might be some of the highly successful Nintendo games they were involved in, like Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie or the notorious Conkerís Bad Fur Day. But for more, the name Rare is synonymous with one game and one game only, the undeniable mega-hit, GoldenEye 007, the legendary shooter that proved that even consoles could have a first person classic.
Whatever your thoughts on the company, itís undeniable that Rare is responsible for some legendary games Ė and while there are many other studios out there that have created games that appeal more specifically to me, Iím not fool enough to ignore the contributions this developer has made to the industry Ėand neither was Microsoft, purchasing Rare in 2002 for a mere $375 million dollars.
Like most game developers, Rare began like everyone else, at the bottom - and with this XBLA release weíre treated to a re-imagining of the companyís first creation. A PC game simply entitled Jetpac. At the time, it may have been a fantastically innovative game, but I really couldnít say, back in 1983 computers were something to be feared in my eyes, and not the staple of every day life like they are today. Regardless of this fact, the game was a success, the company endured. Today Jetpac is back, in its original glory, but this isnít just Jetpac, this is Jetpac Refuelled as well.
While it may not seem like it when you look at the screenshots, and while the object of the game may be completely different, Jetpac Refuelled reminds me an awful lot of the arcade classic Joust, at least from a control standpoint. With the press of a button, you ignite the fuel within your jetpack and you have lift-off. While the button in pressed, youíre constantly ascending with vertical propulsion. If you want to go down, you simply turn off the jets and let gravity take over. Just like Joust, control is key and keen thumbs to control your movements are vital. If youíve played Joust even once in your life, youíll totally understand how this game operates.
The object of the game is to use your jetpack to fly around the level, negotiating platforms in order to gather and assemble the pieces of your spacecraft. Once your ship is all on once piece, you then have to collect 6 fuel tanks that randomly drop from the sky into the game grid. Collect enough fuel tanks and the ship is ready for lift-off. You then move on to a new level, on a new planet and usually with new enemies. All this so you can refuel once again and continue your lengthy and challenging trek through space.
As I mentioned, there are various enemies throughout the course of the game, but fortunately, like any jetpack-wearing astronaut, youíve got advanced weaponry at your disposal. Thereís the standard straight shot laser, another that shoots ahead, as well as up, and finally a spread laser. The spread shot doesnít have the greatest range, but works well to make moving up and down a lot safer when the screen gets thick with enemies. If the screen gets too busy, which it often does, you can fire off a smart bomb/emp weapon that clears the screen and give you a little breathing room. While few of the enemies are difficult to defeat, itís their increasing numbers and crazy movement patterns that will keep you challenged. Fortunately, over the course of the gameís rock solid 128 levels, you reach regular checkpoints every 4 levels so you can continue your game at a later date.
For the most part the concept of the game is quite simple, the controls are spot on, and the fun factor is right up there with the best of XBLA. For those who need a little more entertainment, thereís a 2-player mode thatís playable online and off, in which players compete to build their rockets as quickly as possible and blast them off in order to reach the highest score.
If thereís one complaint I have about Xbox Live Arcade multiplayer, itís the difficulty in finding an online opponent. More often than not, there are tons of matches available for the first few weeks after a new game hits the marketplace, but after that, finding a match can become quite a chore. Itís seems that players quickly lose interest in these basic games and move on to something else. While the online functionality is great, itís unfortunate that no-one continues to play them.
In addition to the 128 levels and usual achievements within the new and improved Jetpac Refuelled, players are also treated to the 16 levels of the original classic. While itís neat to see the game that inspired this excellent re-imagining, chances are few players will really play it more than a couple times. It serves as nothing more than a dull history lesson and a weak curiosity for itís successor.
Taking advantage of the 360ís considerable power, Jetpac Refuelled not only offers a beautiful upgrade over the original, but a unique and flashy visual experience as well. With great particles effects and brilliant, vibrant colours dancing about the screen, it can sometimes make you think of a fireworks show, or maybe that other XBLA game we all know and love, Geometry Wars. Well maybe Geometry Wars mixed with a little Boom Boom Rocket.
Itís hard to describe the game without seeing it in action, but it really doesnít have a great visual style. The main character and the different enemies are flat 2D designs, but theyíre nicely detailed and animated despite their simplicity. The various worlds usually comprise colourful mountainsides with large alien colonies built upon the horizon. The visuals are rounded out with radiant skies that are bright and equally colourful, with florescent nebulae, large planets and twinkling stars throughout. Stylistically speaking, everything is very basic in Jetpac Refuelled, but nicely executed as well. Itís a crisp and clean presentation thatís a delight to look at.
The best part of this game has to be the brilliant visuals effects. Your weapon fires out glowing laser blasts and the EMP explosion thatís used to clear away enemiesí looks fantastic as it warps the screen. It reminds you of how a rock might ripples the water of a silent lake. The launching and landing of your spacecraft is also impressive with glowing orange flames and billowing black smoke pouring out of the engines. Simply put, you would never think such a simple idea for a game could look so visually stunning; itís a nice accomplishment.
While the space themed, techno sound track can get a little repetitive with time, it suits the game nicely. Itís upbeat, interesting and a perfect fit. Now if only there were a few different tunes to go along with it, I might be a little happier. Still, with a game like this, any custom soundtrack will do.
The sound effects are also well done, with zapping lasers, sizzling victims, and roaring rocket ships. While the variety of sound effects are limited, there neither annoying or out of place.
The best thing about this arcade release is while other developers, like the creators of Frogger and Time Pilot gave us visual enhancements overlaid on the original game code, Rare chose to take the original idea and completely remake it with a little modern flair. The concept of the game is the same, but thatís where the similarities end. To compare the original and the update would be foolish, because itís truly a whole new experience.
We all know there are tons of classics out there, but sometimes a direct port just isnít enough to capture the imagination of a player like it might have 15-20 years ago. Rare got everything right with Jetpac Refuelled Ė a classic formula with a fantastic modern edge, this is how itís done, and thus, fully warrants the small download price of 400 marketplace points. Take note developers, this is how you release an old title to a new audience.
Iíve played Joust a millions times and have never been particularly good at it. Jetpac Refuelled is similar in many ways, but far more enjoyable for a number of reasons. Maybe itís the explosive beauty and color of it all, itís really is a visual delight, itís true eye-candy. Not only that, but it plays great, itís fun and itís extremely challenging, but thankfully, even with all the challenge, itís nice enough to give us a checkpoint feature so we can pick it up and continue the game later on.
At the end of the day, this is a great addition to the Xbox Live Arcade library, and a wonderful example of what a game developers can do to update a classic idea if they chose to. For the same price as a tired old game like Pac-man, itís hard not to see the value and appeal of this title in comparison. Itís a great release with great value, give it a try.