Jungle Hunt / Atari 1983
Screenshots: play/stop

Jungle Hunt started life as being called Jungle King when it was released in the home country of Japanese-based Taito Corp. in August 1982. The main character, controlled by the player, was a very much copyrighted Tarzan-like character, complete with knife and loincloth. At the start of the game, he even bellowed a (low-quality) sampled Tarzan yell that Taito had obviously stolen from a film or the TV series.

In October of the same year, when Taito decided to release the game in America and the rest of the world, however, they knew that the Tarzan character had to go, so they renamed the game to Jungle Hunt and replaced the main character with a stereotypical English hunter, with safari hat, khaki shorts and monocle. Both games, however, had the same gameplay. Basically you had to rescue a blonde girl (presumably Jane in the Jungle King version, but a hunting team member in the remixed game) from the local cannibal tribesmen who are lowering her into a cooking pot. To get to the damsel in distress, however, involves travelling into the jungle, which just happens to conveniently divide itself into four stages.

On the first stage, you have to use vines to swing through the trees. Each of the vines are swinging at a different speed, though, so you have to time it right to be able to leap from one vine to the other. To make things worse, after level 1, there are also monkeys that try and throw you off the vines, so you have to leap from the vine before they get to you. If you miss a vine or get thrown off by a monkey, you fall to the ground and lose one of your three lives.

Once you've leapt through the trees, you dive into the lake. Time for some swimming! You have to swim through the lake, using your trusty knife to kill any attacking alligators, and trying to avoid the air bubbles that some of the plant life creates. You must also remember to rise to the surface of the lake at frequent intervals, too; otherwise you'll run out of air and another life is lost.

There's no time to rest once you've gotten to the other side of the lake: it's time to run up the hill towards the cannibals' home. They're aware of your rescue, however, so they roll rocks down the hill towards you. You must avoid the rocks by either jumping over them (for more points) or, if they bounce high enough, ducking under them.

You're finally at the cauldron that "Jane" is being lowered into. She's on the left, you're on the right... and there's two spear-jabbing tribesmen in the way. You have to time it just right to jump over the two tribesmen and then jump at our damsel to save her. Once you've done that, our hero gets a kiss from the lovely blonde... and then, because she's blonde, she goes and gets herself caught again, and you have to do the whole thing again, only it gets harder.

The Commodore 64 version was programmed by AtariSoft. At first this sounds weird that the Commodore's nearest rival would want to program games for the C64, but Atari weren't stupid: firstly, it was a different entity within the company, and secondly, they knew they could make a lot of money by writing programs for as many systems as possible.

Unfortunately, they didn't do a particularly good job of the conversion. It's mainly the gameplay that lets it down. Firstly, it judders like nobody's business. There's no smooth scrolling to be seen, and it can cause a headache if you look at it for too long. Also, the timings are completely different from the arcade game; so obviously the Atari team weren't privy to an actual arcade game to copy the details from. This is especially frustrating in stage 3 (with the rocks rolling towards you) because the rocks just don't behave the same way that they do in the arcade game. If you've never played the arcade version, however, this won't cause too much of a problem.

The music is missing from the game, too. Admittedly, there wasn't a lot of it, but the stage 1 music was particularly rousing and hero-like in the arcades and it would have been nice to have heard it on the '64 too; but instead we just get some spot SFX here and there - just your basic noise and triangle waveforms but they do their job at telling you that something has happened.

The graphics are mediocre at best; the standard Commodore ASCII set is used for all lettering, the main hunter character looks like a stick figure with a big hat on and all the moving graphics are a lot smaller than their arcade counterpart - presumably to fit them into one sprite rather than having to waste two or three. The vegetation of the jungle is messy - but I guess this works in a way because vegetation IS messy - but the juddery scrolling, as mentioned earlier, makes the graphics look worse than they probably are.

All in all, this game doesn't have a lot going for it. It wasn't Taito's biggest hit, and the conversion doesn't do a lot to make it any better. But, if you like your games to involve timing and blondes in distress, you could give Jungle Hunt a whirl - there are worse games out there.

Reviewed by Boz.

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