Shareware was, and is, a popular method of distributing a game. I’ve covered such games like Spacewar and Flightmare, both being fun, challenging shareware games that over 25 years later still entertain, even with limited graphics and sound. I’ll add another this week to fill your 1.44 Mb floppy with. JumpJet, by Monte Variakojis.
Jumpjet has you in control of a Harrier Jumpjet.. those bad-ass jets that can take off vertically or horizontally. You’re armed with unlimited missiles, and have a few missions to complete. They are surprisingly varied, from destroying flying B-52 bombers, shooting up stationary oil tanks, and bizarrely, the flying head of Hannibal Lecter. You’ll also face some tanks and an endless fleet of enemy planes trying to kill you throughout each mission. It’s rather interesting that there is ‘gravity’ in this game, as your missiles don’t fly straight, but actually drop to the ground over time. Yay physics!
Thank god by 1990 we stopped having to deal with “4 Color CGA” graphics. JumpJet, with it’s iconic (why are you laughing?) aqua colored jet, could be described as ‘minimalist’. Depending on the graphics mode, up to 16 colors will splash across your screen, with the most prominent color being black. Let’s just assume every mission is at night, under a full moon, hence the yellow outline of the mountain range. Little landing gear wheels drop from the plane if you’re very close to or on the ground and you can zoom along the ground at full speed, until you crash into a tank and explode. I think your jet is actually alive like a Cylon ship from Battlestar Galactica. That’s the only plausible explanation I have for a jet that explodes into twenty red pieces of meat.
Amazingly, this shareware game features “Adlib” sound. If you had a sound card in 1990, it was most likely an AdLib compatible card, like a Sound Blaster or an AdLib. There’s no music to speak of, but the missiles do give a simple but satisfying “Choom/Choom/Choom!”, which is a really is a manlier variation of “PEW PEW PEW!” Your death spiral gives a nice whistling sound as you careen into the ground. Luckily, your space-bar and arrow keys on your keyboard are usually fairly loud, so that’ll make up for any other missing sound effects… right?
Out of the box, this game is keyboard based, and it can be pretty irritating to fly this jet. To get to full speed, you must repeatedly tap an arrow key, as the jet will change speed with each key press. Imagine this game with an analog joystick. At least the game has a legitimate saving high score table! Such a rarity in games from this era, especially a shareware game. My long-since-gone Pentium 90mHz desktop had a full table with my scores. Sadly it’s long-since-gone. (A moment of silence, please.) You’ll need DosBox for JumpJet, since the 60 frames per second delivered with EGA graphics on ‘high’ causes a Win 7 based machine to stop in its tracks. Jumpjet is a quick play, but it is a good five minute time killer. Kill Hannibal Lecter’s head. Find the bonus levels! Give JumpJet the fair shake.