Tyler Wilde provides context and commentary followed by the original text of our Jazz Jackrabbit review, published in the June 1995 issue of the US edition.
It's unbelievable now, but PCs were once seen as less-attractive gaming machines than Nintendo consoles. Heresy! But it's true. I'd probably never preface a review with 200 words of context, but I'm glad our 1995 review of Jazz Jackrabbit gives us some perspective. Sadly, Cliff Bleszinski's new studio is not making a new Jazz Jackrabbit, so we still don't have it that good.
Jazz Jackrabbit CD-ROM review
Sell your Super Nintendo—Jazz Jackrabbit proves your PC is also a top-notch video game machine.
Required: 486DX; CD-ROM drive; 4MB RAM; VGA; Joystick
We recommend: Four-button joystick or gamepad; Sound Blaster compatible sound card
PC gaming old-timers remember the day when their computers were barely considered viable platforms for entertainment. If you really wanted to play games in the mid-1980s, you got a Commodore 64 or that brand-new machine from Nintendo. It didn't matter that those 8-bit machines were outclassed in power and speed by the 16-bit PC—IBM's creation had almost no sound capabilities, and 16-color graphics were still a pretty new option. There were a handful of good games for the PC, but video-game thrills were almost impossible to find.
I remember comparing the PC adaptation of the classic arcade game Contra with the one a friend of mine bought for his Nintendo. That came as a real shock. The cartridge version wasn't a knockout—but compared to the one that ran on my PC (with its acid-trip CGA color scheme and beep-beep sound effects), it might as well have been the arcade coin-op machines.
Fortunately, those days are over—and so are the days when PC gamers looked down on shareware games the way my friend with the Nintendo looked down on my PC. Jazz Jackrabbit started out as shareware, but it stacks up well against the best of today's cartridge-based video games—and the enhancements Epic has added for the CD-ROM version make it a terrific deal.
Jazz's plot is vintage video game: You're Jazz Jackrabbit, a space hero from the planet Carrotus, and you've got to save your beloved Eva Earlong from the clutches of an evil tortoise known as Devan Shell. You'll pursue Devan and Eva through the galaxy, stopping at one planet after another to run, jump and shoot your way through more than 90 levels of smoothly scrolling arcade action (that includes 30 new levels added to the CD).
Jazz is a wonderful imitation of games like Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog, complete with breakneck speed, daring leaps and secret passages. There are even bonus levels—these are done in a 3D perspective, with the kind of rapidly scaling and rotating background that Super Nintendo owners are always bragging about.
The graphics are terrific, with vibrant colors and excellent animation. Jazz runs, skids to a stop, ducks, and tumbles head over heels through the air in perfect cartoon style—this is an arcade game hero with more personality than all the Street Fighters and Mortal Kombatants who ever appeared on a PC.
The sounds are well done, too—especially the funky, video-game music, which uses the same technology that helped make Epic Pinball so impressive. It's based on digitized samples, so it's head and shoulders above the usual FM synthesis you'll hear from most Sound Blaster-compatible games—it even sounds better than some wavetable music.
PC gamers get to play the deepest, most sophisticated games going, but every once in a while we all crave some simple, old-fashioned video game action—and there's no better cure for that craving than Jazz Jackrabbit. — Dan Bennett