It’s not everyday we get to play a brand new Game Boy title. But the brilliant QuangDX has brought us his take on the Ultimate classic, JetPac. Starting life in 1999, Super JetPak DX takes everything about its source material and throws new ideas into the mix. Jump forward 21 years and a beefed up version of that game now has a physical release. It is the culmination of dedication and a dream of one man to have his name in a games credits. Simple in its design but deep in its gameplay, Super JetPak DX has just been shipped after selling out its first production run. But a second run has been planned and is under pre-order until the end of January 2021.
If you have played the original JetPac from 1983 you will understand the premise of this retro update immediately. You control your astronaut around a single screen putting your ship back together. Once your ship has been completed you will need to add some fuel before taking off to the next level. It sounds very simple, but getting in your way is a host of alien nasties hell bent on stopping your escape. You do however have a blaster and your trusty jet pack to help. Can you get our hero home across the 16 levels and defeat the eight enemy types?
Before getting into Super JetPak DX itself it is important to acknowledge the story behind its development and subsequent release. Quang and his brother had always been coders from their early days and JetPac one of their favourite games. They put together a port of the classic shooter platformer for the Game Boy in 1999 for a coding competition. Sadly, the innovative brothers would not win but their achievement to code a Game Boy game in C and not the usual assembly lived on. Skip forward 21 years later and the Covid-19 situation meant that Quang took the risk to publish his own game for a retro console.
Super JetPak DX has been released on Game Boy carts and will work on the standard DMG right up to the DS. It can be purchased with or without a box and manual. Interestingly while the game itself was coded by Quang, several other retro community members have helped with the games development. Brand new graphics were contributed by VeePixels and Zombiworkshop. The excellent music by Manfred Linzner aka Pink (ABYSS). And last but not least the manual was designed by the wonderful Trista Bytes. Seeing such an array of talent coming together to make one mans dream a reality is special and is a real boost to the retro community.
The box art and manual are very colourful and has the feel of a Game Boy title from the 90’s. Care and attention has been put into the design and homebrew collectors will be in heaven admiring the packaging. You can simply order the cart or just the ROM itself if it is all about the games for you. This is a great touch as Quang has decided to cater for the players and collectors alike. My only gripe is the inner tray does allow for a plastic case and the outer box feels a little thin. Overall the design and execution of the package is excellent and credit should be shown to the team for getting this crucial factor right.
Super JetPak DX itself is a fine game requiring twitch like reflexes and concentration to navigate the levels. There are eight different stages, each with a new alien foe and you will need to complete the levels twice to fully complete the game. To get you into the swing of it a ‘fun’ mode, consisting of just one eight level run can be finished easily. Then you have a ‘mighty’ and ‘argh’ modes to really test your skills. Super JetPak is a tough cookie and you will need to keep practicing to see everything. There are three different endings to the game so there is a lot of replay value for the £40 cost.
Super JetPak was coded in C language which is odd for a Game Boy title. Normally assembly is used but the game runs very smooth and animations are tight. It is always clear where everything on screen is and the collision detection is spot on. This is something you would expect for a game 21 years in the making but there is a real feel of quality about Super JetPak DX. While it will play fine in a Game Boy DMG, the colours in the Game Boy Color version help it pop. The use of the limited colour palette has been implemented well and provides a joyful experience. The pixel art seems fresh but would not look out of place in a Game Boy title from yesteryear.
Controlling the astronaut is a breeze. You will be flying around the levels in no time. You shoot with one button and release up to float to the surface. You will quickly find that any mistakes are your own and dying four times will take you to the continue screen. Playing this game gave me the real 1cc feel and fans of shooting game challenges could have a real gem on their hands with this one. The controls are excellent overall and at no time during my playthrough did I lament a death. The great use of the small screen to cram everything in without being cluttered really helps the gameplay mechanics.
Super JetPak also features collectables that have a positive or negative effect on our astronaut. Spread shot, drones and confusion are some examples and these help freshen the gameplay meaning no two games will be the same. There are point bonuses that fall that will keep high score junkies happy and your laser has an energy bar that needs cooling down time. Most levels will have you putting your spaceship together but some just see you needing to get the fuel cells. The enemies are varied and have different attack patterns, sometimes you may opt to simply avoid rather than take them all down.
There is a real sense of quality that oozes through Super JetPak’s design. The care and attention to each of its elements amount to a solid game. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel or combine too many ideas. It takes a classic formula and sprinkles improvements to create a more fun experience. This title is perfect for arcade action fans and those that enjoy a challenging handheld game. Super JetPak DX is available for pre-order until the end of January 2021.