Inventories: Platforming games before Super Mario Bros. #02 – Jump Bug, Moon Patrol, Kangaroo, etc.
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Inventories: Platforming games before Super Mario Bros. #02 – Jump Bug, Moon Patrol, Kangaroo, etc.

August 30, 2019

Jump Bug – October 1981 Jump Bug can claim the distinction of being the first scrolling platformer, although it
still scrolls automatically at a fixed pace like a typical shoot-’em-up. The game is in
fact a kind of hybrid between the two genres, as all opposition can be blasted out of the
way. Unusually for a platform game there is no
separate jump button, since your car automatically keeps bouncing in to the air each time it
touches the ground. But that doesn’t make the controls any less challenging: You still
need to adjust the relative movement speed to get to the left or right on the screen,
and you can make the car drop down faster or give it an upwards boost in mid-air with
appropriately timed presses of up and down on the joystick. Jumping from highrise to highrise, cloud
to cloud or mountain to mountain, you have to grab money bags while
avoiding a range of enemies with differing behaviors.
At the end of the first stage the car enters a tunnel, where the pace changes to player-controlled,
multidirectional scrolling with many vertical twists and turns. But in contrast to the smooth
horizontal scrolling of the main segment, this part is awkward and choppy. Jump Bug also features the first underwater segment in a platforming game, and the wonky
controls there are just as annoying as in almost every underwater level since. A hopping car as the hero may seem like one of the odder aberrations of quirky Japanese
design, but there were actually several more platforming games starring motor vehicles,
as we will see later. Kaos – December 1981 Kaos, created by Illinois-based pinball and slot
machine company Game Plan, plays a bit like a cross between Donkey Kong and Frogger. Its colored rows of platforms always keep
shifting in a constant direction, and you have to jump between them in order to avoid
getting electrocuted at the borders, but later levels also allow walking off the screen to
wrap around at the opposite side. Your goal in each round is to pick up the
moving coins before they fall through the hole at the bottom, at which point they return
as vicious dragon creatures to eat you. Reaching one of the “Eye of Providence” symbols at
the top turns the awkward-looking protagonist into a sword-wielding king for a short while,
allowing you to fight back, much like Pac-Man’s power pills or Mario’s hammers before.
Kaos was the first proper platforming game developed in America after Frogs and had an
interesting concept with shades of the later Mario Bros., but its somewhat unpolished feel
might have prevented it from gaining any traction, despite Game Plan claiming that, quote: “Orders
are rolling in for KAOS at record numbers because players are choosing it over most
other video games”. Jack the Giantkiller – March 20th, 1982 Jack the Giantkiller follows the structure
established by Donkey Kong very closely, but features a really interesting mixture of
different elements with each new stage. It starts out with the hero climbing the beanstalk,
where he sometimes has to leap over to another branch, and can collect apples as ammunition to throw at attackers for the entire game. Then he conquers the giant’s home
while the duck is laying golden coins he can catch for score, steals one of three
items and takes it back down the beanstalk to his own house. Like in Donkey Kong, new stages are
added in between with each new loop. So eventually Jack also has to get up
a scrolling set of stairs with treacherous falling bricks and a cat chasing a mouse,
all of which he needs to avoid. There’s also a weird coral-like structure
with switching draw-bridges at the top. Balancing along the diagonals here is
really frustrating, especially in later loops when Jack is also attacked by lions and birds.
After snatching all the treasure, Jack of course gets to save the damsel in distress
by carrying her down just like his other trophies. If Donkey Kong introduced video games to storytelling
through cutscenes, Jack the Giantkiller tells it all through gameplay – except for a final
cutscene, where Jack fells the beanstalk and the giant plummets to his death. Moon Patrol – May 8th, 1982 Moon Patrol, at least partially created by Street Fighter director Takashi Nishiyama,
is a kind of variation on Jump Bug, but the game field is much flatter, despite the association
with moon physics. The moon buggy only has to jump in order to avoid occasional pits
in the otherwise leveled road. Rocks can be blasted away, and you also have a top mounted
cannon to fight the UFOs attacking from above, making Moon Patrol even more of a shooter
than Jump Bug. The Beginner Course is divided into five greater
segments, with alternating background graphics, which feature one of the first examples of
parallax scrolling in a video game. Probably most impressive for the time were the enemy
bombers, whose projectiles rip new gaps into the terrain. Most stages add a new danger,
like mines in stage three, rolling rocks on a slope in stage four, and frontally attacking
tanks in stage five. After that you get access to the Champion Course, where you are chased
from behind, snapped at by man-eating plants, and generally attacked much more ferociously
from all sides. Kangaroo – June 1982 In this game, you fittingly play the role
of a kangaroo mother who has to rescue her kidnapped children from mischievous monkeys
– a big zoological blunder, but this is a video game after all, so let’s just assume
this all takes place in a zoo outside of Australia. While Kangaroo is basically another Donkey
Kong like, the people at Sun Electronics mixed up the formula with a few new ideas. Unlike
Mario, who had to pick up hammers in order to fight back temporarily, the mother kangaroo
starts her attack on the tree house wearing her own weapons – a pair of boxing gloves
she can use to punch the primates. But the big boxing glove-wearing apes can
steal them, leaving her defenseless for the remainder of the stage. She is also the first
platforming hero who is able to duck – an essential skill, as the monkeys keep throwing
apples towards her at different heights. Reaching the captured kangaroo kids is
straightforward most of the time, but in the final stage of each loop mother
kangaroo has to punch white monkeys out of a monkey tower in order to
lower the cage to a reachable height – if possible before the pink monkeys break the
branch with the apples and it starts raining vitamin bombs. On the technical side, Kangaroo may be one
of the first games to use dithering to fake a higher color depth than the hardware allowed
by using an unusually high vertical resolution. That’s it for this installment. If you enjoy
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  1. Can you please talk in a more normal way? Less emphasis and more plain speaking because us non-native english speakers can't or hardly can smoothly follow a speech while listening to a person with a strong accent or theathrical way of talking.. Thank you.. : )

  2. Excellent stuff. Video content is the only thing that was missing from HG101. Good job! (And the narrator did an excellent job).

  3. I'm going to sound like an asshole, but I agree with Bluewave. The narrator's inflections sound forced and unnatural, like a high/secondary schooler at a speech meet.

  4. most videos on youtube have serious problems with audio mix in general. Really the problems can be described as a problem with mixing the following 4 elements: voice, background music, sound effects, and source clips (if any). The other issue is simply the process of vocal recording which involves microphones, compression, equalizing, editing, and level issues. This video is not 100% radio quality production or anything, but for youtube it SOUNDS JUST FINE. Just continue to tweak it here and there as you make more videos and it will get even better. I can't imagine why the narration is the only part of this video that is getting any commentary..

  5. makes me smile the kangoroo "last stage", cos back in the day i was just a child who barely could see the screen so never get pass the first screen …

  6. Great series. We take a lot of platformer conventions for granted as common sense now, but it took a while for everything to come together.

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