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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Friday Free Game: Jetpack Mission

This week, we have another first for the Friday Free Game. This week's game is called Extra Jetpack Mission — as in Extra Sugar-Free Gum. Now, we all know that adver-games are rarely any good, let alone challenging and innovative, but this one offers some very nice graphics, just-hard-enough gameplay and a low barrier to entry to make an experience that is perfect for wasting time while you should be doing something else.

Now, we've all played the umpteen variations on the "mother of all games". I was playing them on my Commodore 64 in the eighties: two cannons shooting at one another (or archers firing arrows, or gorillas throwing bananas... you get the idea). Enter an angle, enter a power, and see if you can guess how to get your bullet to arc correctly so that it lands on your opponent and blows him up. The more recent and more famous incarnation is Scorched Earth, released in 1991, which took the game to an unnecessary level of depth and complexity and entertained us with random quotes when the CPU would blast us to smithereens ("I told you to leave my sister alone!"). The game was inexplicably addictive, maybe due to the lack of real randomness. It was satisfying to finally figure out that if you arc the shot at 72 degrees with 63% power, it would clear the mountains and destroy your older brother's tank.

Well, Jetpack Mission takes this tried-and-true mechanic and puts a small number of interesting twists on it. Let me reiterate: there is nothing new in this game, but it is a nice combination of features seen in other games. The story: Origummy's girlfriend has been kidnapped, and he has to save her by pursuing the villains using his trusty jetpack. And collecting gum. For some reason.

The game uses the arrow keys as well as the mouse. You use the arrow keys to move around the platforms, and use the mouse to jump. You can also hit the arrow keys while in mid-jump to do acrobatics and score extra points. The idea is to jump in such a way that you can collect the gum and land on the platform safely by guesstimating what angle and velocity to jump at. It's tricky enough, especially since it's hard to tell what 50% power means without actually trying it a few times, but the game is forgiving enough that you can mess up a bunch and just keep playing.

So, borrowing the coin-collection mechanic of Mario, the midair tricks mechanic of Tony Hawk, and the angle-and-power mechanic of Scorched Earth, Jetpack Mission manages to deliver a fun time with some really nice graphics for a free game. I found myself playing for way longer than I had intended to, and I knew that despite it being a glorified advertisement for gum, Jetpack Mission is a great little game. Check it out.

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.