Gaming the Pandemic — Day 13: Jungle Trouble (ZX Spectrum)

I’m staying sane during lockdown by playing one a day from my 631 game backlog.

I put some random selection code in my collection log and today it decided upon…

Jungle Trouble on the ZX Spectrum

Mike Richardson is a name that means the same to me that Shigeru Miyamoto might mean to you.

As half of Durrell Software (interestingly wrongly credited as ‘Elite’ on the covertape I’m playing from) Mr Richardson was responsible for Turbo Esprit. A game I first played in 1987 and one I have loved ever since. It’s easily in my top five games of all time. It turns out, 3 years before Turbo Esprit Mr Richardson was working with even less ram (16k) on a little game called Jungle Trouble — and it is delightful.

The entirety of Jungle Trouble is just a single screen divided into 4 ‘events’ over 3 levels. First you have to hopscotch over the crocodile invested river, then you have to fell four trees, then rope swing over a pit of fire. Finally. You have to jump a chasm that opens in the ground just when you think you’re ‘Home’. There are also three monkeys who interfere with whatever you’re up to.

This is it. This is the whole game. There are entirely two sound effects. Walking and dying, and there are 6 colours — including black and white. As video games go it doesn’t get more basic than this, and that, usually, is a really bad sign.

I’m not really a fan of nostalgia. I’m not immune to it and I understand it’s a powerful thing but too often I see it’s rosy hue creep into peoples opinions — often without them noticing. Very old games are an area where I’ve seen this the most, so let me break this to everyone gently. The vast, VAST, majority of games from the early eighties and before are absolute rubbish. The majority of the Atari VCS library: Awful. 16k Spectrum games: Unplayable.

And yet there are always exceptions.

Jungle Trouble has it’s idiosyncrasies… Without reading the instructions you would never find the axe required to chop down the trees. It takes trial and error just to realise that you have to release ‘run’ before you can jump. The keys are 5=Left, 6=Down, 7=Up, & 8=right — these were the cursor keys for the Spectrum and I’ve never seen them used before… Nevertheless, it kind of works. Still.

To get any longevity from the game you’d have to be obsessed with beating your high score on each of the speed settings (Charmingly, it literally just increases the speed that everything in game runs out) and I’m not pretending anyone is going to spend time doing that in 2020. But as an example of a properly vintage game that is actually playable — and enjoyable — nearly 40 years after it was made, Jungle Trouble is a lovely thing.

Jungle Trouble (ZX Spectrum) — Don’t listen to me, play it yourself

All the previous days games can found here: https://gamingthepandemic.blogspot.com/

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