Reviews Archive

Early Single Screen Platformers


What became one of the most important gaming genre's, the platformer, started out as an evolution of earlier "platforms and ladders" games like Space Panic, adding a new emphasis on jumping over hazards and platforms. After Donkey Kong arrived a whole host of platformers started appearing, eventually progressing to incorporate linear flick-screen, and scrolling, but I'll only cover the earlier single-screen games here.

  bounty bob strikes back Bounty Bob Strikes Back
bounty bob on atari
  1 player  
  Stand out 8-bit versions - Various  
  Sequel to the very influential Miner 2049er. Again the aim here is to walk around the levels colouring in the ground picking up items that allow you to temporarily kill the enemies. Bounty Bob Strikes Back has all of the cool elements from the first game, such as the clever slides and teleporters, but the level layouts are a little more interesting and complex than they were in the original and everything has been polished up a bit.  
  chuckie egg on beeb Chuckie Egg
chuckie egg on spectrum
  1 player  
  Stand out 8-bit versions - Spectrum, BBC  
  Definitely one of my favourite platfomers of this era, Chuckie Egg may not do anything groundbreaking, but it feels like the most play-tested and polished of any of the games here, succeeding at being both enjoyable, and fair. The aim is to guide Harry around the levels collecting the eggs and avoiding the birds, it all controls very well, with responsive movement, and reliable ladder climbing. Thankfully, unlike so many other games of this period, there is no penalty for falling from height here, so death-defying jumps and last minute improvisation are a big factor, and are lots of fun, there's no need to constantly worry about walking off a slightly high step and breaking both your ankles and falling to your slow, inevitable death in this game!  
  donkey kong on amstrad Donkey Kong
donkey kong on colecovision
  1 Player  
  Stand out 8-bit port - Amstrad, Coleco  
  This has to be the most important platform release in the genre's early life. Donkey Kong built on the earlier platforms and ladders games by adding a big emphasis on jumping, with you bounding over barrels and leaping between floating platforms. The game stands out for its time as being elegantly designed, with memorable layouts and level themes and an enduring pick up and play feel to it, all backed up with variety and imagination.  
  donkey kong jr on famicom Donkey Kong Jr
donkey kong jr on nes
  1 Player  
  Stand out 8-bit versions - NES  
  Sequel to the aforementioned genre-defining Donkey Kong. Whilst not quite as revolutionary as its predecessor, Jr still manages to throw in some new ideas here and there (such as the fun new climbing mechanics that have you reaching and swinging though the levels) and retains all the fun of the original, with some fun new layouts to beat. Swapping the antagonist around (having you trying to rescue Donkey Kong this time around) was also an inspired idea.  
  dino eggs on c64 Dino Eggs
dino eggs
  1 player  
  Stand out 8-bit version - C64  
  Great little game which has you collecting Dinosaur eggs and teleporting them to the future. The aim is to pick up the eggs three at a time and take them to the transporter (though a power-up allows you to hold unlimited amounts), if they hatch you have to jump over the baby Dino to imprison it and then beam it up by using the transporter. Every once in a while a huge Dinosaur will attempt to trample on you! forcing you to set up fires to scare it off. Its an original, memorable, and well-designed game.  
  hard hat mack Hard Hat Mack
hard hat mack on c64
  1 player  
  Stand out 8-bit version - C64  
  This is a very early Electronic Arts release that has you running around a construction site fixing stuff up as well as collecting and disposing of different items on later levels. Its a respectable release, not particularly long or unique for the year of release, but fun.  
  henry's house Henry's House henry's house on atari 8-bit  
  1 Player  
  Stand out 8-bit versions - Atari 8-Bit  
  Whilst on the surface this looks like just another game that has you collecting all the items before making your way to the exit, with inspection Henry's House reveals itself as inventive and full of charm. The levels here are smart, well designed and are scripted to actually change as you play through them, with elements such as giant toothbrushes suddenly appearing from the side of the screen to clean some teeth! to dropping water levels, and other nice little touches.  
Atari ST
Atari VCS
Commodore 64
Game Boy
Master System
Mega Drive
Neo Geo
PC Engine
ZX Spectrum