Modern Review: Jet Set Willy (Xbox 360 Live Arcade)

jetsetwillyManic Miner and the Miner Willy games have wooed their way onto the Spectrum, and now the second iteration of the franchise has been reborn as an Xbox Live Indie title. Plenty has changed for the series with Jet Set Willy, and it made huge advancements on the original home micro. Was it worth the wait to relive this classic title?

Now that you’ve curiously returned from reading all about my first review for Manic Miner, know that all the same extras are present. When compared with Manic Miner, much of this will be an echo for you. History of the sequel, inverted Winter Mode, full screen and high definition (as high as it’s going to get without a remake,) scan lines and pixel filtering are all back. An explanation of controls and story has also returned. Sadly, we also have a lack of menu music returning, but at least this time the music isn’t as blaringly loud. I’m forewarning those of you who are susceptible to seizures: Don’t sit and watch the title screen because the color changes (before the game begins) will eventually melt your eye sockets.

Graphically, the game isn’t necessarily way ahead of its predecessor, but it does feature a pleasant mix of new colors not seen in Manic Miner. Stairways help immensely with travel, and while drops to lower levels are encouraged, you are still penalized for dropping too great of a distance. Willy can walk right through various types of pieces that he can also stand on, making jumping over the platform not a necessity. For a classic Spectrum title, this is the best the title will get.

Matthew Smith returns to bring this sequel to life on modern day consoles. Miner Willy’s adventures are now interconnected throughout an entire house as he cleans up his mansion from previous partygoers. In addition, he tackles cleaning up the nearby beach and (presumably) his own yacht. Using all the gold from the first game, Willy has amassed himself a fortune. It appears that even in 2012, there’s no recession present for Miner Willy.

Musically, Rob Hubbard delivers as best he can on the Spectrum-based title. The irony of the main song from “If I Was a Rich Man,” is playful and the music is repetitive. While it may get stuck in your head, it won’t stay there very long.

The game focuses on delivering a level layout that is interconnected throughout the mansion, leaving behind the linear stages of the previous game. Once again, the Xbox Live version allows Willy to not get hurt by choosing the cheat code, which really is the only foreseeable way to actually complete this game. Yes, the difficulty of the first title is back, but what’s more frustrating is that the level layout is a mixed bag. For example, in “The Nightmare Room,” Willy is turned into a pig/bat/thing, and has to traverse an intense bunch of scolding nannies, all while jumping from platform to platform. The result is a controller-destroying experience, with the smallest graze of the enemy resulting in instant death. This game doesn’t skimp on the difficulty, and while it is refreshing to play such a hard game, it’s also a time-consuming experience that may make the player skip the difficult levels. Enemies range a lot more, some of which are unexplainable, such as giant micro chips, devils, random swirly gears, unidentifiable animals and monsters, and household appliances. It’s all great fun.

Because of the non-linear gameplay, Jet Set Willy feels like a more complete game, especially since the famous Attic bug (which made the original technically incomplete) has now been fixed. Gamers can rely on eventual completion of the title. Since most ports of the game were to European micro computers, unfamiliar gamers won’t have to worry about buying a broken game, but purists who revel in the damaged original may not find this version to be a true port.

Speaking of tech, this title originally required a colored keycard to start the game. This was hugely innovative for the time, and while the game doesn’t require the colored keycard (a virtual hand allowing it to scan would have been a nice inside ribbing for fans,) the port makes mention of it in the history. Either way, this was a major advancement back in the day and while it’s nice that newer (and unfamiliar retro) gamers get the story, the virtual experience would’ve really sealed the deal on a high quality port. This is wishful thinking at best.

While Smith’s titles are evenly stacked in many ways, Jet Set Willy has its ups and downs. Despite a huge improvement in gameplay, the platforming aspect is (at times) more frustrating than ever. Preparing for a brutal adventure on normal doesn’t even cover the damage it will do. Despite this, the game’s cheat mode doesn’t bring gamers room to succeed due to being practically invulnerable, something that the first game’s port did not allow. The first game’s Cheat Mode required similar levels of skill, but helped the player learn from their mistakes. Jet Set Willy’s Cheat Mode focuses on the end game without advancing the player along at an understandable pace. Long timers will be satisfied on Normal, but new-school gamers are the ones who may end up with a frustrating experience either way they play. This title is recommended for nostalgic Speccy fans looking for a newer way to play the classic title, or gamers looking for an enjoyable yet challenging platformer.

Jet Set Willy (Xbox 360 Live Arcade) Gameplay Video

Last Updated ( 17 October 2012 )  

Michael "Miketendo" Levy

Raised on an NES, Saturday AM cartoons and sugary cereal, Michael Levy was your average 80's kid growing up. Despite having odd obsessions with bears, peanut butter, zombies and Tifa Lockhart, 'Miketendo' is also the creator of the YouTube review series: D.Y.H.P.T.G?! (Dude, You Haven't Played This Game?!)

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