Bombjack is the Spectrum version of a respectably successful Tehkan arcade game from a couple of years back.
Bombjack is a super powered hero who has dedicated his life to truth, freedom and defusing bombs. Unfortunately the inhabitants of his cosy world are far from benign, and their favourite occupation is hassling and harassing Mr Jack. Their touch is deadly and contact with any of them snatches away one of the three lives he has during superheroing activities.
In his quest to dispose of bombs, our superhero is far from parochial, travelling around the world to continue his quest. There are five different locations, each containing a backdrop depicting a famous place. Each screen contains twenty four bombs, which are of the traditional 'bowling ball with a bit of string on it' kind. Whoever made these explosive devices was not exactly skilful, since they never ever explode, no matter how long the fuses fizzle.
Bomb disposal is Bombjack's hobby and the little chap sproings around the platforms on a screen gathering up the explosive devices. Your little caped crusader can leap into the air and move left and right - and there's a turbo leap option which sends Bombjack sproinging upwards in a real mega bound. Bombs are collected by travelling over them, and when the first bomb on a screen is in the bag a fuse bursts into life on another bomb. It doesn't really matter if you don't run straight off and get the active bomb, but if you do a bonus is put your way. Collect twenty three bombs in the active state and a whopping 60,000 point bonus is put your way. Once all the bombs on screen have been collected, Bombjack materialises in the middle of the next screen.
Each screen consists of a pretty scene with the bombs and platforms overlaid. Your hero can't jump through the platforms but he can run along them. Bombjack is governed by all the correct and proper laws of gravity and if the miniscule chappy takes a bound into the air then he also has to fall down. Repeated bashings on the fire button cause him to drift down at a slower rate. If you're playing with a joystick, pushing up while sproinging skyward puts the little sprite into turbo jump mode and pulling down with the fire button held down curtails the super hero's sky flying activities. In keyboard mode you can choose to play with Turbo Jump activated or deactivated.
This is all fine and well but there are the nasties to terrorize the little chap. The first and most fundamental baddie to beware of is the screen-patrolling bird creature which roughly homes in on your position. Luckily it's a slow creature of little brain which is easily outwitted. Then there are the robotic creatures who enjoy a life cycle fed by kinetic energy. The longer you spend on a screen, the quicker the baddies arrive. Robot baddies appear in the top left hand corner of the scene, materialising in mid air with a bit of an explosion to drop onto the nearest platform. The Robo nasties trundle left and right along their landing platform for a while and then decide to walk off the edge of a ledge. When a robot hits the ground the kinetic energy built up during the fall transfers the metallic life form into an airborne creature that's all the more deadly. Other rolling ball thingies and vicious snails zoom around the screen trying to wipe your hero from the face of the game.
The nasties don't have it all their own way, however. Every so often a disk bearing the letter 'P' arrives in the playing area heralded by a continuous siren wail. Jumping through this power pill immobilises all the nasties on the screen and turns them into smiling faces. Points are awarded for leaping through a disabled nasty - which is conveniently eliminated as you do so.
A magic button with the letter 'E' emblazoned on it adds another life to Bombjack's supply when collected, and a Bonus button 'B' adds points when collected and increases the value of subsequent bombs gathered up on that screen.
Control keys: M right, N left, Q extra jumping ability, A increase rate of descent, X jump
Joystick: Kempston, Interface 2
Keyboard play: responsive
Use of colour: jolly nice
Sound: little more than spot effects
Skill levels: gets harder the further you go
Screens: five backdrops and lots of different bomb formations
"This is absolutely fantastic - it's so-o-o-o playable! All the features of the original arcade game have been crammed in, including the secret bonuses, aliens, different screen layouts - incredible. I found myself playing it for hours and hours, and even after a good long session, I kept sneaking back for another go. If you want a truly superlative arcade game which offers unbelievable addiction then got out and buy it now. If you miss it then you're missing something special."
"Wow! Having seen snippets of the arcade game, I reckon that Bombjack is pretty hot as a copy of the original. The one problem is that it really seems to be a bit easy for the first few screens; after a few rounds though, it starts to get pretty tough! The sound, graphics and colour are all great and the game's playable too. Everything is polished, and just about as it should be. Some of the backgrounds are really excellent, and a good bit of strategy is needed to get past the first few rounds with maximum points. Bombjack is one of the best arcade conversions I've seen on the Spectrum for a long time. Get it!"
"Bombjack is another great little game, packed full of addictiveness and high-scores. Although it looks very simple to an onlooker you realize that it is full of that same mysterious element that kept everyone playing Roller Coaster well on into the night. The game contains all the features of the arcade version, but I felt it didn't play as well - although this doesn't detract from the game at all. Great fun can be had with the two player option which allows proper challenges to be set up. It's so simple but so addictive. At £7.95 it's a give away and should provide endless hours of enjoyment and frustration."
Bombjack is licensed from a Tehkan arcade game that appeared a few years ago and may still be found lurking in the dark and dingy corner of a long-forgotten arcade (well worth searching out).
Jack is the hero of this merry jaunt around the world, which stops at a variety of countries including Egypt, the USA and Greece. His mission, should he decide to accept it, is to defuse the 23 bombs that are scattered around each screen.
He encounters some pretty fierce opposition; robots, birds, rolling balls and snails all gang up to stop Jack from completing his dangerous task. Fortunately, a little help is at hand. From time to time, coin-shaped disks appear. Those inscribed with a P turn the nasties into smiling faces, allowing Jack to kill them. B gives a bonus if a lit bomb is collected and the elusive E gives Jack an extra life (he starts the game with three).
With his little cape tied firmly around his neck and a vounc3e in his step, Jack goes to work to rid the world of the enemy and their dangerous, explosive devices.
I remember playing this game for hours when it first appeared on the Spectrum. Jack springs around the screen with his little cape blowing in the wind against some very detailed backdrops. The game could have been made a bit more exciting if the bombs actually exploded, rather than just fizzling to themselves until Jack reaches them. Though still very playable, Bombjack hasn't quite retained the explosive impact it made on the reviewing team in Issue 27.
What sort of being is Bomb Jack? He doesn't so much fly as leap around. And he's no more than knee high to a grasshopper. Come to think of it, a grasshopper's what he most resembles. So what sort of hero is this bounding, bomb collecting midget? The answer is an arcade hero - and now he's let loose in your micro courtesy of conversion kings, Elite.
Let's just say that Bomb Jack probably shouldn't be as addictive as it is. After all, arcade games are designed not to last too long because they're always greedy for the next meal of ten pences. But then again, they're also designed to make you want to play again.... and again and again and again. And that's where Bomb Jack scores, because each time you lose your final life you're convinced that next time you can clear that screen.
Here's how it works. Your caped crusader bounces all over a world provided with convenient platforms. You launch him into the air with a quick press on the fire button, trying to pass over bombs as you fly. Clear a screen of explosives and on to the next, more difficult location. The forces of evil are out to stop you though, from the first flapping bird to the little soldiers who eventually reach the ground to metamorphose into something much nastier.
All of which neglects to mention the scoring. There's a fine bit of strategy involved in maxamising your points - and if ever there was a high score freak's dream, this is it! The first thing to know is that a bomb that's fizzing is worth 200 rather than 100 points. Collect one of those and it sets off the next one in the sequence, so a row of four can be worth 400 or 800 points depending on whether it's ignited or not. It's up to you to plan a route. There are special bonuses for collecting 20 or more sparking bombs and there are also Bonus coins that float in for you to snatch, plus Extra lives coins and Power balls. These paralyse the nasties for a while letting you eliminate them - very useful when air space becomes too full to fly with comfort!
Bomb Jack, it must be said, isn't the easiest little critter to control. Getting him up is simple, but then you'll need your wits about you to steer him as he speeds around. Left and right swerve his flight while an extra boost of height comes from pressing up and a speedier descent is aided by down. If you need an immediate halt while in the air just hit the fire button again, and rapidly tapping it will make him hover, You'll need lots of practice to get your pilot's certificate though - and a joystick won't do any harm either! While Elite has considerately included a turbo mode for the keyboard player - it simulates a constantly-pressed fire button - a stick makes life much easier.
There you have it, then - a simple idea that's one hundred per cent addictive. The graphics are great with an amusingly animated sprite for your heroic mite, even though the monochrome figures are sometimes a little hard to see against the coloured backgrounds. Amplify the sound to get the most from the spot effects and you too will soon be battling to get your name in the high score table. Bomb Jack is most certainly a blast!
If you haven't got this already then you're in for a birrova treat. It's a coin-op conversion (and it shows) of a platform/collect objects/avoid contact with the nasties game.
You control a small mouse who's wearing a sot of Superman costume. The first screen pops up revealing several small platforms and numerous circular bombs. The idea is to leap around the screen collecting these bombs (by contact) as you go. One of the on-screen bombs is always alight (its fuse sort of glows), and is worth more points than the others. You don't have to get it first, but if you do then another bomb lights up. And so on.
Things aren't as easy as that, though, cos there are numerous nasties who's sole aim is to help you pop your clogs. Any contact is fatal. They often get in the way of the key bombs you need in order to clear the screen, and while you're waiting for them to get out of the way you'll find yourself becoming surrounded by others. Yikes! Leap about a bit.
Fortunately a saviour is at hand in the shape of icons that float down out of the sky every so often. There are several types, but the most useful has got to be the one that puts your adversaries to sleep (for a limited time) enabling you to get at the more inaccessible bombs.
Clear a screen and it's onto the next. Newly positioned platforms and bombs all set on a brilliant backdrop. Oh, I forgot to tell you about the backdrops. They're, eerrrmm, brilliant.
The speed at which the game plays is brillo too, as is the animation. This really is a game that'll have you coming back for more (and more and more and more). Classic stuff.
Re-release/Original score 9
Classic coin-op conversion from Elite. Better than all other computer versions of Bomb Jack you'll EVER play. Now there's a statement. First released: May '86.
LICENSING deals from the amusement arcades are thinner on the ground than they used to be. Elite, however, has found an excellent title in Bombjack, and the game as seen on the Spectrum is virtually identical to the original arcade hit.
The scenario is about as inane as a scenario can be and completely irrelevant to the game. You guide a little man with a Batman cape around the screen collecting bombs and avoiding the monsters. It's about as simple as you can get without being utterly trivial, but nonetheless addictive for all that.
Jack - for it is he - moves left and right, and jumps from platform to platform using the up, down and fire keys. Fire is the basic jump, fire with the joystick pressed forward gives a rather higher jump - the full height of the screen - and down halts a jump. You can also swing left and right while jumping, although the amount of sideways motion is limited.
Graphics and speed are everything in games like this, and Elite has done a good job on both. There are six background scenes, done as hi-resolution screens. You start with a view of the Sphinx and pyramids, move on to a Grecian temple, then to a Gothic castle, skyscrapers, classical buildings and an open plain by night. On those screens are superimposed a few platforms to help Jack in his efforts to dodge the nasties, and also to hinder him from jumping the full height of the screen where the way is blocked by a platform.
The monsters come in various shapes and sizes. There is a creature which seems to be a giant flea and is very nasty, moving semi-purposefully, but slowly, all over the screen. Spacemen start on platforms at the top of the screen and slowly fall off them to the bottom where they turn into creepy crawlies with spiral shells. Don't ask me what they are - poisonous snails perhaps, or some sort of exotic chrysalis. As spacemen they are easy enough to avoid, but after a while the snails tend to pile up and make life difficult if you need to run round the bottom of the screen.
They also have a habit of turning into mines which roll along the bottom looking for trouble, and later on in the game, or if you spend too long on a single screen, you will come under the dreaded flying saucer attack. These horrors move unpredictably and sometimes at great speed, and should be avoided at all costs.
Fortunately, there are three types of spinning disc to come to your aid. The most frequent, and useful, is marked P and freezes all the monsters on the screen for a short period. They can then be destroyed, rather in the manner of a Pacman with a power pill, which enables you to get to clogged-up corners of the screen to collect isolated bombs. The B disc doubles the score for the screen, and the E disc gives you an extra life, although it doesn't appear frequently, and turns into a B disc if you don't catch it quickly enough.
All these sprites are in black, but that is an advantage given the very detailed backgrounds. It ensures you can swiftly see what is going on which is vital in a very fast game, and also means there are no colour clashes. I found the black a little boring at first, but rapidly realised how necessary it was to make Bombjack playable. Once you're in the thick of things you barely notice the colour.
My ideas on tactics will no doubt be improved on when you've all had a chance to put in some practice. I've managed about eight screens - there are 30 at least, with each background scene having five configurations of platforms imposed on it. One very useful tip - the spacemen always seem to appear first on the top left-hand platform. If you can get to that immediately at the beginning of each screen, wipe up the bombs and you won't have to worry about holding out for a P disc. It's usually very difficult to get to that platform once the spacemen have started materialising.
Bombs with lit fuses are worth much more than bombs without, and if you wait until they are lit and collect 20 or more on a single screen you amass enormous bonuses - 10,000 for 20 rising to 50,000 for 23. However, it's not worth hanging around for this opportunity unless you're very skilled, as the screen will soon be a crawling mass of monsters. Just clear them away as quickly as possible and leave the real task until you're familiar with the game.
Stay away from the giant fleas - they have an unnerving habit of altering course in your direction as you pass by them, and can also pass through platforms, so you are not safe behind your barrier.
The best general tactic is to take out the bombs at the top left-hand corner, then clear up the bottom of the screen before the spacemen get there and start filling it with mines and snails. When a P disc appears take out the monsters close to the bombs, but be careful about the time limit - don't get yourself trapped if they suddenly come back to life. And make sure you get the flying saucers, if there are any, and the fleas - they are your main enemy.
Bombjack is great fun, slickly executed and totally addictive within its limitations - a sort of unpredictable Chuckie Egg with shades of Pacman in free-fall. The rating reflects the simplicity of the game rather than its fun element - it is unlikely to be something you come back to week after week, and I suspect hardened zappers will find it a shade too easy to grip their attention.
For newcomers to the Spectrum, and anyone who doesn't remember or still glories in the grand old days of Arcadia or Penetrator, this arcade nonsense is excellent material for a wet afternoon, when you can work off your frustration on a plain old hi-score contest with a few friends.
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, cursor
MACHINE: Spectrum/Amstrad/CBM 64
PRICE: £7.95 (Spectrum), Amstrad (£9.95 tape, £14.95 disk), CBM 64 (£9.95 tape, £14.95 disk)
Elite maintains their crown as kings or the arcade conversions with Bomb Jack - a colourful and extremely entertaining cartoon style romp.
If you're a regular reader of C+VG's Arcade Action pages you'll know all about Jack - a cute little caped crusader. He's been coining it in the arcades for a couple of years now.
The basic idea of the game is to help Bomb Jack collect a whole bunch of bombs - at the same time avoiding assorted nasties like knights in armour and robot-birds.
Jack can jump, run and fly around each screen collecting the bombs, if he follows the correct sequence - which has to be learnt - bonus points can be earned. He can freeze the nasties and collect them for extra points too if you help BJ pick up the Powerball which appears from time to time. Other "balls" appear with different bonus point values if collected by B.J.
The most impressive thing about the game - apart from the addictive game play of course - are the splendid graphic backgrounds to the four screens, There's an Egyptian pyramid and sphinx screen, a Greek temple, skyscrapers and a terrific Bavarian castle.
Once you've completed the four screens the sequence is repeated at tougher levels - different platform/bomb patterns. Bomb Jack is an extremely playable fun game - an excellent conversion of the arcade original, well presented and with some nice sound effects. A must for every arcade action fan.
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