Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Bit of Bullshit: Solar Jetman

Solar Jetman is both one of the simplest and most difficult games of all time. I felt like it needed to be included here because, obviously, it is an important game in the development of video games, but this post will be a short one because, well, it's just too dang simple to truly devote any kind of real thought to.

The premise of Solar Jetman is this: you are a small space pod that is required to leave from the mother ship, and retrieve parts of it that have been strewn across the galaxy on twelve different planets. Seems simple enough, right? Right. Except for the fact that the gravity on each planet is different, and there are tons of stupid caves and crannies that need to be navigated in order to retrieve the aforementioned pieces. Did you ever play those helicopter games on New Grounds? The ones where you'd have to thrust only a certain amount or you would propel your craft into a wall and to your own fiery doom? That was the whole game of Solar Jetman. And, much like the helicopter game where you can begin to get a feel for exactly how much you need to accelerate in order to get through a narrow space, you can get a feel for Solar Jetman's controls. But, once you've gotten control of them, you've most likely beaten the level and hence moved on to another one where the gravity force (and hence the controls you need to use) is TOTALLY DIFFERENT AND YOU HAVE TO LEARN IT ALL OVER AGAIN.

Along with the simple game mechanic of using the pod's thrusters to be able to navigate through the caves to find the piece of the mothership needed for repairs, you are also able to find other items and kill bad guys in order to earn power-ups to make your slow going through the levels a little bit easier. This knowledge should be taken with a grain of salt because, similar to just needing to navigate through the caves to get ship pieces, each extra task you try to accomplish moves you closer and closer to death. Unlike the helicopter games, gently brushing the walls of the caves will not immediately kill you, but it does do damage so quickly that it might as well.

So, you're probably thinking Great, what is the point of me playing it if all you've been talking about this whole time is how oppressively shitty the game is. Mhm, yes young padawan, you think quickly. The reason that I think Solar Jetman deserves to be recognized as an awesome game is simply because of the astounding mechanics that go into the calculation of psychics for the movement of the pod. Getting an old school game like this to be responsive like that is already a huge feat, let alone the fact that the game designers built twelve unique environments that all behaved differently. While the gravity fields are frustrating, when considering them from a technological point of view they really are amazing. I mean, this was a game pre-Duck Hunt that couldn't even make itself cheat proof. The fact that all of that is packed into one shitty little super-hard-to-beat-game makes it a very important feature in the history of gaming.

If you feel like infuriating yourself today, or reminding yourself what it felt like to be a little kid that couldn't stop their space pod from exploding, you can play Solar Jetman online here. Happy gaming!

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