Here’s some proper retro gaming stuff from British developer Ultimate Play the Game (later just Rare). It’s from May of 1983 and is still rather addictive.
Right, so brothers Chris and Tim Stamper made a name for themselves developing arcade games in the early 1980s.
They then formed Ultimate Play the Game, which went on to wow the world with state of the art graphics. Knight Lore, for example, was way ahead of its time.
In 1983, however, they were pretty unknown. But still landed Jetpac on the world, which proved something of a hit.
It launched in arcades and also went on to grace the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, and Commodore VIC-20.
The ZX Spectrum sure had a time of it loading the experience. Check out this for a delayed process! Technology has come a long way.
Due to technological limitations of the day, Jetpac had to utilise primitive options to stand out.
This it does rather well in its simple premise. As with the likes of Donkey Kong (for which there’s the excellent documentary The King of Kong), it fits on one screen. But the onslaught of enemies and whatnot is pretty frantic.
Basically, you must manoeuvre Jetman around a planet to collect bits of his spaceship, primarily fuel.
As he does this, aliens surge across the screen. You can shoot these or dodge them—hovering when necessary, or shifting out of the way completely.
So there’s a strategic element right there and it gets very addictive, with the goal being to complete the ship and take off from each stage. Whilst building up a high score.
Officially, it’s classed in the “fetch-for-survival” genre. In that you collect stuff to keep going.
Rare has shown the game a lot of love over the years, including it as a mini-game in Donkey Kong 64. And it’s bundled with Rare Replay on the Xbox One.
Many consider this the developer’s breakout hit. And that paved the way for the team in the tiny village of Twycross, Leicestershire, to become the biggest developer of the late 1990s.
And despite the simplistic nature of Jetpac, we found it very enjoyable.
Helped along considerably by the funky little soundtrack number—really helps you get in the zone!
It won the Golden Joystick Award’s Game of the Year back in 1983, too. Critics heaped praise on the addictive nature of the game—along with its impressive graphics.
For the time, we might add. That’s 1983 fare right there. But it wowed gamers in the early ’80s, with 300,000 sales making the Stamper brothers £1 million in profit.
Whilst creating the game, they also studied the Japanese marketing. Principally, how Nintendo’s Famicom (the NES) was shaping the future of gaming.
Thanks to its success, two sequels to Jetpac followed in late 1983 and another in 1990.
Rare worked with Nintendo exclusively for the 1990s, but Microsoft bought the developer in 2002.
In 2007, a new project arrived—a reworking of Jetpac with modern sensibilities.
It’s a standalone title in its own right, with all manner of flashy and impressive special effects and whatnot.
Although it met with pretty solid reviews, it couldn’t possibly have the same impact of the 1983 arcade classic.
But, hey, this is also on Rare Replay if you fancy comparing it to famous the original.