Willy has just thrown the party of his life and wants nothing more than to snuggle up in his luxurious four poster bed. But he can't - because the way to his bedroom is barred by Hattie Jacques whose pointed finger conveys but a single, simple message. Tidy up first.
And so begins Jet Set Willy, the iconic platform game that had early
Eighties schoolchildren so entralled that it has become so synonymous with 8 bit that, in the United Kingdom at least, it seems hardly possible for many writers to start typing without squeezing in at least one reference to it.
Frustration At Fever Pitch
I consider myself a huge Jet Set Willy fan. I've played its Dragon,
BBC Micro, Spectrum, Electron and "fairly-modern-if-you-consider-Windows-98-
modern" PC DOS versions and I still never tire of the mansion of its protagonist. And, of course, the seemingly impossible odds of completing it. Because one pixelated foot out of place and those eight lives will be gobbled up in quick succession by a bug/feature that seems to purposefully
crack up the frustration level to fever pitch.
In you've been in a cave for three decades and have never encountered the weird world of Willy then be aware that Jet Set Willy is a platform game featuring a plethora of rooms, all done in monochrome, and featuring a whole host of imaginative baddies out to get you. You start off in the Bathroom, with a terrifying possessed toilet lip flapping at you from your right, a dirty tap by your shoulder and a stampeding pair of nutcrackers on the level above.
The idea is to collect all up all the "messy" items, as per your orders, to make your nemesis disappear. You do this by walking left and right, jumping over the baddies (anything that moves) and going from room to room to find these items, which conveniently flash to let you know they're there.
The Dragon version seems to have arrived a little later than versions for other popular computers and, almost knowing how eagerly awaited its arrival ould be, this version of the game gives a tantalising 'Press any key to continue' message before it explodes into life with a jangling series of notes and a title sequence that includes a scrolling message.
Something Special This Way Comes
And my word, what an amazing conversion of Jet Set Willy the Dragon has. It may be the definitive version; certainly it's the best I've ever played. There's background music, a spectacularly squelchy sound effect when you lose a life, or are finally splatted in a Monty Python style Game Over sequence. And not only do you have all of the rooms of the original Spectrum game but you actually have many more that I've never seen before anywhere else, courtesy of a secret passage which leads down from The Beach. Goodness me, that sort of praise in itself should get all Jet Set Willy fans salivating. But hold on, because there's even more.
You manoeuvre with the arrow keys (and SHIFT to jump) but the Dragon also supports a joystick option. I personally (for nostalgia reasons alone) prefer to play with keys - but to have the joystick is a nice touch. And, whilst it may be a little unfair to highlight this next inclusion as an advantage, Jet Set Willy on the Dragon also has an in-built cheat mode. Simply hold down the letters M, A and X and the game will pause, and by use of the arrow keys you can choose any screen in the house, and the position that Willy will commence that screen from.
This means that you can effectively practise screens without now having to go through the tedious process of reaching them. Heck, you can even complete the whole game by selecting each screen in turn, and moving Willy directly onto the flashing item. I don't necessarily suggest that you do that as a newcomer to the game, of course, as it would fair ruin enjoyment of it, but assuming you out there reading this are fellow Jet Set Willy stalwarts then you might care to know that you can zip right over to those new screens I mentioned - including The Pub, Jim's Nasium, Hall of Mirrors, The Games Room, The Guest Room, The Smuggler's Cave, The Old Mine Workings and The Tribble Hutch with just a few keypresses!
Quirks On The Dragon
There's only two niggles about Jet Set Willy on the Dragon, and the first is that the music does slow down when there's a lot of 'action' on the screen. If you are in one of the rooms where a rope swings back and forth, whilst at the same time four roaming baddies litter your path, the fluxuation is definitely noticeable although, oddly, it only really seems to affect the background music. Sprites seem to move at exactly the same rate.
The second concerns the diagonal stairs which you occasionally come across in all versions of the game. All I will say about the Dragon version is that these require a tad more care. You can end up being some eight pixels higher than you expect, depending on how you jump onto these - and those eight pixels can mean the difference between successfully passing under a baddy and colliding with him!