Everygamegoing26th May 2020
Jet Set Willy: The Nightmare Edition
Jet Set Willy: The Nightmare Edition is a new game for the original Spectrum 48K. It's been over a year in the making and, right off the bat, I must confess this is the most terrible version of Jet Set Willy I have ever played.
The Jet Set Willy/Manic Miner Community have taken the classic Jet Set Willy and they have edited it, ramping up the difficulty. What, exactly, the point of actually doing such a thing is, is somewhat lost on me personally. I appreciate however that a community that totally revolves around Jet Set Willy might conceive a project of making a new Jet Set Willy game, and that making a more difficult version of the original is one idea that hadn't actually been tried before.
However, I'll venture I know why it hadn't been tried before. Most people love the original. They love playing it on their iPhones, or their new blue-toothed Spectrum keyboards, or on their PC, or on their MSX Beecard imported specially from Japan. And I would venture the reason the original game is so well-loved is because how to get through quite a lot of the original screens was permanently imprinted on their brains all those years ago. They want to finish the game off - even if it's hard and it is going to take them a lifetime.
This version takes all of the fun of that away. Let me turn to the very first screen, the familiar bathroom, to illustrate what has been done. In the original, Willy begins the game next to a flashing tap, which is the first of many objects he must collect in order to win the approval of his housekeeper (and then be allowed to retire to bed).
In the nightmare version, there is an additional tap located in the top right of the screen. To get to that tap requires Willy to venture into a corner of the bathroom that, in the original, he didn't need to. That means a jump over a patrolling pair of nutcrackers. However, try it and Willy will die - because a totally invisible deadly block is situated in exactly the area Willy's head will collide with!
This illustrates exactly the point of The Nightmare Edition. The idea is that players go to collect the items, instinctively imagining that the game will behave in a certain way because of their familiarity with the original. The game then kills them off, or throws them into a state of confusion by having invisible obstacles, or obstacles slightly moved from their positions in the original.
There are only two new rooms; others are just murderously difficult versions of the original ones. New obstructions litter every room, making even crossing previously easy rooms (by just walking across the bottom of the screen) an exercise in hair-pulling and expletive-roaring. Playing The Nightmare Version is like playing one of those "versions" of a game where you can set the level of difficulty before you start. For example, where you would have a menu offering you "Easy, Medium, Hard or Impossible". I would say the original was Hard, so this leaves this version as the only option harder than that. Get the idea and still feel like a play on it? No, thought not.
Jet Set Willy: The Nightmare Edition is the most demoralising game I've played this year. The vast number of developers involved in its production only serves to me to highlight that the closer you are to a project, the less you are able to see the bigger picture. The sad fact is that the only audience for this monstrosity is the very team that has put it together. 99.9% of people will continue to prefer the original.
There are some little inclusions that did something to abate my ire - but not by a lot. There are three new pieces of music, and these are in relatively accessible rooms. They fit perfectly with the scenario and are a welcome inclusion. There is also some feeling of satisfaction when you do (against seemingly impossible odds) work out exactly how to collect a particular item. The uplift in lives is, naturally, welcome, although the "repeating death-loop" of the original is still present on some screens ("Entrance To Hades" being one of them) meaning they just take longer to cycle through if you're unlucky.
Now I suppose you could say to me "Hang on, put yourself in the mind of someone who is madly in love with Jet Set Willy. They've played every variant they can, and every unofficial sequel with all its new rooms. Just perhaps, then, they might find The Nightmare Edition to their liking and maybe even think it's the best thing since sliced bread?" The trouble with that argument is, however, that I am such a person. I have played every variant of it, I have played all the unofficial sequels. I've even played many clones that used Jet Set Willy as their unofficial inspiration. Many of them I loved, and strived to conquer.
But, after an hour of playing The Nightmare Version, not only did I never want to see it again but I felt almost complete despair about the community that had, with such finesse, put it all together without realising there will be zero audience for it. It seems to me they've wasted not only their own time, but also the time of anyone who downloads the thing.