Retro remakes and cross-platform ports are undeniably a very difficult thing to get 100% right, and without access to the original source-code some would even say that they are harder to pull off effectively than creating your own original title. As a result there are hundreds of games out there that only manage to capture 50% of the target material's qualities; as with last issue's remake of IO, essential elements and game-play mechanics are often omitted, misunderstood, or just forgotten when creating a tribute to the classic games of old.
Generalising somewhat, the remakes scene can be broken down into three divisions; pixel-perfect ports, remakes with enhanced presentation and lastly, re-imaginings of old games that add new features and mechanics to the original. Whereas the first two largely leave the target material alone, the third camp of remakes/ports uses a slightly contentious method that when done right can result in previously broken games being fixed (like the recent Zub remake from Richard Jordan), whereas if it is done poorly you end up with a title wrecked by unnecessary features that successfully screw up and unbalance a previously excellent game. And unfortunately, this is the case with Jetboy.
It's a shame because the team behind the game really know their stuff - the project started out with three 8-Bit Atari sceners working on disassembling Ultimate's classic Spectrum version of Jetpac, converting the code to run on the Atari XE/XL (line by line) and optimizing it wherever possible - and the port initially caused a lot of excitement on the AtariAge forums. However, that excitement started to turn a little sour when it was announced that some small, yet core, changes were being made to the original game.
Before going into the game's flaws, let's first celebrate the good points of Jetboy. For a start, it looks and sounds fantastic; the new soundtrack suits the game well and the high-res graphics, although lacking colour, are well-defined conversions. Gone is the colour clash of the Spectrum original and little graphical touches like the mountain range backdrop and coloured borders make a welcome addition. In that respect, XXL, Kaz and Miker have done a cracking job.
However, somewhere along the line two additions were made that have resulted in the classic Jetpac game-play we all know and love turning into something, well, quite different. In the original (as you probably already know) the aim of the game was to first build your rocket, then collect a set amount of fuel pods before taking off and landing in the next level - all the time defending yourself from hordes of aliens with your rather neat Defender-style laser cannon. However, in this version you've also got to worry about ensuring you keep your oxygen and (arrrggghh!) ammo regularly topped up - which unfortunately due to a poorly implemented bonus-drop routine results in the game being thoroughly broken. Want to re-live those happy days of flying about the screen unleashing plasma death in all directions? Not any more; in this version you have to make every shot count. Even worse, you'd think that the game would detect when your oxygen or ammo starts to run low and thereby increase the chance of the required bonus appearing - but alas, that's not the case with Jetboy - and this essentially sucks all the fun out of this otherwise excellent release.
If the original game-play had been left alone, I would have deservedly awarded this release with a high rating; it's clear that a lot of effort has gone into creating this Jetpac port. However, as it stands, the introduction of the two new gauges has left Jetboy heavily flawed.