Disco Driscoll

Point and click, retro, music, meh...

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Jet Set Willy

Oh sweet mystery of life at last I’ve found you! The 80s were a great time for computer games, and I’m not saying that with the rose-tinted specs on. Modern gaming is almost unrecognisable from that which paved the way for it in the early years; if any of you have an old Spectrum that you haven’t played since you were a nipper, then dig and it out and you’ll see what I mean.

On the surface it would appear that the gaming experience has improved: better graphics, more variety, heightened playability, no more tortuous load times, and the sound-effects, well… what can one say?

But no-one ever went broke trading on nostalgia. Witness the raft of Capcom and Midway compilations available for your next-gen console. Now all we’re waiting for is a DS or PSP compilation featuring Hungry Horace, Emlyn Hughes International Soccer and Jet Set Willy.

Ah yes, Jet Set Willy. You see, this is what is missing today to a certain extent: games that a focus group would never come up with; one man’s frankly loopy idea: a game where the main character, Willy, finds himself with a stonking beerheadache after a party, wants to get to bed but his housekeeper Maria won’t let him until he cleans up. Um, who’s the housekeeper? You need to put your foot down, Willy.

So, Willy sets off amongst the myriad rooms in his mansion collecting empty bottles so that Maria will grant him access to his bed. No problemo you might think, excpet that somehow a bunch of monsters have appeared from nowhere (we presume Willy doesn’t live amongst these fiends in his daily life), and they’re posing a problem or two. Are they a figment of his drink-addled brain? Well if they are they have the power to kill him, so that’s a pretty dangerous figment.

Using just three buttons – left, right and jump – you must traverse the gigantic mansion and visit each room (well, except for Entrance to Hades- if you visit that room then it’s game over!) to collect the flashing empties. You get 10 lives, but don’t get complacent, they almost certainly won’t be enough!

In the best traditions of 80s gaming, the collision detection is merciless, and some jumps have to be timed to the millisecond which is nerve-wracking stuff when you’re down to your final life. On my Acorn Electron version (!) there was no sound, which is a small mercy as the Spectrum version featured a dire rendition of If I Were A Rich Man on said machine’s primordial sound chip. Headache duly induced, you had no choice but to turn off sound altogether.

The rooms vary from the standard (Hallway, Swimming Pool) to the plain weird (Nomen Luni requires you to traverse the tail of an aeroplane which has crashed into the roof, and whoever heard of a man with a Chapel in his mansion!?), and Willy can occasionally leave the house altogether and collect the bottles and glasses from the Off License or even The Beach.

I’ve visited every room of this game, but I’ve never completed it. I guess I’ve never really made a concerted effort to do so. When I was younger, the challenge was always to find extra rooms and because there was no such resource as the internet, and because I didn’t buy the requisite computer game magazines, I had no idea how many rooms there were. Now that I know, the task is even more daunting, and frankly I’m too afraid to take it on!

You can relive the game online at http://www.mjwilson.demon.co.uk/jsw.html or you can play a multiplayer online version at http://jsw.ovine.net. Get to it!


  • At 14 August 2007 at 06:24 , Anonymous Vili said...

    Ah, Jet Set Willy... I had completely forgotten about that gem. Like you, I never completed it -- in fact, I think I didn't even have any idea what I was supposed to do in it. But the rooms were fun.

    As for Emlyn Hughes International Soccer, which is what brought me here; while you are waiting for that DS or PSP compilation, how about taking a look at ehis64.net and maybe even challenging a member or two for an online game? :-)

    Blatant advertising, I know, but we are doing our best to gather together every potential player who might still remember and play EHIS.


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