Jill of the Jungle (PC) review
"Our protagonist, Jill, is an Amazon woman-type (girl power!), clad in a skimpy green outfit (guy power!). She's blonde (naturally) and brawny, and depending on what you choose to do with her, brainy as well. She can jump, climb ladders and vines, and can fling knives and spinning blades should she be so lucky to find them and so equip herself. But wait. Keep that quickening pulse in check!"
Try her once if you're lonely
Baha! As I browsed the net for archived articles featuring this old shareware platformer, I frequently came across examples of surprisingly complimentary hyperbole: “Features Super Nintendo quality animation and graphics!” many of the websites were raving. I questioned whether or not I had the right game installed on my computer. Yes, it’s Jill of the Jungle by Epic MegaGames, and yes, it was released in 1992. Something was up! But what?
It’s a common enough thing for people to look back on things they used to love, with so much of the same old fondness that they give those things more credit than they deserve. Chalk that tendency up to human nature. And chalk Jill's hype up to that tendency. Because however charming this game used to be, it hasn’t aged all that well.
JoJ represents one of Epic MegaGames' earlier attempts to pull off a side-scrolling platform game. (For whatever reason, making a game in the vein of 16-bit console adventures seemed to be the ultimate goal of PC Shareware developers.) Epic's name might be a mystery to you, but you've likely heard of Apogee. That kooky moniker represents the company so well known for producing Shareware ‘classics’ back in the day. Well, Apogee wasn't alone in that Shareware game market; many companies were competing fiercely with them for the Shareware crown. Jill's creators, Epic MegaGames, was one such company.
Unluckily for us, Epic didn't start off in very impressive fashion. Apogee had action heroes like Commander Keen and Duke Nukem, and Epic had the cheese-filled and barely competent JoJ. We needn't look any further for evidence as to why Apogee was on top early on. But the important thing was that for all the problems with JoJ, it was the start of something good. Epic's next game, which piggybacked heavily upon JoJ's best features, would be Xargon, one of the best Shareware games I've ever played. That makes JoJ a pioneering precursor to greatness, so we'll show it a little respect.
But only a little.
Our protagonist, Jill, is an Amazon woman-type (girl power!), clad in a skimpy green outfit (guy power!). She's blonde (naturally) and brawny, and depending on what you choose to do with her, brainy as well. She can jump, climb ladders and vines, and can fling knives and spinning blades should she be so lucky to find them and so equip herself. But wait. Keep that quickening pulse in check! Those knives are almost useless. It's true that if you find one, you can use it an unlimited number of times, since it returns to you—boomerang-like—after it makes its short trip. And sure you can actually be equipped with two knives at once, so that you've got them both going in the air simultaneously (shades of the cross boomerang from the Castlevania games).
But here is where JoJ tries to get innovative, managing to plant the seed for proper execution in Xargon, and falling flat on its face in the process. After tossing your knife, you can actually alter it's vertical movement with your controls. The mechanics are very crude though, so it's unlikely that you'll find controlling its trajectory very dependable. To make matters worse, Jill cannot duck, so your odd giant insect adversaries will manage to slip under your fire most times. Pray for the spinning blade weapon. The blade cuts through both solid rock and slippery enemies alike, and is actually reliable. It's just not as readily available.
Jill's adventure is very short, and very simple, featuring 16 stages of leaping about, and misfiring an unwieldy knife weapon at badly proportioned insect enemies. There is a map area with the 16 stages labeled, and only a few will be accessible at a time. Get past the first two to unlock passage to the third on the map, and so on.
What saves Epic's effort here, from utter banality, are the morphing powers. In some levels, you will collect a bird icon enabling you to fly to unexplored regions. Similarly, a dolphin icon is also available, allowing underwater travel. This is essential, because Jill can't swim, despite her one-piece. These clever gameplay additions help elevate JoJ to a fair adventure at best. The humour in some of the crummy characteristics (since they can now be characterized as kitsch elements), also helps paint for the game a slightly more favourable countenance.
For example, we already know that Jill wears a skimpy green leotard to fight her battles. That's funny. (But we don't know if there is a thong at the back or not—it's just not clear. And that's not funny, dammit.) And you'll enjoy having her shimmy up and down ropes with the greatest ease, her thighs well conditioned for the chafing rope action. You'll thrill to her impatient antics when you neglect her, and you'll laugh out loud (lol, for internet newbies) when she collects certain items, eliciting that hilarious cry from a corny male voice: ''YEE-AHHH!''.
So she's got a good sense of humour, and that's good. Jill also looks decent, considering her age. But keeping everything else in mind, you sure wouldn't marry her—though she might temporarily sate your platformer appetite to be seen with her once or twice.
And hell, why not? These days she's easy and cheap.
Staff review by Marc Golding (January 14, 2004)
There was a bio here once. It's gone now.
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