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Bump 'N Jump (Atari 2600) artwork

Bump 'N Jump (Atari 2600) review


"Maybe a particular body of water is too long to clear in just one jump, so you'll have to time things in order to hit an island in the middle of the lake and immediately jump again to clear the rest of it. Or maybe two small ponds will be close together. If you jump at full speed, you'll easily clear the first one...and then helplessly watch as you said over the strip of land between them, only to crash into the second inches from clearing it."



Growing up, I owned an Atari 2600. The best thing about this system was that you'd get ports of virtually every arcade game of the time, as well as hordes of console-original games. The worst thing about it was that the gulf between quantity and quality possibly has never been more pronounced than during its hey-day. The original Pac-Man was a joke -- which could be said to some degree about many of the 2600's arcade ports, which eliminated levels, creatures and items while presenting classic games in ugly, blocky style with primitive "beeps" and "boops" serving as music. With my system, I played a lot of arcade classics, but I didn't PLAY them, if you know what I mean.

I can't say the same thing about the 2600 version of Bump 'n Jump for two reasons. First, I never played the arcade version, so I have no idea how much stuff wound up on the cutting room floor. Second, the experience I had with this port was so good that I really have no desire to research what the game was missing.

Bump 'n Jump was an overhead-view car racing game where the point wasn't to cross the finish line first. It's simply to survive as long as you can. Yes, survive. The other vehicles on the road are out to slam you into one of the sides -- an act that will wreck you and take away a life. Your goal will be to reciprocate the violence for points. Small race cars are easy to dispose of, as they go flying upon contact. Larger vehicles are best avoided unless they're near the edge of the road, as they'll barely move when bumped. When garbage trucks enter the screen, it's best to get to one side of them quickly, as they periodically send trash flying directly behind them. At least they're so fragile that simply touching one is enough to take it out of the picture.

Enemy vehicles are more a distraction than anything else, though. The real danger comes from the water hazards, which will pop up shortly after a little warning sign appears on the screen. This is where your car's secret weapon comes into play -- the ability to jump (hence the title Bump 'n Jump). If you have good timing, this is a good way to take out those tricky, tough-to-bump vehicles, as landing on them instantly destroys them. More importantly, you can clear the water obstacles if you're going fast enough. Your car, which can reach speeds of 220 miles per hour, can jump once you've reached 100. The faster you go, the farther you fly.

There are nine tracks in the game: an introductory one and then eight more that will loop as long as you play the game. After a couple straightforward ones, the jumps start getting tricky. Maybe a particular body of water is too long to clear in just one jump, so you'll have to time things in order to hit an island in the middle of the lake and immediately jump again to clear the rest of it. Or maybe two small ponds will be close together. If you jump at full speed, you'll easily clear the first one...and then helplessly watch as you said over the strip of land between them, only to crash into the second inches from clearing it.

That was the addiction of Bump 'n Jump. As a growing lad, I LOVED having the opportunity to justify playing video games by grasping at any straw possible to say they were educational in some way, shape or form. Here, I had to memorize multiple courses to know what jumps I had to at least be close to max speed to clear and which ones required me to slow down to the mid-100s. Having good reflexes was a positive that became a necessity during the latter courses, but if I didn't know exactly how to handle those jumps, I'd have no chance at clearing them. It was one of those games that just kept dragging me back, as I'd seem to make it just a little bit farther each time I played.

Another thing that kept this game in my system was how there was a natural progression from stage to stage. After the intro, each course represented a season, going from spring to summer to fall to winter and starting over again. The background colors shifted to reflect this. Anyone familiar with the Atari 2600 knows that backgrounds either tended to be the same from stage to stage or would shift colors randomly. Having a clear progression from one course to the next was something neat that I hadn't experienced before.

The biggest flaw in Bump 'n Jump was something that was commonplace in games of this era: there was no reward other than personal pride. It took a while to figure out those courses and it took longer to memorize them to the point where I wasn't occasionally suffering brain-freeze heading into a jump ("Crap! Why was I accelerating to max speed for that jump?!? I had to be around 160!"). But finally, I did it. I made it through all nine courses...only to immediately go back to the first spring track. I remember thinking for a moment that this game truly was godly to supply at least one more trek through the seasons...and then noticed the jumps were very, very familiar. I was stuck in an endless loop with nothing more to prove.

Shortly after that, Bump 'n Jump started spending less and less time in my Atari. Eventually, my skills (or at least my memory of the tracks) diminished to the point where it was a success just to make it through the first set of seasons. And then, one day, the Atari got pushed aside for newer systems. Still, the time I had making my way through this game has never left my mind. It was simple (bump cars, jump water), but challenging and addictive...which was more than enough to keep me entertained for quite some time.

Rating: 9/10

overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (June 22, 2011)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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