Jungle Hunt (Atari 2600) review
"You'd start out swinging from vines like Tarzan. Interestingly enough, this game originally was called Jungle King where you controlled a guy who looked like Tarzan. And then the lawsuits came rolling in, so the name of the game and the appearance of the hero were changed, giving you a Dr. Livingston-like character instead."
I remember Jungle Hunt vividly for one reason and one reason alone: it was one of those transitional titles from my youth, where video games started to have a bit more meaning beyond simply being a diversion from whatever life amounted to back in the days of grade school.
Most early arcade and Atari 2600 titles operated under a simple philosophy. You'd start a game and do simple, repetitive tasks until you'd lost all your lives. Maybe you were running down maze corridors eating dots and dodging ghosts. Or zipping back-and-forth along the bottom of the screen hoping to blast all the aliens or centipede parts before being overwhelmed. It didn't matter what your role was -- it was a task in futility where the only satisfaction was knowing you'd scored more points and advanced more levels than any of your friends by the time "GAME OVER" flashed on the screen.
Jungle Hunt was the same in one way, as the game continued until all your lives had been lost. However, the presentation was completely different, giving the feeling that you were on an actual quest. There were four unique levels, each with its own challenge. You'd start out swinging from vines like Tarzan. Interestingly enough, this game originally was called Jungle King where you controlled a guy who looked like Tarzan. And then the lawsuits came rolling in, so the name of the game and the appearance of the hero were changed, giving you a Dr. Livingston-like character instead. After the first stage, he headed underwater, where you'd have to steer him into air bubbles to keep him alive while dodging or stabbing crocodiles. This was followed by a level where you'd duck or jump over boulders and the final stage, where you'd leap over a pair of tribesmen so stereotypical they were brought back to be in Resident Evil 5. Completing this allows you to rescue the game's damsel in distress, giving this story a happy ending…at least until the adventure began anew, at a higher level of difficulty.
Four levels, with each of them having different adversaries and objectives -- this wasn't something I saw every day back when I first started playing games. I played the hell out of Jungle Hunt back in the day because of this. As an added bonus (to make up for how the graphics were a few steps below those in the arcade version), there were two difficulty levels on my Atari 2600 cart. The tougher one reminded me a lot of the arcade version. You had to use great precision to make it from one vine to the next in the first level…and especially to make it over the final stage's natives. The easier difficulty was great to play on a lazy day where I wasn't in the mood for a game to enrage me. You had some room for error there and could make it through the game a time or two without getting frustrated.
Having four completely different stages and two difficulty levels to test myself on really intrigued me. In fact, those attributes really helped mask my pre-teen brain from certain facts -- primarily how none of the levels were particularly fun. Three of them revolve around you doing one activity repeatedly while needing good (or picture-perfect, on the harder difficulty) precision to swing from vines or avoid obstacles. The other was just dull, especially on the easier difficulty. While in the crocodile river, I found it very easy to avoid the water beasts and hit the air bubbles to stay alive. If I died there, it was because I got bored and decided to try to slash as many crocs as possible with no regard to my character's well-being. I don't remember the second stage feeling so much like filler in the arcade version, so maybe it just didn't translate as well to the low-powered Atari system as the other three.
Jungle Hunt was a mediocre game, but it seemed kind of special to me just because it was something different than what I was used to on my 2600. No, it wasn't the only game to have multiple unique stages that were set up to give players something resembling progression through an adventure, but unlike cartridges on the same system like Donkey Kong Jr., none of the levels were cut from this one. At the very least, Taito should be commended for putting forth an admirable effort in actually PORTING an arcade title to the Atari 2600 instead of chopping it up and leaving us with a forgettable, bastardized version destined to be mocked forever by disappointed gamers.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (April 06, 2012)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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