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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Bump 'n' Jump (Data East, 1982)

Released to the arcades in Japan as "Burnin' Rubber" and to the rest of the world as "Bump 'n' Jump".

Ports were released for:
- Atari 2600 and Intellivision by Mattel Electronics in 1983 as "Bump 'n' Jump"
- Commodore 64 by Colosoftware in 1983 as "Burnin' Rubber"; by Bubble Bus in 1984 as "Bumping Buggies"; and by IJK Software in 1984 as "Krazy Kar"
- Colecovision by Coleco in 1984
- Nintendo Entertainment System by Vic Tokai in 1986 as "Buggy Popper" in Japan and "Bump 'n' Jump" for the rest of the world.


GAME STATUS

Here's an oldie, but definitely a goldie. Currently, at Lemon64, "Burnin' Rubber" has 98 votes and is rated 7.4,  while "Bumping Buggies" has 40 votes and is rated 7.1. AtariMania doesn't have it rated, but has several releases of it as "Bump 'n' Jump", all of which have a fair amount of hits and downloads. INTV Funhouse website gives it excellent marks. Coleco and Nintendo reviews and ratings are stupidly hard to find, but they seem to be getting average marks overall.


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DESCRIPTION & REVIEW

This is my first game comparison done by a request/suggestion, so here's to Bob - cheers. I wasn't all too familiar with this game, before I got the suggestion - I mean, I had played the two versions on the Commodore, but it was never one of my favourites. Admittedly, it's a funny and rather unique game, but gets repetitive after a while, especially if the version you're playing is too easy for you to keep focus on.

My favourite of the two used to be Bumping Buggies, which had a more energetic and flashy intro, and the gameplay was more to my taste. But now that I've compared every conversion to the original, I'm not so sure anymore. I mean, I still do like the flashy intro on Bumping Buggies best, but how do the other games compare to the original?

Well, the original was released in 1982, so it's definitely one of the early classics, even if a bit less valued one - call it a cult game, then. Data East Corporation created the game for its DECO Cassette System, so it had to be loaded kind of like any home computer game from a cassette, thus it would take a while. The game is pretty much driving recklessly ahead, bumping into other cars and jumping across obstacles - hence, "Bump 'n' Jump". The Japanese title is translated to "Burnin' Rubber", the legend doesn't tell where this game was released first. Logically, it would have to be Japan, but who knows.

There is supposed to be some kind of a plot to this madness, which apparently goes like this: your girlfriend has been kidnapped by the Black Army Corps, and you have to race to save her. What a shock. I don't know if you'll ever be able to get to the end, and I'm not sure if this plot was involved in all versions, or was it just an added sense of depth for the later released NES version.

It's just a step in another direction from similar games of the time, like Turbo and Le Mans. This is not only the first in which you can jump with your vehicle, but arguably, also the first top-down viewed completely vertically scrolling racing game. So in case anyone ever wondered why the game felt so old-fashioned on home computers when it was released, it's because it kind of was. But it was still pretty unique, and that's should never be considered a bad thing.

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LOADING

Since the arcade version has the rare disadvantage of having a cassette loading system, we're going to get some interesting, but useless results here. The reason being, of course, that the Commodore versions are the only other two not to boot from a ROM cartridge. For the three C64 versions, I've put #1 for the Colosoftware release, #2 for the Bubble Bus release, and #3 for the IJK Software release and the same thing goes for the other sections as well.

ARCADE: DECO Cassette original - 2 minutes 47 seconds
C64 #1: Colosoft/Audiogenic original - 11 minutes 35 seconds
C64 #2: Bubble Bus original release - 9 minutes 28 seconds
        Alternative Software re-release - 1 minute 44 seconds
C64 #3: IJK Software release - 2 minutes 27 seconds
COLECO: the boot image takes 13 seconds to disappear.
OTHERS: no loading time. (A2600, NES and INTV)

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PLAYABILITY

The feel of the game could be described as unpredictable. I probably should explain how the game actually plays, so here goes: you drive your barely-in-one-piece buggy (as it's pictured in the original arcade flyer), bumping into other cars and trying to wreck them, but when you bump into them, you'll lose your steering and some of your speed for a second, and bump into the other direction. If you manage to get your speed high enough (100 units), you can jump the car to a ridiculous height and land on some car perhaps, which will send you off in some random direction similarly to when you just bump into a car. In fact, you will be required to drive rather fast, because you'll come across cut-off bridges and insanely difficult passages to drive through, so it's easier to just jump around through the courses. Of course it's not that easy, because you will lose 30 units of your speed while up in the air, and eventually you will drive less than 100 speed units. The reason why I'm speaking of speed units, is because the original only has the speed indicated by numbers, and it doesn't say whether it's km/h or mph, so it's up to you to imagine the real speed. The hidden now well-known objective in the game was NOT to bump into ANY cars, which would give you a bigger bonus at the  end of each level. I wonder if anyone ever managed to do that...

Let's begin the comparison with something a bit more obscure. The INTELLIVISION conversion plays amazingly good, considering... well, everything. You don't really need to use the phone dial thing to anything but choosing the options. The game plays nicely enough using the disc-type joystick and any of the three fire buttons. The scrolling isn't as good as in the original, but that doesn't really bother much. Everything else works quite as well as you would need them to - the only big difference that I could find was the speed decrease when you jumped. In the arcade, it decreases by 30 km/h, and on the INTV, it decreases as much as by 46 km/h. Don't know how they came up with that, but there it is. Anyway, hats off for the Intellivision.

Next up, the ATARI 2600. As an interesting development in the comparison, you can play the Atari version with the paddles. The other paddle controls your speed, and the other your horizontal position. I would say it's otherwise very playable, but takes some time getting used to. Your car in this version feels probably the least hazardous, and just to make your life slightly easier, your after-jump speed is only 20 km/h slower than pre-jump, which makes it 10 km/h faster than in the original. Pretty cool.

Getting now to the ones I'm somewhat familiar with, let's start with the one that shares the name from the Japanese original. C64's Burnin' Rubber by Colosoftware feels a bit awkward to handle - more specifically, the car just won't move vertically in as big a range as it should. Horizontally, it's alright. Probably because the programmer knew that he made a mistake there, he tried to lessen the effect of this by starting the car's acceleration from 80 MPH, which is now clearly stated. Also, your car seems to have its own mind whether or not the jumps affect your speed. Sometimes it decreases your speed by 20 MPH, sometimes it doesn't affect it at all. My biggest gripe with this version is the time your car spends in the air during jumps - it's LONG. Your enemies behave in this version much like in the original, at least. The biggest difference from the other versions seems to be the strangely missing  warning light, which was supposed to show you the upcoming hazards.

Bumping Buggies from Bubble Bus on the C64 feels now a very different experience. The car  handles a bit differently, all your enemy cars have a different personality somehow and there are less (or perhaps too much more) rules to how everything works in order to make much sense. Your car's top speed is now only 200 km/h, but then, you don't lose any speed when jumping. The biggest difficulty is getting to know your enemies. Some of them drag you away with them in a kamikaze move towards the edges, and some of them feel only like some innocent bypassers, which you  happen to bump into. Strange, but at least you have the advantage of having that warning signal for any nearing road cut-offs and stuff, which the other C64 conversion didn't have.

UPDATE, 3rd of August, 2014:
The third and so far the final C64 incarnation is Krazy Kar from IJK Software, originally featured in the entry titled "Heaps of updates!" in January 2014. As I mentioned in that entry, Krazy Kar is mostly an unnecessary addition to the collection of Bump 'n' Jump clones on the C64, since the other two were already close enough. I might as well quote myself: "For its defence, I could mention that the level layouts are again different enough from the two to make this version worth trying at least a couple of times. Too bad there's not much to mention in terms of playability, since the majority of the gametime can be spent in air. Your car jumps for a few miles at a time, so you will not be spending all that much time on the ground. Otherwise, the car handles as well as in the other games. Your acceleration starts at 30 mph (or which format it ever is), and goes up to 250, and your jump ability kicks in at 150. When you land from a jump, you're taken off 40 of your speed."

Back to the console versions, we've got COLECOVISION next. The plot thickens with the after-jump speed decrease comparison - here we have a 40 speed units fall. I mean, what is it with all the different ideas of this one bit of detail? Well, otherwise, this is the most unresponsively controlling version of the game, which is really a bad thing for a game that needs exactly high responsiveness in controls. Otherwise, everything seems to work pretty much like they should, if you want to get as close to the original as possible.

Finally, the NINTENDO version and it's enhanced features. This time, you get an intro animation, indicating you have a goal in this game. Apart from that, your car wobbles a bit more here, has a higher top speed of 250 km/h, and only jumps when your speed has passed 150 km/h. That's quite a difference already, but there's more. You need to collect fuel barrels in order to get further, because you have a fuel gauge that gets gradually lower, just like in Road Fighter. You'll get a green truck driving by you every now and then, occasionally dropping either garbage you should avoid, or 1UP's, which you should naturally collect. A fusion of two different games then, the original Bump 'n' Jump and Spy Hunter. The level designs are radically different as well, but that should be expected, because everything else has turned the game into something completely different already.

The more you play all these different versions, the more you start to notice the lesser differences, like the level design and colourings. They don't really matter all that much, but do give each game their own personality somehow, even if they're all trying to be the same game. Except on the Nintendo.
Putting them into some sort of order, I'd have to do it like this:

1. ARCADE
2. ATARI 2600
3. C64 #2
4. INTELLIVISION
5. NINTENDO
6. C64 #1
7. C64 #3
8. COLECOVISION

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GRAPHICS

I'd start with the loading screens comparison as usual, but this time there are none. The arcade original has only the standard DECO loading screen, which is shown left of here, so there's nothing to write about, and the two Commodore 64 versions don't have any loading screens, since they loaded with the ROM loader, which only featured endless waiting with the familiar light blue screen. The re-released Bumping Buggies had a turbo loader, but still no loading screen.

Left: arcade
Right top: Atari 2600 - Right bottom: Colecovision
So, let's begin with the arcade title screen, which is the left one below. So, it's not really much at all - just the title, very simply stylized, and the mandatory copyright texts. It's one of the most boring title screens I've ever seen, but remember, it's 1982.

Okay, so the ATARI 2600 version doesn't fare much better: it doesn't have a title screen, you  just start the game straightaway, as you turn on the power switch. COLECOVISION does it equally boring - it's just the standard Coleco boot-up screen, with the game's title and copyrights.

Left to right: C64 #1, C64 #2, Intellivision, NES
The two COMMODORE title screens have an interesting contrast: Colosoft's Burnin' Rubber tries to fit in as much relevant information as they possibly could think of, but the flashiness factor suffers a bit, compared to Bubble Bus' Bumping Buggies, which has all sorts of colours rolling around in the game title logo and around the high score table. Burnin' Rubber's only flashy element is the gradual line-up of enemy cars and their value, which in the long run, is rather useless.

The NINTENDO version takes a rather traditional approach to the title screen, but at least it's way more colourful than the arcade. The INTELLIVISION takes the cake here, which is rare. It hardly fits the game, other than being about a car driving ahead, but it's an animated title screen, in a first-person mode even, which doesn't exactly represent the game. It's definitely flashy, if anything, and I like it.

Left top: Atari 2600, bottom: Intellivision. -- Right top: Colecovision, bottom: NES
Center: arcade

I suppose there would be no point in stating the obvious, but I'll say it anyway: the arcade version is in the middle. Clearly, it has the most detail and colour compared to the rest, and when you see it in action, it's animated with precision and scrolls like a dream too. But how do the rest compare?

Sorting the console versions first, we'll go with the ATARI version first. It's not exactly pretty, but how many A2600 games have you seen that you can with good conscience call good-looking? That
said, it's remarkably close to the original in scrolling and animation. INTELLIVISION version, shown below the Atari picture, gets in the same league. The game is animated nicely, scrolls and plays surprisingly well, and you get all the necessary information on the screen. Everything looks as
good as they need to, and they do it much better than in the Atari version. Perhaps the scrolling is a bit worse, but the gameplay doesn't really suffer from it.

COLECOVISION has probably the worst scrolling of the lot. It doesn't look too bad, though - it's
definitely better than the above two consoles. Again, all the necessary information is shown on the screen, and it's playable enough.

The NINTENDO version has a different thing going on, but that could only be expected. In all the other versions, you will go through the year's four seasons, repeatedly, and that's how the graphics change. Here, though, you have a mission to save your girlfriend, and you have to chase your enemies through different areas, so you first drive a coastal road, then through the city, etc. The graphic changes are way more radical on the NES version. The scrolling is brilliant, though, and I'd say it's faster than on all the other versions. But then it does have a higher top speed. =P

Left: C64 Burnin' Rubber - Right: C64 Bumping Buggies

If we compare the two COMMODORE versions now, one thing is clear from the go. They're both butt-ugly. It's just a matter of getting accustomed to them. Bumping Buggies has perhaps worse colours, but Burnin' Rubber is a bit more blocky, and some sections (mostly the water parts) are very uneasy for the eyes, because the terrain parts are built from tiles. Considering that the game scrolls by character lines, it's surprisingly smooth, although the enemy cars do tend to glitch a lot. The only thing that the Colosoft conversion has going for it is the enemy cars - they look closer to the original than the ones on Bumping Buggies. But again, it should be mentioned that only Bumping Buggies of the two has the danger indicator on screen.

Screenshots from Krazy Kar (C64)

UPDATE, 3rd of August, 2014:
A few months after writing the original comparison, I found the third C64 version, so here are the notes concerning graphics on Krazy Kar, and a more than adequate screenshot compilation from the game above this paragraph, as featured on the update entry. And I quote myself again: "As you can see, the graphics are not only bigger than in the other two C64 conversions, but blockier and uglier. Also, Krazy Kar also uses a similar style for the background graphics as Burnin' Rubber, although it is arguable which one of them has the worse patterns. At least the warning light flashes in a place more noticeable place, so there's something done right."

Well, I guess I should try to put them all in some sort of order. It's difficult, but here's a fair attempt:

1. ARCADE
2. NINTENDO
3. INTELLIVISION
4. C64 #2
5. COLECOVISION
6. C64 #1
7. C64 #3
8. ATARI 2600

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SOUNDS

The arcade version has a nice carnival-type theme going on, and it has been copied more or less successfully to every conversion it is featured in. And since it has a dedicated hardware, you'll also get an array of sound effects to play on top of the music. It's not really possible to top that with the competing machines.

Obviously, the ATARI port has a very limited soundtrack, but it definitely tries its best. One-channel music and effects is all you'll get, but somehow, it's good enough this time, because the game doesn't require more than that. Besides, it's Atari 2600, you'll forgive it its faults. It's still pretty damn basic, so I can't give it too high a score.

INTV and COLECO get the same sound treatment: two-channel music and one channel on top of  them is reserved for the very melodic sound effects. Definitely nicer than the Atari version, and as
close to the original as you'll get on any 8-bit system.

--UPDATED on 3rd of August, 2014--
None of the C64 conversions have the original theme tune, and instead you get a weird ragtime melody thing and a bit from Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" cantata to loop in the Colosoft conversion, a happy circus-type original tune for Bumping Buggies, and Krazy Kar's soundtrack is none other than the theme from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in the usual muffled sound that is recognizable from many early C64 games. For the sound effects, Bumping Buggies has a strictly SFX policy during the play, which is a refreshing take on the game. Burning Rubber and Krazy Kar will both repeat their respectively featured music over and over, even during the play, but BR will also play some crash sounds and disturbingly long jump effects, and KK has only one sound effect, which is a crash noise... obviously for when you crash.

The NINTENDO edition of the game will not surprise anyone by having a bunch of original tunes, apparently one for each level. Then again, there's no music in the title screen so why not. You'll naturally also get a wider range of sound effects to go with the enhanced range of gameplay elements. But, while the NES has the most capable sound chip in terms of channels, it doesn't have a very unique type of sound, and most certainly, it doesn't stand a chance compared to the arcade. However, it's still different enough to be interesting and diverting from the rest.

So, in what kind of order will I put these..?

1. ARCADE
2. NINTENDO
3. INTELLIVISION
4. COLECOVISION
5. C64 #2
6. C64 #1
7. ATARI 2600
8. C64 #3

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OVERALL

Well, the end result may not be to Bob's liking, but it should be a relatively fair comparison. Sometimes, you just can't beat the real thing. Then again, every dog has his tricks. All the versions do have something specific to charm the players in, even if they're not that good. I'll readily admit that the NES version is way too evolved and separated from the original for my acceptance at it being the same game, but the fact is, it's an official conversion - in fact, I guess you could call it a remake, if anything. And here's another thing - none of the C64 conversions are official. Burnin' Rubber happens to have the same title as the Japanese arcade release, but it has some key elements missing, just as Bumping Buggies and Krazy Kar have some different ones. Anyway, all the games play good enough to be reasonably enjoyable, and everyone will have their preference, whether it be closer to the original or something different.

Here's the final, traditionally mathematical, results:

1. ARCADE: Playability 8, Graphics 8, Sounds 8 = TOTAL 24
2. NINTENDO: Playability 4, Graphics 7, Sounds 7 = TOTAL 18
3. INTELLIVISION: Playability 5, Graphics 6, Sounds 6 = TOTAL 17
4. C64 #2: Playability 6, Graphics 5, Sounds 4 = TOTAL 15
5. COLECOVISION: Playability 1, Graphics 4, Sounds 5 = TOTAL 10
6. ATARI 2600: Playability 7, Graphics 1, Sounds 2 = TOTAL 9
6. C64 #1: Playability 3, Graphics 3, Sounds 3 = TOTAL 9
7. C64 #3: Playability 2, Graphics 2, Sounds 1 = TOTAL 5

That cleared, I'll make another traditionally contradictory end statement.

None of these other versions of this game will ever be better than your favourite one, as is so often the case in purely nostalgic gaming. It's not a remarkably good game in the first place, but definitely one of the first ones of its kind, therefore an important one. Whichever the version of your choice is, it won't be a bad gaming session by any means. Having now tested all the versions of Bump 'n' Jump, I can only recommend everyone to do the same and make your own conclusions. It's really not that much of work, using emulators at least. Somehow, my current favourite version is the one on Intellivision.

--UPDATE! 12th of November, 2014--
Having gotten a permission to link videos from the YouTube channel Gaming History Source, I can now insert a video here to support the text. So, take a look at the 7 versions featured on this video - only Krazy Kar is missing.



Screenshots of Jumpin' Jag on the ZX Spectrum.
If, for some reason, I have missed out on some version of Bump 'n' Jump that is not featured here, feel free to leave a comment below. As of 24th of January 2014, I have been unable to find anything close enough on the ZX Spectrum, for example. The only game that I found for the update entry back then was Jumpin' Jag by Simon Fletcher in 1985, released through an unknown company called Micronet 800. Even that one has only a very few similarities, which I will not get into too much here. Apart from being able to adjust your speed, controlling your car and being able to jump, Jumpin' Jag really has very little in common with Bump 'n' Jump.

Well, that's it for now, thanks for reading again!
Next time, something completely different, so keep an eye out!
Suggestions and comments are still welcome! =)

2 comments:

  1. Screenshots captioned by request.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My dear Burnin' Rubber came last - buuhuu! Anyway, another interesting review/comparision. I tend to be fond of the loading time statistics section. It's fanatic, radical and extreme. Kind of a thing, really.

    ReplyDelete