Perfekt Past: Jetstrike CD32

Jetstrike CD32: Mark meets Harrier Attack meets Choplifter.


It is always been a cliché to say that gameplay is more important than graphics especially in today’s HD obsessed market where bloom lighting, real-time shadows and fancy pants reflection effects rule supreme. For those times when I get tired of the digital rat race, I retreat to my beloved Commodore collection, which has pride of place in the museum of gaming under my bed. Amongst the many prized exhibits is this Jetstrike CD32 on…. You guessed it the Commodore CD32.

Jetstrike first started life as Jetstrike Junior, a freebie game given away with an Amiga Power cover disk. Soon after a commercial version followed with the ‘full fat’ Jetstrike but a combination of what can be charitably described as functional graphics and a minimal marking budget left it adrift in the release schedule sea. This left a few rightly vocal supporters too spread the word, among them the always entertaining Amiga One magazine.

Pull up G12 please

‘gobbled up by many’

The balance was readdressed soon after with the release of Jetstrike CD32 and was hungrily gobbled up by many a game starved CD32 owner, myself included. Amid the vast barren plains of shoddy A1200 conversions slapped on a CD with 32-bit printed on the case it shone out like a beacon showing fellow devlopers how to really use the new format. Rasputin embraced it with a full digital soundtrack (more on that later) more stages, more aircraft and weapons a training mode to get you used to the initially complex controls and even a Aerolympics for when you tired of bombing runs and aerial dogfights.

Over fifty different aircraft are yours to take to the air from simple single-prop aircraft like a WWI era DR1 to modern F18s. Every kind of jet, plane or helicopter you could want both common and exotic with tiny James Bond Acro jets, towed hang gliders and even a fire-breathing dragon (a taster of the promised Fantasystrike mission disk that was never released) Each having their own characteristics be it raw speed, manoeuvrability or payload capacity.

‘you’ll end up as a red smear’

Often choosing the right aircraft from your limited supply will have long term sequences as later missions require the use of helicopters or VTOL jets like the harrier to manoeuvre through jungle valleys or urban skyscrapers while dodging enemy SAM sites or ground artillery.

Crash too much and you get a gift from your bosses

Of course controlling your aircraft has to be done with the notorious CD32 control pad (it having the worst d-pad ever, even worse that the Xbox 360. Yes incredible as that sounds it’s true) and uses every button, with the yellow button functioning as a shift key to double up button uses. When pressed in conjunction with another button or d-pad direction has another function be it raising or lower your undercarriage, deploying chaff, free looking or even puffing smoke if you want to make your own Red Arrow style display.

However by far the most important button was ‘start’ that triggers your ejector seat. Normally the ejection system activates automatically should your aircraft take too much damage or if you collide with the background but should it be damaged you had best keep your thumb near lest you end up a frazzled corpse in a cockpit. Bail too low though and you’ll end up as a red smear on the ground when your parachute doesn’t have time to deploy.

‘rush out and squirt’

Other vital systems are vulnerable to damage as well and can leave you without radar, weapons or even an undercarriage forcing you to bail out losing one of your ten lives. Alternatively, you could risk a belly landing that while difficult to pull of is so very rewarding when you pull it off and the little fire trucks rush out and squirt foam over you (paging Dr. Freud!) Little details like this include the air strip ground crew that rush to change your payload and even a spoof MTV logo that appears in the corner of the screen telling you the name of the song playing during the level. The songs in Jetstrike range from Top Gun style orchestral themes to bombastic rock songs with titles like “Drop the Bomb!” and “Fast Jet Fever” with tongue and cheek lyrics like:

Save your skin or save your jet?

Who’s on your side?
Why should you hide?
Who’s a bad guy?
You ask ‘why?’
Drop the bomb, drop the bomb, drop the bomb.
Drop the bomb, drop the bomb, drop the bomb.
Just blow … it away.

Drop the bomb you would with over fifty different weapons to use from baby 10lb mini bombs all the way up to ‘tom boy’ style bunker busters and even crowd pleasers like a fuel-air bomb or tactical nuke.

‘brimming with honest bedroom coder talent’

When you strip away all the variety of aircraft, weapons and locations, you’re left with a fun and playable, if fugly, looking game (even by 16-bit standards) brimming with honest bedroom coder talent. The kind you just don’t find in the games market today (well except maybe Jeff Minter but even he has taken to suckling at Microsoft’s bloated teat).

Playing this today is best done with a CD32, as both the original Amiga version and the PC conversion are both severely lacking compared to the CD32 version. You could use a good Amiga emulator but be prepared to jump through a few hoops finding a good kickstart ROM and ISO image of the CD. A true connoisseur should be willing to hit eBay to secure this treasure.

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