In the family titles realm, playing a game with your children often involves letting the child click around the screen while the adult supervises, offers advice, helps at sticky situations and generally acts as advisor. Jack Attack 2 takes a different approach. It offers a platform where the child and parent can actually play together.
This achievement can not be understated. The child and parent, or any caring adult for that matter, are working together to achieve a goal in Jack Attack 2. Both are sitting at the keyboard – or both have game controllers in the case of a really tricked out PC – and both are actively participating in the game. And both are having fun.
The concept behind Jack Attack 2, the sequel to a classic Commodore 64 title, is fairly simple family entertainment at its best. You play a little red blob-looking creature named Jack. Your powers include the ability to jump fairly high and you can push and pull blocks scattered throughout your 2D world. Jack may be 2D, but the graphics are such that he looks 3D, as do the monsters. The effect is that Jack and the monsters stand out on the 2D board, which is what the classic game also excelled at. The challenge comes because there are monsters at the top of your screen, though they are not the scary type that might upset children. The are basically little blobs and some of them have cute little faces. Periodically, they fall to the ground and bounce around in seemingly random patterns. If the monsters touch Jack, he dies.
Jack however can defend himself by pulling and pushing blocks. When the evil blobs bounce between two blocks, Jack can crush them by sliding the blocks back together. Jack can also jump onto their heads and crush them, though this is difficult because they can bounce a lot higher than Jack can jump, and can move a lot faster to boot.
The single player game is fun to play. It is a fine example of one of those "simple" games that is a lot more complicated once you get into it. In that way it is sort of like Othello, where you can learn the game rules in about two minutes, but can spend a lifetime becoming a master. It is simple enough for a child to play, yet an adult will find it entertaining as well.
The true strength of the game however comes when two people are playing together, such as when a child and parent decide to team up to face the monsters. In this case a second Jack, this one blue, joins the game. Both players try to destroy the monsters together, which can be a lot of fun. There is also a multiplayer mode where two people can compete head-to-head, trying to squish the blobs and each other. You can also play two player alternating, which becomes a contest to see who can complete the level in the fastest time and with the most points.
When playing in cooperative mode, which is the true strength of the game, there are puzzles that can only be solved by working together. For example, to climb to a higher level to get points, you sometimes need a boost from your partner. Standing on their heads can get you the height you need, so the two must really work together to accomplish the goal. Talk about parental bonding. How cool will you be in your child’s eyes when you boost them up to the higher level and let them wrack up the bonus points for your team?
As an added bonus, there are different levels of play, one for adults and one for children. Seris has really gone all out to make sure anyone can enjoy this game. The adult levels start out somewhat difficult, though still fairly easy. Older kids should have no problem with them at all. Eventually, the adult levels get downright tricky, so expect a good challenge. The children’s levels are much, much easier and contain fewer blocks and fewer and slower monsters. On this level, even children as young as five should have no trouble playing the game, especially when helped by a watchdog adult that can keep them out of harm’s way. We let children as young as six play the game, and they had no trouble at all with the first few levels of the program. We would have monitored their progress further, but they took the game home with them.
The only real negative is that eyecandy nuts won’t really find much to gaze over in this title as the graphics are fairly simplistic, and there is not a lot of sound support. However, this game is basically a remake of a classic C64 title, and as such kept the flavor of the original. Nostalgic C64 owners will love it.