FIGHT! Commodore 64 vs. ZX Spectrum. Number 1: Bomb Jack

by PaulEMoz in , , , , , , ,

Here's a feature I thought would be a good idea, that would tap into our schoolyard memories and provoke, erm, "discussion"... ZX Spectrum vs. Commodore 64! We've all had those arguments as to which is better... and I felt like stirring the pot a bit more. Just for argument's sake.

Now, I owned a Commodore 64, but I'm perfectly able to accept that it might not have had the best version of every game. I thought it might be fun to take a game that was released on both, put them up against each other and see which is better. Let's see how it goes...

The first game I chose was Tehkan/Tecmo's Bomb Jack. OK, so it's an arcade game, and that being the case, why did I choose two no doubt inferior versions to look at? Even stranger... Bomb Jack is not a game I have any particular love for. I've never been any good at it, and I find it quite frustrating. And yet, I've subjected myself to it... twice.

Here's what we started with... lovely, juicy bombs.

The arcade game is actually quite nice. It's pretty enough... bold and colourful, with those lovely red cherry bombs hanging in blue skies. To get the best scores, you have to collect the bombs in order. Once you collect one, the next in the sequence will start flashing. That's the one you should go for. Collect all the flashing bombs and you'll receive a big points bonus.

It was never a favourite of mine; I never was any good at it. Playing it in MAME these days has given me a new appreciation of it... skilful play can see you weaving in and out of enemies, and it can get pretty intense. And of course, there's the risk/reward aspect of collecting the bombs in order for bigger points. It's a classic name, and in retrospect I would say rightly so.

Bit naughty, putting all that red in the background. Where are the bombs?

I had Bomb Jack on the Commodore 64... I did play it a fair bit but it was annoying. It wasn't well reviewed either, generally speaking. I'd also heard that the Spectrum version was really good... something that's stuck in my mind all this time, and partially led to this little feature.

Playing the 64 version again just brought home all its faults, but magnified this time. Jack's a fat lad, for starters... and oddly, you can actually feel the weight! Jack seems to drop more quickly than in the arcade version, and also seems to struggle to get his lardy backside off the ground. The enemies are all bigger too, but it's more than just a cosmetic problem... this extra size makes the screen very cramped, and it's very difficult (if not impossible) to manoeuvre around for the bombs. It's fast... but that's also a problem, given the size of everything. Also, bonuses are very hard to come by, which is annoying... and then you find out the game has a completely different (and lower) scoring system to the arcade version. Bomb Jack on the Commodore 64 is not very enjoyable.

That bird's nothing but trouble. One peck, and you're dead.

Having re-acquainted myself with the Commodore version of Bomb Jack, it was time to try the Speccy's effort. And the first thing I noticed was the size of the game's characters... they're small. Thankfully! When I say "small", I mean "just the right size". The game is perfectly playable on the Spectrum. Gaps can be squeezed through, enemies can be dodged, bombs can be collected in order, bonuses can be had. And the scoring system is the same as the arcade version's. Graphically, it's one of the nicer Spectrum efforts I've played so far, with colourful backgrounds and no sign of clashing. Nice work, Elite!

The home versions had a problem from the start, in that Bomb Jack in the arcade has a vertical monitor, and these versions had to be squashed hozizontally. One version coped with this far better than the other. I had quite a lot of fun with the Spectrum version of Bomb Jack. It's a very well implemented version of the arcade game, with precise controls and accurately-proportioned graphics. It seems as though they really took the time to lay out the screens with the horizontal aspect taken into consideration. The 64 version, on the other hand, doesn't work all that well. It does have nice red bombs, although they're more blood red than the big arcade cherries. But the poor scoring system and claustrophobic playing area really cripple it, and it's not really worth much time.

RESULT: Spectrum wins!