Jet Set Willy

by Paul Morrison


I've always liked a good platform game, right from the days of Pitfall and Pitfall II on the Atari. It was one of the most commonplace game types in the early days of the 8-bit computers, which meant they ran the gamut from awful to outstanding.

Matthew Smith was responsible for two of the most famous and legendary platform games of all time. His first was Manic Miner, which saw Miner Willy's trials and tribulations while attempting to traverse twenty tricky rooms on a quest for fame and fortune... well, just fortune, actually.

Aaaarrrgh!  What the hell is that?  I'd sell up and move out if that was in my house!

Aaaarrrgh!  What the hell is that?  I'd sell up and move out if that was in my house!

He obviously succeeded, because its sequel, Jet Set Willy, saw our intrepid hero ensconced in his mansion having enjoyed the trappings of his new-found wealth just a little too much. Willy just wants to sleep it all off, but the place is a mess and his maid, Maria, won't let him near the bed until he's cleaned it up.

This is another example of the kind of bonkers-but-brilliant scenario that was dreamed up time and again by our supremely imaginative games programmers. And while Manic Miner was a revelation, it was Jet Set Willy that really captured my imagination.

If pigs could fly... well, they can in this crazy room!

If pigs could fly... well, they can in this crazy room!

JSW is another game that I used to play at a mate's house. It wasn't the leaping and collecting that made the most impact on me, it was the setting and the crazy adversaries. It wasn't just the mental room names like The Banyan Tree and We Must Perform A Quirkafleeg, some of the enemies were downright disturbing. Flapping toilets, dancing rabbits and hideous skulls did their best to put you off venturing any further. And then there was the Nightmare Room, which turned Willy into a flying pig...

I still enjoy a game of Jet Set Willy, even though there are better platform games available now. This one keeps its place in my heart for a number of reasons, not all of them gameplay-related, but its place in world history is assured.