When Epyx introduced Jumpman about a half year ago, it had the look of an afterthought. Dull, unmemorable packaging almost obscured the fact that, encoded upon a floppy disk within, Jumpman was a genuine classic. Even the program itself - hurriedly written and speckled with annoying glitches - attempted to obliterate its own achievement. But Jumpman was so strong that attempted suicide couldn't dent it.
Just as gamers were recovering from the awe and wonder generated by Miner 2049er and its ten (or eleven, depending upon the version) playfields, here came Jumpman boasting no less than 30! And not just any 30 racks, either, but a coherently-written collection of some of the most interesting play mechanics ever devised.
Jumpman cast gamers in the role of an athletic, springy protagonist who had to climb, leap and otherwise scramble over a collection of girder-level construction sites, collecting a series of spherical objects while being shot at constantly from off-screen. The game looked great - the articulated movements of Jumpman were subtly beautiful - and played greater, with all manner of gaming skills, from hand-eye smoothness to puzzle-solving, being tested by the 30 scenarios.
When Epyx saw how well Jumpman was doing with consumers, in spite of itself, it realized the better-late-than-never potential by producing Jumpman Junior, a remarkable restatement in cartridge form. The memory limitations of the format compelled the reduction of playfields from 30 to 12 and the subsequent re-scaling in difficulty. The difference in difficulty between Rack 3 / Dumbwaiters, a scenario that must be learned rather than mastered, and Rack 4 / Hellstones, a joystick wizard special, is steep, indeed.
Nonetheless, Jumpman Junior is a slick, cleaned-up distillation of everything that made its progenitor such a fantastic gaming experience, unmarred by programming flaws and available to every Atari computerist with a cartridge slot.
Jumpman Junior is a mass market version of a software classic that's so good - the playfields are reminiscent of the original, but are all new - that even veteran Jumpmen should check it out.