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Cliff Bleszinski wants a new Jazz Jackrabbit "in the style of Jumping Flash"

Lost Epics

A screenshot of MS-DOS classic platformer Jazz Jackrabbit, featuring the title character and an avuncular but probably threatening turtle.
Image credit: Epic

Game designer, sometime Gears of War frontman and nowadays, comic book author Cliff Bleszinski would very much like Epic to make another Jazz Jackrabbit. In case you're unfamiliar, or disgracefully young, Jazz Jackrabbit was a platform game for MS-DOS, published in 1994 - it was Bleszinski's first project as a designer for then-named Epic MegaGames. He worked on the game alongside coder Arjan Brussee, who would later found Guerrilla Games before moving to Visceral Studios and finally, reuniting with Bleszinski to launch Bosskey Productions, the ill-fated creator of the generally rather decent Lawbreakers. Cor, people don't half move around in this industry.

I never played Jazz Jackrabbit - if memory serves, the first in the series launched during a particularly cursed/blessed (delete as appropriate) part of my early youth, when my gaming consisted exclusively of shareware titles on Apple Macintosh. But I can certainly get behind Bleszinski's follow-up remark that he'd like a potential Jazz Jackrabbit 3 to be a first-person game in the vein of PS1 classic Jumping Flash.

All that's from an interview with Sector SK to promote the launch of Bleszinski's new comic book Scrapper, which combines Blade Runner with talking dogs. "Funny thing about Jazz is that it's available on GOG.COM right now and people are still buying it," he told the site. "It was hugely influenced by all of the platformers I grew up with on my Nintendo and Genesis. Jazz was an example of finding an underserved market and catering to it. The character action/platform games, at the time, were grossly underrepresented on the PC, and young me had the business sense to make one. People still love it to this day. What's to hate? When you're a little rabbit, you carry a big gun!"

The game made Bleszinski enough cash to buy his first car and move into his own apartment, while also incentivising him to drop out of college in order to work on the very first Unreal. Ever the larger-than-life personality, Bleszinski has moved on from game development these days but is still in the business of making weird stuff. "I worked my BUTT off to have the freedom I have now to pursue many endeavors and adventures. I'm not done. I'm not going to stop creating. I have my other tattoo on my left forearm that says CREATE!" I don't have any tattoos myself, but perhaps if I wrote "get down the gym now and then" on my left forearm it would help me lose some weight?

As for the prospect of a third game, over two decades later, Bleszinski added that "the rights are kind of in limbo; I think Epic owns them. I would love to see a third Jazz done as a first-person shooter in the style of the Playstation 1 game Jumping Flash!"

I should probably be wary of enthusing about Jumping Flash round these parts, for obvious reasons, but screw the PC master race - I love that game to bits. Released in 1995, it holds a Guinness World Record for being the first true 3D platform game, and is a wonderful exercise in hopping around small yet busy, floating islands, each rendered in dreamy pastel colours. If you're looking for something PC-based in the same vein, I recommend Forza Polpo.

A screenshot of pastel-coloured platformer Forza Polpo, showing a floating island with trees and towers.
Image credit: Monte Gallo

As for Jazz Jackrabbit, Dominic Tarason (RPS in peace) had a few thoughts on the series in 2017. He wasn't wholly enthused about the first game. "As with so many PC 'classics' of its time, it's a crude imitation of a console game design that doesn't quite understand what it's doing," Dominic wrote. "In this case, it's Sonic The Hedgehog, only with guns and an even more claustrophobic camera, even twitchier movement and very little warning that you're about to collide with an obstacle or enemy, forcing you to shoot wildly into the distance every time you start running down a corridor."

But Dominic had kinder words for the second: "Bumping up the resolution, Epic opted to pull the camera back, showing more of the level at any given time. This sacrifices a little of that sense of breakneck speed, but makes it a lot less frustrating."

In the course of researching all this I've stumbled on a venerable article from some cyclopean entity called the RPS Hivemind discussing what action games can learn from comics. Which feels like an appropriate topic of discussion here - I wonder how much of Cliff's Gearsy know-how has found its way into Scrapper?

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