Are we sure this guy is being propelled by a jetpack?

Source // Wikipedia

I haven't ever played Jetpac, but I've seen it mentioned often enough to know about it. I don't remember where I first heard about it though, or in what context, or why, but none of that matters when we're approaching it with a clean slate, and finally playing it.

As you can tell, it features a jetpack, and as is often the case in life, the jetpack in Jetpac can be found on the back of an astronaut. It's a space game, yay! At least it doesn't involve shooting.

Source // Moby Games


It involves shooting! But it's optional, if you're good at dodging, because your main objectives are to firstly rebuild your ship, and secondly refuel it so that you can be on your way. All the way to the next level to refuel again. And leave again. And maybe rebuild again. Then refuel again. It's a bit repetitive, is Jetpac.

It's not all copy paste though, as enemies and bonus items that you come across change from stage to stage, both visually and in their movement, as does the spaceship you're rebuilding. You might argue that's not good enough, but I'd argue that it doesn't need to be, if the gameplay can keep your attention.

Fun Times

And it can. You have three directions of movement, left, right and up, with down being handled by the gravity of the physics model. It's like a friendlier version of Lunar Lander, in that you don't have to make incredibly precise movements, but a little thought before making a move - and a shoot button if you need it - makes your life a little easier.

Your first step is to pick up the pieces of your ship and fly over the base of it - at any height, strangely - where you'll automatically drop the piece down and build up your rocket. It's dead simple, it takes no thought, but mix it in with learning the controls and avoiding enemies and you've got yourself a game,

Once you've miraculously built your ship (tens of thousands of people put it together over years on the ground, you slap it together in space without so much as a spanner), it's time to refuel it via fuel drops. They won't spawn until there's a ship to be fuelled and they won't always fall in the friendliest of places for you, so you'll have to navigate/fight your way to them, where once again you just need to fly them over to your ship. Do this a few times and your ship is ready to blast off into the next level.

Every four levels you'll be building a new ship, the enemies cycle through over the course of eight levels. You just keep going for that high score, all the while wondering just where all these supplies are coming from and what is this jetpack powered by. If we're going by the sound effects, I think there should be a few empty tins of beans floating around the place...

Final Word

That's all there is to it. Jetpac is as simple as they come, seemingly, and it's the simple ones that people keep playing over and over and over. It only took me a minute to get used to the controls, a few minutes more to not suck so much, then it was just a matter of how long it could hold my interest, or how long I could last without making a schoolboy error.

It's freely available online for a quick game, there's no reason to not play it. It won't blow you out of this world, but it'll be a nice way to pass the time. That's what gaming's about. Sometimes.

Fun Facts

Strong sales brought in £1 million for the developers who, if their names aren't familiar to you below, would later go on to establish Rare. We'll be seeing a few games from Rare as this list goes on...

Jetpac, developed by Tim and Chris Stamper, first released in 1983.
Version played: ZX Spectrum, 1983, via Flash remake.