You may think you know “niche interest“, being a Rice Digital reader, but you haven’t done “niche interest” until you’ve delved into the wonderful world of collecting video games for an obscure, failed platform like the Atari Jaguar. (Naturally, your illustrious Editor proudly owns a Jaguar.)
“The Atari what?” I hear you ask. The Atari Jaguar! The first 64-bit home gaming system, first released in 1993! Home to very good versions of Rayman and Zool! Possessor of one of the most seemingly unwieldy but surprisingly comfortable controllers of all time! A complete failure that pretty much finished off Atari in its original incarnation and indirectly turned it into the cryptocurrency-peddling monstrosity it is now!
The Jaguar is a delightful curiosity, for sure, though one that only the most dedicated collectors tend to start exploring. But if you’re one of those dedicated collectors, there are three brand new releases on the way for the platform, courtesy of “retro restoration” specialists Piko Interactive and some very talented developers.
And you can pre-order all of them right now from our friends at Funstock — each cart costs £44.99 and comes with an authentic cardboard box that matches the original retail Jaguar releases, plus the game cartridge and a full-colour manual. Be quick if you want ’em, though; preorders close on August 2, 2021.
Here’s a rundown of the three games on offer:
Head Over Heels
Head Over Heels is a classic isometric perspective adventure originally released during the boom in such titles in the late ’80s. Making use of two characters, you’ll need to explore the enslaved planets of Penitentiary, Safari, Book World and Egyptus in order to liberate them from the rule of the Emperor.
Each character has a different specialism. Head can jump higher, control himself in the air and fire doughnuts and enemies, while Heels can run faster, climb staircases and carry objects. You’ll need to use both characters both individually and together in order to clear the game’s many puzzles and surreal situations.
The Atari Jaguar version of Head Over Heels is based on the Atari ST version from 1989. While one might argue this doesn’t exactly push the Jaguar to its limits, it’s a great game in its own right, and well deserving of another chance at retail success.
First released in 1990, Impossamole is the sixth and final installment in Core Design’s Monty Mole series — and yes, that is the same Core Design who would go on to create Tomb Raider in 1996.
In Impossamole, Monty Mole has been chosen to vanquish the Five Guardians and recover the sacred scrolls of eternal life. As part of this apparently rigorous selection process by forces unknown, he has been equipped with superpowers, plus the ability to use weapons and Super Weapons. It’s a platform adventure that unfolds similarly to Core Design’s classic Rick Dangerous 2 — so expect plenty of masocore-style trial, error and memorisation if you want to succeed!
Once again, the Atari Jaguar version of Impossamole is based on the Atari ST version from 1990. There was also a Turbografx-16/PC Engine port of the game, but the Atari ST version is commonly regarded as playing better — so that’s the one that forms the basis of the Jaguar release!
Switchblade is another early title from Core Design, this time developed in 1989 largely solo by Simon Phipps, who also drew a brand new cover for this Atari Jaguar version.
Switchblade is an exploration-centric platformer in which you guide the hero Hiro (I know, I know) in his quest to defeat the evil Havok (not the physics engine) by recovering the scattered pieces of the sacred Fireblade. It’s noteworthy for having an interesting combat system which allows you to unleash different moves by “charging” your attacks — it takes a bit of getting used to, but works well when you get your head around it.
Switchblade was originally developed for Atari ST, and this Jaguar release is a direct conversion of that original ST version. You can also play an excellent Mega Drive port of Switchblade on the Piko Interactive Collection 1 cartridge for the Evercade.
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