by MSX Resource Center on 12-01-2005, 18:15

MRC Software Review: BombJack

Title:      BombJack
System:     MSX2
Memory:     64kB
Sound:      PSG
Medium:     1x1DD
Price:     €15,00 ($20,00)

Well, I could've probably felt this one coming... After my not-awful-review of Bounce Mania the powers that be of the MCR, (hey, that rhymes!) decided to go straight into abuse-mode by giving me a "Now review this!" order. Fortunately though, I was lucky enough to obtain a free copy via Bitwise, the distributor of BombJack for the Netherlands (and Belgium?).


BombJack is a Kralizec production that comes in a nice 'Matra-style' package. In short, it's a remarkably well-done port of the original game by Tehkan that should work on pretty much any MSX2 with a disk-drive. The single-sided disk has a nice paper label, printed in color, a stick-on shutter print, and even comes in one of those small plastic disk holders. The disk case has an attractive full-color inlay, which also doubles as a mini-manual. It's obvious that the packaging of this product got a lot of attention, and for a small-scale 'amateur' production the result is certainly excellent.


The cover is adorned with some Japanese kana and a lot of (purposely) bad English phrases while part of the design seems to have been taken from one of the original instruction-cards. Further more Kralizec is poking fun (I think) at the MSX Association and 'avoiding' the MSX logo policy of the MSX GANG-BANG by using their very own M$X logo. "M$X is a copyleft mark, feel free to use & abuse of it!"  


I had received my BombJack copy about a month ago, hoping to do a quick review as to inform people well in advance of the MSX fair in Oss, where this product will be sold for the first time in the Netherlands. Unfortunately though, I stumbled upon a couple of problems when I first tried to run it. BombJack is supplied on a single sided disk, but if you're trying to use those on a PC with a modern-day OS, you're bound to run into trouble. This is a bit of a problem for us reviewers, since emulators are the preferred means of making screenshots these days. Apart from that, since there are people out there that mainly (or even only) use emulators, it's important for them to know if the product they're about to buy will work properly on an emulator. In this case, it won't.  

In any event, Bitwise was kind enough to conjure up a diskimage for my favorite emulator, and I could finally jack up that old brick I call a PC to see if there were some pretty pictures for me to take. After a quick spin of the drive I'm treated to a small Kurarizeku loading screen and after some more loading the intro screen adorns my list of recent PaintShop Pro captures. The screen makes mention of the hi-score and the last player score, and if you can resist the urge to smash the space key you'll also be treated to the full hi-score table and the credits for this nice MSX port. Of course I really couldn't quite resist that urge for too long, and the inevitable spacekeymash quickly brings us to the very first level...



Since the manual had already suggested I "get all [bomb] operating Jack thru 80 stages!", I decide to try and do so by mashing that keyboard like the lunatic I am. After about 13 seconds of playtime (or is it paytime?) though, it becomes apparent that this is not going to be easy at all. While the idea of collecting a bunch of bombs by jumping around the screen isn't all too hard, there's of course the element of harassment in the form of the well know player-hating critters that make your life impossible. What makes BombJack particularly difficult is that fact that there's 973 of them... well... maybe it was 6 or 7... I couldn't quite count them in the frantic action. To make matters worse, most of these enemies have heat-seeking homing algorithms the Pentagon could only dream of!  

This game was not going to be easy, that much was obvious! Like said, the idea of the game is to collect the bombs on the screen to complete each round. Now, if you're any good, unlike myself, you'll ideally want to do this in the order in which these bombs ignite. Do so for all the bombs on the screen, and you'll get some serious bonus points. Had I not been such a terrible gamer, I would've probably tried to do this, but for me it was more a matter of surviving the level rather than concerning myself with my score. Every so-many points you'll also be rewarded with a little option-coin you can collect. This option will give you points, an extra life or something special, which this reviewer never managed to see. If you're lucky enough to catch a power-ball, the rolls finally change and you can take out some of those pesky enemy critters to get even.



Both the graphics and animations are very nicely done. The game looks pretty much identical to the original version, although the play-screen had to be adapted slightly due to the fact that most of us don't have our monitors standing upright. The game plays fluently, no hick-ups, nice animations, nice background graphics, and it's pretty much as faithful as a port of this game could've been done. As a bonus, the game rarely ever loads, so no time is wasted looking at those FDD indicators.  

The PSG music and sound effect are more than adequate, although I must admit I don't mind the occasional MoonSound or at least FM-PAC noise coming out of my speakers. I understand the retro-value of those good-old PSG square-waves, but it still would have been nice if the game had had the option of at least FM sounds for those of us that prefer nicer music to pure retro sound. Like said though, the music is certainly nice enough, and all the frantic action will probably occupy your mind in any event.



Well, that frantic action is I guess also the bad in this game. I don't know if you should call it a bad, but this game is certainly not easy. Actually, it's even pretty darn hard! It's been a while since I've seen any of these jump-around-action-games, but I'm certainly not very good at it. Yours truly only managed to get in the hall of shame with a pathetic round 11 score. That leaves 69 unexplored levels for this poor excuse of a reviewer...  

I understand this a port, and thus as similar as possible to the original, but since you're not actually taking quarters out of my wallet for every GAME OVER I manage to produce, it wouldn't have killed anyone to add a 'lame player' or continue option. Truth be told though, I haven't spent as much time playing this game as I normally would. This mainly to see if this review could be finished before the product is first sold in the Netherlands on the MSX fair in Oss. So, take this with a grain of salt if you will.  

1) I suck at gaming in any event.  

2) I didn't have much time to practice.  

3) I suck at gaming in any event.  

If you're more of an RPG player like myself though, don't be surprised if you never actually manage to finish this game. I guess perseverance is the key here...



Well, this will be one of the few games that doesn't really have an 'ugly' I guess. Like said, I could've used an emulator-version to start with, as could others I assume. This is hardly a critical flaw though. A continue would've also been nice for lesser players like myself, but perhaps this is what that 'special' coin was all about... I never did manage to figure that out.



That in part would be the above I guess. And like said, it would have also been nice to have at least some FM music. The fact that you're porting something doesn't really mean you're not allowed to go even better than the original. This game would've been just as good a port if it had had MoonSound music and Dolby Surround sound effects. I guess that it's just a matter of taste in the end though. An emulator-ready version is kind of a 'must' though, since some of us really prefer to crank up our favorite emu instead of having to dust off that old piece of hardware hidden in the basement. My suggestion would therefore be to release both a single sided disk and a double-sided disk. I know this is an MSX product, intended mainly for MSX computers, but personally I do feel that emulators are going to be another step in the natural evolution of the MSX system as a whole.



All in all, it must be said that BombJack is a very nice game and an excellent port. The graphics and animations are very good, and the sound is certainly adequate. The whole package is well presented, while the game itself is fun and will probably last you long enough before you actually manage to pass 80 levels of BombJacking action. Like said, it is a bit on the difficult side, but that shouldn't be any problem for the die-hard gamers out there. And even if you're not a die-hard gamer, you'll certainly get a lot of fun out of this classic.  

With a price tag of 15 euros (around $20) it's not one of the cheapest games out there, but certainly within reach of most post-puberty budgets. If you compare that to the 14 euro price BombaMan had, it does feel a little steep though. But then again, Bombaman was certainly cheap, and in today's world of euro-inflation it's not like you're going to buy anything other than perhaps a roll of toilet paper with 15 euros in any event. So, if you're going to attend the fair in Oss, get yourself a BombJack copy but insist you get it with a free cup of coffee!  

Game Concept:   75%
    Graphics:       80%
    Sound / Music:  60%
    Playability:    65%
    Lastability:    70%
    Overall Score:  70%

Comments (8)

By Chardson

Champion (411)

Chardson's picture

12-01-2005, 23:07

Nice review, but I definitely don`t agree with the emulator part.

I think also that, if music is good as you said, it deserves more than 60% score. I think that it is not because it is PSG instead of FM or wathever that scores should be reduced. If we all start thinking like this, every non V9990 game should receive no more than 60% score in graphics.

By Grauw

Ascended (10634)

Grauw's picture

13-01-2005, 02:25

Chardson, on the other hand, consider that at least pretty much every Dutch amateur production had FM and later OPL4 sound Smile, so if you've got a Dutch reviewer then he's probably a little spoiled by that ^_^.


By Sonic_aka_T

Enlighted (4130)

Sonic_aka_T's picture

13-01-2005, 03:05

Yeah, I am indeed a little spoiled by all that MoonSound magic... Actually, even FM music is starting to sound a little thin lately... The music got a 60% not just because of the fact that it was PSG tho... It just isn't very spectacular in the first place. I've heard a lot better, also on PSG...

By [D-Tail]

Ascended (8259)

[D-Tail]'s picture

13-01-2005, 13:13

Okay, start off light & easy Wink

One of the authors of the game, Sutchan, contacted me, 'cause he spotted something unjust in the review. I should have noticed it as well Wink

The game never loads after having shown the title screen, instead of 'rarely ever loads'. It's just loading at the beginning, furthermore -NO LOADING- Tongue

By turbor

Champion (507)

turbor's picture

15-01-2005, 23:03

Bombjack is one of my all time favorites. I have some 'routes' to get through a large part of the game with all bombs in the correct order.
Can somebody tell me if the bomb sequence in this conversion are the same as in the original. Oh, and does the steel bird take the same tracking decisions? Otherwise my default routes don't work neither Smile

By [D-Tail]

Ascended (8259)

[D-Tail]'s picture

16-01-2005, 13:24

I guess you should find out on the Oss fair, January 22nd (that's next week already! Big smile)...

Meanwhile, why don't you make sure you're able to get a BombJack copy by pre-ordering?


By anonymous

incognito ergo sum (116)

anonymous's picture

16-01-2005, 18:44

The bomb sequence is actually identical to the original.

By Guillian

Prophet (3513)

Guillian's picture

17-01-2005, 00:09

The steel bird does not appear using the same logic that in the orginal version.