Easter gaming special: “Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Collection” (PC)

After its predecessor already proved that hares can be very fast and angry, Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Collection shows that a side-scrolling action-platformer can be accessible and deliver some new ideas on this Easter Monday.

Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Collection (PC)
(USA 1998/1999/2017, developer/publishers: Epic MegaGames (now defunct)/Epic Games, platform: PC)

Right before Jazz Jackrabbit can give his sweetheart Eva Earlong a wedding ring, it gets stolen by his nemesis Devan Shell who locks up the hare with his brother Spaz in a dungeon they have to escape and then hunt down the evildoing tortoise.

Some kind of story
The story is nothing to write home about, and even if one usually doesn’t pay much attention to this in an arcade-style shooter, one feels it as a disappointment. Whereas the first game always had rewarding stills or animated cutscenes at the beginning and end of each episode, here one simply plays through each level without really knowing why. Transitions from one scenario to the next aren’t made clear and one doesn’t really care about either the plot or characters. Even though there is an intro and outro, they’re not as satisfying as the cutscenes/stills of the predecessor.

Character choices
One can select three characters to play as: Jazz, his brother Spaz, and their sister Lori, each of whom has special abilities which can be used to reach areas the others can’t, e.g. using a double jump. No matter which one is chosen, the gameplay remains largely the same: a lot of fast running, shooting, and jumping around. So one won’t have completely different experiences, only slightly alternative ways to tackle certain parts of a level.

Different kinds of levels
The levels hold a few surprises, e.g. in an Alice in Wonderland-inspired stage one has to use the ever elusive Cheshire Cat as a platform, while inhaling smoke from a caterpillar inverts the player’s controls of Jazz for a short period of time. Other original touches can be found when the hare has to be catapulted through the air via pinball paddles, which is clearly a homage to EpicMegagames’ Epic Pinball.

This time there are quite a few puzzle elements involving crates that have to be destroyed in order for platforms to appear or obstacles to disappear. One rarely feels lost or stuck, as there are always signposts that provide hints of how to overcome each new problem, e.g. using a specific weapon to get rid of blocks or stomping through manholes.

Not every platforming segment is enjoyable, though, as can be seen with some very annoying jumping-from-one-hook-to-the-next sequences in which Jazz hangs on for dear life with his long ears. It’s too bad that certain ideas can only be found in individual episodes. For example, in the shareware demo Jazz is turned into a frog by a witch and can become his old self again by finding and being kissed by Eva.

Looking for secrets and sweets
Once again one can find hidden rooms for weapons, power-ups, and gems. There’s even a rabbit merchant who warps Jazz to a remote location after having picked up the required number of coins. However, finding these is too much work, because except for a higher score, one doesn’t really need them. It’s much more helpful to pick up all sorts of candy, because after consuming 100 sweets Jazz experiences Sugar Rush which makes him invincible for a short time.

Special moves
Variety isn’t only present in the design of characters, weapons and levels, but also in the special moves. These make it easier to overcome obstacles, e.g. dashing over spikes, but also to beat enemies, e.g. stomping on them from above or using an uppercut from below. If only modern controllers wouldn’t be so fiddly pulling some of these off, so that one doesn’t accidentally pause the game when hitting the propeller head or dash button.

Lowering the difficulty curve
Thanks to a higher screen resolution, one can see much more of the levels so that fewer cheap deaths occur. This makes the game too easy, though, as even running through the stages gives the player more than enough time to avoid most dangers. This doesn’t mean there aren’t unfair parts of a level, but they’re not as prominent as in the original game. With checkpoints placed regularly and being able to save the game at any time, a gameover screen isn’t something one will experience a lot, although dying multiple times during boss fights is an entirely different matter.

Tough boss fights
Some of the bosses work like puzzles that have to be solved in a particular fashion, e.g. a queen that has to be pushed over a ledge, big eye inside a space ship with swinging chains that have to be shot first so that one can have more room to evade and hit his glass cockpit. It’s great that these all require different strategies to beat, but they’re punishingly difficult.

More fun levels
If one has completed all four episodes and the shareware levels in about 4 hours, then one can have a go at the fun and short 30 minutes of Christmas-themed Holiday Hare ’98 (but again with a very difficult boss fight at the end), the 1-hour long bonus chapter The Secret Files (which only offers more of the same run-and-gun gameplay with different settings), and a plethora of user-created levels in the Home Cooked Levels.

More fun together
Playing on one’s own might be enjoyable, but doing it together or against each other is even better. There’s a surpring number of multiplayer modes in Jazz Jackrabbit 2, including the option to play through all episodes with up to four players in split-screen.

The Party Mode also features Battle, Race, Treasure Hunt, and Capture the Flag. Each one has different goals: making the most kills, getting to the end of a level first, collecting as many gems as possible and reaching the end of the level without getting shot and losing them, and finally capturing an opponent’s flag and making it back to one’s own base to score.

Cartoon-y visuals and audio
The presentation is an acquired taste, as the edgy pixel art is mostly replaced by something more akin to Earthworm Jim or Earthworm Jim 2. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the animation work is excellent, especially the enemy designs, with the levels bursting with colorful ideas, particularly the imaginatively psychedelic Alice in Wonderland stages. However, the few cartoon scenes are not as edgy, coming across as too child-friendly.

The same can be said about the soundtrack, which is of a higher recording quality, but isn’t quite as rocking as in the original game. It still has some catchy tunes, especially the Christmas songs, but one won’t hear much punk/metal rock vibes.

More classic retro goodness
Jazz Jackrabbit 2 improves on its predecessor in many ways, but it also falls a bit short of becoming a true classic. The overall difficulty curve is much lower, except for the boss fights which are more imaginative, but very frustrating. There are a lot of cool gameplay ideas to make each level unique, and being able to play in co-op and have many party modes to select from is just as motivating as choosing between three different characters with unique skills.

The game looks and sounds pretty, but the fast-moving gameplay of its predecessor as well as the edgy touch have been lost somehow, which also holds true for the rather uninspiring way the story is told and the characters are presented.

Score: 7.5/10

Buy the digital PC version on
GOG

Official website

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About nufafitc

Being an avid gamer, cinemaniac, and bookworm in addition to other things the internet and new media present, I'm also very much into DIY music, rock and pop in particular. Writing short or longer pieces about anything that interests me has always made me happy. As both an editor for German website "Adventure-Treff" and UK website "Future Sack", I like to write reviews and news about recent developments in the movies, games and book industry.
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3 Responses to Easter gaming special: “Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Collection” (PC)

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