GameSpite Quarterly 8 | Jumping Flash!: First-Person Hopper

Jumping Flash! is an odd duck, and by duck, I mean robot rabbit. As 3D polygonal gaming became the new frontier, some genres, like car racing, made the transition with ease, while others required a bit of R&D. Such was the case with the mascot platformer. Before games like Super Mario 64 and Tomb Raider laid the now-standard foundations of maneuvering a character in 3D space, Sony drew inspiration from Doom, of all things, and created a First-Person Hopper.

Here, you control a mechanical hare (ingeniously named… Robbit). You can move, turn and fire just like in an FPS, and you can even aim up and down as needed. However, the game’s defining move is its jump. Robbit can jump three times in succession, reaching soaring heights. After the second jump, the game wisely moves the camera downward to track your trajectory, and you quickly acclimate to watching your shadow to stick your landings.

For the most part, Jumping Flash! sticks with platformer conventions. Doled out across six worlds (with three stages each), you pursue the antagonistic villain, Baron Aloha. His origin and backstory are inconsequential, other than—in a clever nod to the structure of the genre—he literally broke the world into six pieces. For each stage your goal is ultimately the exit, and there are even timed collectathon bonus stages to find. Yet due to the open nature of the areas, you’ll first need to find four MacGuffins in the form of Jet Pods. The levels are expansive enough that you cannot see them in their entirety, so finding the pods requires some exploration. Get close enough and pods will show up on your radar. Then it’s a matter of figuring out which jumps will get you to your prize. Get the pods, find the exit, rinse and repeat. There are powerups to collect, such as health packs and limited invincibility, as well as special weapons—best saved for the boss fights to come. A few of the stages exchange open skies for more enclosed corridors in a nod to Doom (or given their simplicity, perhaps Wolfenstein 3D is the better comparison). In close quarters, the respawning nuisance enemies take on actual menace. The third stage is an arena boss fight, and your best bet is to remember to keep moving and that you can safely hop on top of enemies.

Being an early game, the graphics are crude. The stages are well rendered, but the enemies and texture work are extremely blocky. Some areas seem cobbled together, while others, like the city, have a pleasant sense of place. The whole thing could probably run fine on a 3DO, albeit I don’t remember many 3DO games being this polished. The stages have enough variety to avoid being formulaic, and the game is short enough to not overstay its welcome.

A bit on the easy side, Jumping Flash! is best looked at as a polished experiment: “Is this how we should make 3D mascot platformers?” The industry ultimately answered no, and then mascot platformers themselves went the way of the dodo. Yet Jumping Flash! is worth your time, precisely because they don’t make games like it anymore.

By Ben Langberg | April 17, 2011 | Last: Chapter II: Sony Delivers | Next: Ridge Racer