A couple of months ago, GOG.com announced that not only was it starting to carry the shareware cult classic Jill of the Jungle, but it was giving out the entire three-game set for free. I will snap up anything for free, especially if it has some connection to my gaming youth, as this one did. I at least had one episode of this on my PC back in the day, and while it wasn’t an obsession or anything, Jill did deliver solid platforming action that we weren’t always getting on computers. And we definitely weren’t getting a lot of games with female lead characters!
Again, it wasn’t a game that I spent a lot of time with, but back then we were always happy to get our hands on some Apogee, id, and Epic titles, as they usually had good quality and a kickin’ fun factor — if not always the slickest presentation or highest production value. You can kind of see this with Jill of the Jungle. It’s a fairly simple Metroidvania-style game that is attractive enough without really pouring gobs into the visuals. Obviously from the screenshot above, you can see how everything looks like its made out of the NES-era blocky sprites.
That said, Jill is still surprisingly good — and even interesting — today. Every stage is a puzzle of sorts as to how to get to the end, and that can be through problem solving, platforming, fighting, or a combination of all three.
Jill is a good runner and jumper, but she has no inherent attack. Instead, she can pick up items to help her out on every stage, starting with her trusty dagger. This is a weird weapon in that you fling it out from you like a boomerang and it returns back (more or less). You can “guide” it by releasing it in one place and moving your body to another. Even better, it’s possible to get multiple daggers and fling them out in quick succession. The only downside to this weapon is that the daggers can get stuck and even lost if you’re not careful.
She also gets the opportunity to shapeshift into different animal forms at various points in the game — which again calls back to the Metroid influences.
This is kind of a great example of the sense of humor that a lot of these shareware titles had. Not subtle, doesn’t make sense, but makes you smile even so.
I put about 45 minutes into this the other day and got through a good seven or eight stages. One of these was a non-combat castle, where it was easy to get in but very tricky to get out. And I can say that, because the word “TRICKY!” was actually written on the castle wall. See the subtlety?
It was fun and I appreciate the value of getting all three games for free — even if I’m probably never going to play them. A couple more notes:
- The music is actually quite good and made me seek out the soundtrack
- The sound effects, on the other hand, are… really odd. Everything from getting hurt to finding a key results in a noise that doesn’t match up to what you’re doing
- I think this sort of game would be so much better with a controller rather than the highly awkward (and non-changable) keyboard format
- Bonus points for the fact that you have infinite lives (dying means that you simply restart a level) and can save on the fly. That really cuts down on frustration!