Resource centre for ZX Spectrum games using
       Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy game engines

 

The phenomenon of Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy games

 

Bystanders may ask themselves why some people are still playing and designing MM and JSW games for the ZX Spectrum. Here are some things people have said which may help explain the phenomenon.

 

"People in the Eighties did not just buy 'home' computers. They fell in love with them. And first loves tend to stick with you for the rest of your life."

Vaggelis Kapartzianis

 

"Whether because of the personalities of the designers, or for some other reason, designing JSW rooms became to be regarded as an artform in itself, a kind of aesthetic challenge to produce interesting results within a limited environment, as well as producing a working, playable and enjoyable game."

Geoff Eddy

 

"Classics like MM and JSW stand out among so many other games, which look like their pale imitations, for three reasons.

"Firstly, the game engines of knockoffs tend to be flakey. They get the job done - your character can move, jump, animate, etc. - but they simply aren't fun to operate, have bad collision detection and irregular movement, often with stiff jumping, and frequently annoy the player. While MM and JSW indeed have stiff jumps (in that you can't modulate your jump height by holding down the jump key, nor get any kind of 'air control' on your jumps), they are 100% reliable in that visually you can tell how far you will jump and your walking animation clues you in as to when you can jump from the very edge of a platform.

"Secondly, MM and JSW show a remarkable level design. Manic Miner is still extremely fun to play to this day, and JSW was ahead of its time by catering to casual and hardcore players alike, by allowing easy passage around the levels to facilitate exploring. Matt Smith's level design chops are legendary in my opinion. Good level design has the player in mind and will create a space for him/her to move through, always considering the player's options and guiding them.

"Thirdly, atmosphere is important. MM and JSW have a unique graphical style despite the straightjacket of 8-bit graphics. All of the rooms appear to be part of the same 'world' and share an art style, while there's enough variation from room to room. Again, Matthew Smith excelled in this department, providing his layouts with a certain 'feng shui'.

"Now, regarding the remakes, there are great JSW games which are stylishly minimal but work masterfully with themed clusters of rooms with similar graphics for the blocks. Other games cram an insane amount of challenge into condensed and attractive packages. You see so many different styles, each as individual as the author that penned (moused?) it. This clearly shows that JSW is art with a lot of room for individual expression."

Sendy (Alex Cornhill)

 

"What I love about JSW and its subsequent remakes is this spirit of a surreal little platform world, full of colourful and bizarre monsters ducking and diving everywhere."

Edward Martland

 

"Manic Miner and Jet Set Willy have exquisite game-mechanics. There's an elegant simplicity to the controls (left, right and jump). You know exactly how far you can walk to the edge of a platform without falling off, and the pixel-based collision-detection for guardians means you get to weave your way through them at close range.

"The ability to edit is what keeps the MM/JSW scene moving forwards. Because each room has its own block-graphics and 32x16 character-squares, the possibilities for new rooms are limited only by our imaginations.

"What makes these games particularly attractive to me is that there are many quirks in the game-engines, such as the way that if you jump through an isolated wall-block at the correct angle, you go slap through the floor below! I love discovering these quirky features, finding unintended loopholes in games, and deliberately exploiting them in my own games."

Dr. Andrew Broad

 

"There are several reasons that resulted in the incredible success of Jet Set Willy. Regarding the poor Spectrum's video abilities, the game had a fantastic appearance. It seemed that the game had more than the available 8 colors (that were furthermore limited to only 2 colors per 8x8 pixel block!). The detail of the graphics was just marvelous! There was a plenty of strange, interesting objects - like the swinging ropes that are highly realistic, hopping rabbits, deadly razor blades, wobbling jellies and endless other inventions.

"The player can move freely between the linking rooms and work out the structure of Willy's strange house. In keeping with a good adventure, there are some random elements that have been thrown in. In some rooms the hazards may change places, or disappear altogether. Some rooms may not be entered from a particular direction - you lose all your lives, and sometimes that does not happen. In all respects, the creation of all the rooms is exceptional, each with its own peculiarities. Some of them are very hard to solve. All the rooms and trajectories of the monsters are so ingeniously set, that in most of them you have to observe and plan your moves very carefully to reach all the items you have to collect.

"Unlike other computer games, it had a unique quality: it was not only a game that was to be played - it was a game to be explored, a game to be hacked! It is a game that you will be returning to over and over again!"

Arsen Torbarina

 

"Everyone needs a little escapism, and that's what JSW is all about. I'm slightly alarmed by the seriousness with which some people seem to treat the subject, but at least JSW is completely harmless entertainment, and doesn't pervert the minds of the younger generation with knives, machine guns and death."

Richard G. Hallas

 

"It’s bizarre that one game has stood the test of time and probably has more fanatical fans than when it was first released. The thrill for me as a 34 year old of completing a new version is something I can’t explain. Maybe I’m just trying to be a 13 year old again, I don’t know. Either way, I continually wait for those who have the time, patience, knowledge and dedication to produce another version of this timeless classic, and I thank you all for your hard work.”

Neil Gregory

 

"Collecting items isn't the most productive of pastimes, but it sure is fun!"

Philip Bee

 

"JSW isn't just a game - it's a relationship! One that stays with you from the very first game."

Adam Britton