This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.
8. Mighty Bomb Jack
Mapping the pyramid and special ending conditions.
Developed by Tecmo
Reason for inclusion:
Like Bubble Bobble and Solomon's Key, Mighty Bomb Jack is absolutely loaded with secret items and areas, and forces a player to discover lots of well-hidden things in order to see its best ending.
Although maligned by many reviewers,
it's a fairly clever little game. It's a little spacey in its implementation,
for sometimes enemies spawn right over the player or inside walls, but
at least it's less buggy than NES Athena. The sequel to the semi-obscure
arcade game Bomb Jack, the primary method of play is the same
as that game. The player controls a guy with an extremely high jump
as nearly his only skill. He can control his arc by pressing the jump
button again in the middle of a leap. When it's pressed, it zeros out
his vertical velocity, ending jumps early and slowing descent. It does
nothing to change horizontal velocity, so by pressing the button quickly
players can glide across long distances, provided there's space to do
so and an enemy doesn't generate in the air right in his way. All told,
what this means is that the player can effectively "glide"
by rapidly pressing the button, and pull off some amazing escapes by
sliding horizontally between approaching enemies.
While it's not exactly a "Metroidvania," one of the neater things about the game is that, although it's composed as a sequence of branching levels, it still maps out coherently. The manual provides an illustration of an Egyptian pyramid with the outlines of the first areas mapped out on it. As successive levels are explored, their locations can also be placed on the map. If the player does this, some interesting things about the game become evident.
In a couple of places the corridors extend outside the pyramid. When that happens, the graphics change to sky and clouds. If the game is mapped out, it becomes clear that there are some places where there is a significant void, a place where it looks like there should be something, and this is an important clue to hunting down the secret rooms. The principle at work here is that the areas aren't laid out arbitrarily but according to a deeper structure, and this aids exploration by giving observant players a subtle hint as to passage locations.
Two of these secret areas have special import. While the player can work through the game normally and get a plain ending, to get the best ending the player has to find special items buried in the depths. Finding them is particularly difficult because often the player must jump on unmarked breakable blocks on the level that disappear when this is done, and use that to drill down and find hidden treasure chests, some of which contain the items that make the secret door appear. Some of these chests are invisible at first, and are hidden in the middle of large empty rooms. When the player is being relentlessly chased by killer mummies and parrots that appear out of thin air, jumping on every piddling spot on the screen can be something of a hassle, but it definitely makes it challenging to find them.
Like Solomon's Key (which
was also developed by Tecmo), one can win the game without getting the
best ending. Unlike many multiple-ending games these days, the player
doesn't feel gypped by a less-than-optimal ending. The day is saved
regardless of the ending obtained. Hunting up those crystal balls out
of their maddening secret rooms just makes a happy ending happier.
Some developers put in bad endings as a way to punish the player for playing in a way they don't like (Ogre Battle for instance), or for not figuring out some obscure trick (adventure-style Castlevanias). In Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Simon Belmont's fate gets worse the faster the game is completed.
Now, understand -- I am averse
to posing many iron-clad "Don't do it!" rules for game designers
to slavishly follow. There is a good counter-example to nearly every
piece of such advice I've ever heard. But I would suggest that,
if you're going to put real multiple endings in your game (and not just
trick ends like in the last case of the second Phoenix Wright),
that you consider allowing the player to feel good about his accomplishment
regardless... especially if, to get anything else, the player must jump
through the kinds of flaming hoops that Mighty Bomb Jack presents.
Most of the resources on this
game are in Japanese. The best site I know of on the game can
be found at Mighty Bomb Jack Walkthrough Page (Google Translation).
Be sure to check the map of the pyramid.
The full details of the game's endings and how to get them can be found
in a GameFAQs article that summarizes the old Nintendo Game Counselor's
handbook entry on the game.