I consider myself an intermediate to advanced video game player. I like challenge in my games … as long as it’s fair. Not in many years have I experienced such a frustratingly difficult game as I have with Jim Power. The saddest part is that it could have been a solid game with a few tweaks, but everything can’t be gold I suppose.
Universe on the Verge of Extinction
The story goes like this: An alien named Vaprak wants to use his army to cause havoc throughout the universe. The galactic armed forces (the good guys) are being defeated at every turn, so a frontal assault won’t win the war. They believe a single special agent, Jim Power, can slip by Vaprak’s billion man force and Omni-eye scanners to force the villain back to his own dimension. Other agents were sent on this dangerous mission before; none have returned. So equipped with a blaster and balls of steel, Jim Power sets off on his desperate quest.
Controls and Gameplay
As far as controls go, use X for rapid firing of your blaster, Y is for single blast shots, B is utilized to jump in the platforming levels and to power boost your spaceship in the shooter stages, A or R will detonate a smart bomb, L or R allows you to rotate Jim in the overhead Contra-style levels, pressing left or right on the control pad will move Jim, pressing down on the pad will make him kneel, the Start button pauses the game, and holding the Start and Select buttons simultaneously will end your gaming session and return you to the title screen.
I can tell the developers had lofty aspirations for this game. There are several genres represented in this one title. That’s always an interesting concept. The music was done by accomplished video game composer Chris Huelsbeck. The game even came with special 3-D glasses to enhance the experience. Despite the effort put into these different aspects of the game, they neglected one important component; the gameplay.
This must be the most difficult game I’ve played since Battletoads (remember that 3rd level? Arrgh!) for the NES. Typically, the first level of games is the “feeling out” stage where the player becomes comfortable with the controls, environment, and the physics of the character being played. Not so in this case. From the very beginning, your skills as a video game player are put to the test, and your skills better be razor sharp.
At the crux of the problem is the one-hit kills; one touch from an enemy or trap and you lose a life. Period. Well one might say the Contra games have one-hit kills and those titles are fun. Yeah, except the Contra games encourage running and gunning and make you feel like a total badass while doing so. In Jim Power however, you must take your time like a little old lady or else you will inevitable bump into a foe. And don’t think once you vanquished an enemy it’s safe to venture on; if wait a moment, there’s usually a second one right behind. Did I mention there is a time limit on the stages? Luckily there are time icons you can get throughout most stages that extend the timer.
Some examples of the environmental traps include dripping acid, spiked pits, rising and falling pillars, statue heads that spit out spikes, enemies throwing barrels out of windows, floating platforms that have haphazard patterns, and more. Often these traps share screen time with running and flying enemies. This makes escaping without losing a couple of lives really tricky. And this is just the first level folks.
If you can get past the drawn out introductory stage, there is some uncommon diversity in the various stages. There’s boss battles where you fly around with a jetpack, stages with an overhead view reminiscent of Contra III, and shmup stages too. It’s a refreshing twist which I wish more games would attempt. Unfortunately, most people who play this game won’t be seeing many of the stages.
I usually like to play games on the normal difficulty. Sometimes I’ll select a more difficult setting if I get to see a better ending. I couldn’t beat the first level so I put the game on easy. Apparently the only difference is the amount of continues you get and the lives you start out with. Even on the easiest setting with 5 lives and 3 continues, the game is extremely brutal. What’s worse is there’s no battery backup or password system. If you’re going to do the one-hit kill thing and have only a limited amount of continues, at least give us poor gamers a stage select or a battery backup option. This is where the game ultimately fails. The game gives you so little in the way of playability that it feels the developers wanted to punish you for some reason. What’s the point of playing if you get very little satisfaction?
Graphics and Sound
The graphics weren’t skimped on. There’s good use of color, Mode 7 effects, detailed backgrounds, effective fog effects, the game does have some eye candy. The background seems to scroll independent of the foreground. There are 3D glasses to complement this game. I did get a hold of a pair for the review. While they don’t drastically change the playing experience, they do upgrade the visuals. You get a psychedelic feeling while your character is moving. It’s kind of cool. Some people in the gaming community reported getting motion sickness from the constantly scrolling background, but I felt no ill effect. I would like to point out the sprite for Jim Power looks a little odd. He appears to be a bit stumpy and bowlegged.
The music is the jewel of this game. Rousing pieces accompany each level. They are the kind that play over and over in your head and deserves its own soundtrack, not stuck in this game. Sound effects are standard. Nothing stands out except for the voice over that says 1-up when you snag a 1-up token.
What could have been a solid title in the Super Nintendo’s library amounts to a lost opportunity. Great graphics and music, a blend of different genres and a 3D element to boot, Jim Power: The Lost Dimension in 3D stood to set a new standard in gaming. Instead it goes largely unknown, and those that are aware of it, revile it for its unforgiving nature. Only true masochists need apply here.
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