In this post I will be talking about two very traditional platformers in my collection that are available for the TurboGrafx-16, JJ & Jeff and Pac-Land. JJ & Jeff is an oddball game where you control one of the two private investigators on a mission to solve a kidnapping of a wealthy man. Despite the misleading title, JJ & Jeff does not allow for co-op play or even two player back and forth. Regardless of which character you choose on your adventure, the other character feels slighted you left him out so he pops up throughout the game in the background peeing, pooping or being a general nuisance and potentially thwarting your efforts. Yes, I said peeing and pooping. It’s more obvious in the Japanese version of the game that the toilet humor is in full effect but in the U.S. the stream of pee has been removed and instead of the character crouching behind a bush with a flushed red face while straining to poop, all you see is the character with a bear suit on. Not to mention there is an attack in the game where if you crouch you can spray air at an enemy with a bottle. In the Japanese version of the game, you instead turn around and fart at your enemy! These were literally the only redeeming qualities of what is a generic platformer and they’ve been sanitized. Yes, birds still poop on you from above but that’s not the same. The game still retains the scenes where you go into doors to find your jilted crime solving partner spouting off a bizarre phrase before refilling your life bar so there’s that. Otherwise, your job is to run, jump and kick your way through repetitive levels of forests, caves and clouds until you reach the level bosses. The level bosses are all the same sprite, a beefy looking bad guy that throws rocks. Your kick him a few times and he’s gone. Don’t get me wrong, JJ & Jeff may be simple but it’s not easy. Think Adventure Island difficulty with your momentum constantly throwing you off ledges when you try to stop on a dime. As a result, there are plenty of chasms to fall into and your life meter will slowly run out as your progress through each level unless you refill by eating fruit you find by kicking EVERYTHING. If you decide to just speed run through the levels you’ll be fine, otherwise you’ll find yourself kicking everything in site just to see if a coin or a piece of fruit or a hidden door will open. You have to find a key in each level as well and they all have to be found by kicking stuff so kick away until you can’t kick anymore. Personally, even if the toilet humor was intact, I would still find JJ & Jeff way too repetitive and frustratingly difficult to spend a lot of time with. It’s still better than Pac-Land though.
Side note, JJ & Jeff came with my used TurboGrafx-16 when I purchased it many years ago and it was the first game I played when I got my console. My wife was with me at the time and she noted the toilet humor, cheesy dialogue and clichéd 80’s attire worn by the two protagonists so now she calls the TG-16 the “JJ & Jeff console”. Which is a shame because this game is NOT one of it’s shining stars.
Pac-Land makes JJ & Jeff look like Sonic the Hedgehog in terms of gameplay, music and graphics. You take on the role of Pac-Man himself in a 2D world where you are saving a fairy or something like that by running around ghost filled towns, forests and castles then returning home to the Mrs. and baby Pac-Man. First thing you have to do in order to play this game is change the default control settings from button to pad. The default button setting means that you use the two Turbo Pad buttons to move left and right and pressing the up button to jump. For someone that grew up platforming on the NES, this is counterintuitive and difficult to control. After I switched to using the buttons to jump and control pad to move left and right, I was able to progress quite far in the game as it’s not very difficult. Like JJ & Jeff, the game is extremely repetitive and boring in its monotony. Unlike JJ & Jeff, the graphics and music in Pac-Land are subpar. It looks like it could easily have been an 8-bit title as the graphics are blocky and dull even though they are colorful. No texturing or shading to speak of here. There are no boss battles in Pac-Land, just moving left to right then right to left over and over and over. You can eat pellets that make your Pac-Man invincible and allow you to eat ghosts like the original Pac-Man but they often position these pellets in areas immediately after you just made it through a heavily ghost filled section of the level or right before one of the level “breaks” so if you want to rack up points by eating ghosts, you’d have to back track. Pretty unhelpful either way. I don’t have a lot of positives to say about Pac-Land so I will stop bashing it here. I recently spent a good 30-45 min playing as far as I could get before I got bored and stopped continuing. That’s not a sign of a good game.
Currently in my collection:
JJ & Jeff – game, manual, case, box C
Pac-Land – game, manual, case D-