Platform games, one of the most dominant game genres in gaming history. They spawned a whole lot of spin-off series (run-and-gun, platform puzzles, Apogee’s shareware system, Mario 64’s 3D platform debut). Platform gaming has been the dominant type on every gaming platform for quite a while.
But classic platforming is rarely seen on nowadays computers. Consoles have taken over the 3D platforming aspect while handheld games kept producing 2D variations (Castlevania, Wario Land), but what happened to PC platformers? Try to sum up more than five recent commercial classic 2D platform games. Euurhhghmmmhghyhg… Right.
Unfolding the History of Platform gaming would be rather boring and you can read the details at Wikipedia. So let’s instead try to sum up that list… The first, and most obvious entry would be of course Captain Claw by Monolith, since I’ve mentioned the game more than once before. Being a game from 1997, one can imagine more exciting recent 2D platform games for the Personal Computer.
Jazz Jackrabbit 2 from Epic “Mega”-games was a Windows/Mac only side-scrolling platform game. Thank heavens! Although most newly integrated concepts have been copied from the Earthworm Jim series (released on SNES/MegaDrive first…), Jazz 2 was a more than solid platformer thanks to the advanced level editor. The PC still got one big advantage: modifications. Jazz 2 was also quite enjoyable in split-screen mode. It even included a Dopefish appearance!
So that’s 2. Most platform games released on the PC platform are ports of Playstation versions, like Oddworld. Rayman started his life on the Atari Jaguar and in DOS and the sequel released in 1999 was already heavily influenced by Mario 64’s gigantic success (and thus fully transformed into 3D jumping & running… Joy) Depending on how long you wish to discuss, Gex can increase our counter. The game was released in 1996 for Sega Saturn, PC, 3DO and PlayStation, but arguably first on the PC. After the “success” of the first game, the sequel next year also faithfully converted into 3D platforming madness. Not that the game was awfully bad, but classic 2D platforming was becoming a fairly rare breed.
Addendum - Oh great, Mobygames screwed up our hope by pointing out GEX has ben released for Saturn and Playstation in 1995, while the PC version came one year behind. The real question is, on which platform was the game developed, or for which key platform?
Last but not least, honorable mention to a bunch of freeware 2D platforming goodness, and especially Cave Story. The game is essentially a metroidvania clone with a very solid story line and sweet personality to it. Luckily, the game has been fully translated into English. Be sure to download it as Cave Story is certainly worth your precious time. (Mac version available)
Isn’t that impressive. I am able to list three games (or two and freeware games), three miserable little 2D platforming games, uniquely released for the PC. Everything you can possibly think of is either a DOS game, or first released on a console. But wait, the platform/puzzle genre included “Lode Runner: The Legend Returns”. The original Lode Runner concept dates back from 1983, but this version also (again) includes a nice level editor and the possibility to play levels with two players. The Legend Returns is now freely distributable so go grab the game files at the link. On a side note, this 1994 remake was also released for Mac OS and later ported to the Playstation.
Technically speaking, Worms 2 and the many spin-offs could be counted towards platform games. The only movement your worms are able to produce is slowly creeping a few meters, or getting thrown into the air at a ridiculous high speed thanks to a baseball bat or a holy grenade. We might as well classify the games as classic turn-based strategy.
Not even one Apogee game was able to successfully produce a Windows sequel. Even The Duke said goodbye to 2D platforming, grabbed his gun and went to 3D shooters. However, Duke Nukem Manhattan Project released in 2002 was a throwback at the classic side-scrolling action we all enjoyed while playing Duke I and II. The game featured eye-catching 3D graphics but stayed true to the 2D side-scrolling platform formula by limiting character movement to 2D space. Being developed by Sunflower, the game lacked a certain charm although ladies and cunning expressions were more than present.
Level structures and gameplay mechanics are roughly the same as in Crystal Dynamics’ Pandemonium, released for PS and PC. Isn’t that odd, Crystal Dynamics also developed GEX. The PC release appearantly also lagged one year behind (according to ever-knowing Mobygames, that is)…