A colourful but resource-efficient unauthorised fan remake of an arcade classic, all of the salient elements remain from the absurd original: the bird-mounted knights jockeying for aerial superiority (literally: when two riders meet, the one in the lower position is dismounted), leaving eggs in their wake and avoiding additional threats from flying prehistoric reptiles and the red hand of an angry lava monster.
Joust is a rather beloved game, as far as classic arcade titles go, and ports of it are inevitable. Atari's 1983 attempt is actually pretty solid, once you get past questionable controls, and a niggling lack of proper sound support (or maybe that was my fault, shut up). One thing that I was honestly quite surprised about is the clarity of the graphics. The VGA graphics are very clean and polished, and there's good use of color, the animations are quite impressive for the time period. Some images are rather poorly done though, for example, the large bird like creatures (I can only assume they are dinosaurs) look like logs of crap and are, as long as we're speaking of them, nigh impossible to properly destroy, unless you know how to land an infinitesimal pixel in the exact little dot you need to kill the things. The other Jousters are, fortunately, much more well done. They look colorful, and have ostriches that vary in color. My personal favorite are the brown ostriches because they remind me of chocolate.
In addition to wonderful old-timey graphics, we also have wonderful old-timey sound. These are basically just the bleeps and bloops you would expect from video games that Japanese iron smiths built in their forges five hundred years ago while meditating on the moon. Fortunately they are well done, and that unmistakable patter of the ostrich's feet as you wind him up on a run is still here. I can go on to say that there are appropriate bleeps and bloops for when you stab another Jouster in the back, or nail a flying pterodactyl, but you already know that. The only sound that can be mentioned as being annoying is the agonizing screech the prehistoric flying creatures unleash every fourth millisecond when they're on screen.
There's practically an infinite amount of levels as you'd expect, and therefore the game is playable for as long as the universe lasts, or until you become bored. If you've played Joust before, then you've played this iteration, fellows riding on ostriches wielding pointy sticks will attempt to destroy you (or jump around indefinitely hoping you'll eventually run into their Jousting Sticks) and prehistoric dinosaurs will occasionally fly through the level and weird everyone out because they're totally out of place. It's your duty as anonymous Jouster to indiscriminately kill all these people on ostriches, and make sure that all innocent majestic prehistoric creatures are sent back to hell. This is accomplished by running or jumping into things with the proper end of your stick and ending their miserable existence. Of course, this isn't easy, and even less so in this iteration. For some reason you need to be perfectly exact, the only time I've actually killed a prehistoric flying creature without trouble was when I was standing around doing nothing while I attempted to figure out the controls and one flew into my spear, spasmed frantically, then died a horrible agonizing death. That being said, Atari's Joust is bunches harder than the original arcade version, and it's not helped by the fact that you need to have the tender fingers of a four year old girl in order to properly utilize the controls. The flap and movement keys are squished together in the same spot, and despite the fact that at the menu you can "change flap key" it incredibly changes only player 2's controls, because apparently player 1 is a huge jackass and no one likes him. Did I forget to mention that in some Mario-esque decision you can only destroy the other Jousters via crushing their skulls with the weight of your ostrich? Apparently, stabbing them doesn't work. This isn't a big deal, in fact it's not a deal at all, the game is still very fun. Beyond that, the gameplay never gets too complex over the levels, there different levels with different types of conditions, like an egg level (filled with eggs, you collect them before they hatch), a survival level, a prehistoric flying creatures level, and so on.
It's good old fashioned gameplay and there's nothing to complain about really.
Despite all its pros, I believe the controls and queer difficulty in killing enemies (jumping on men with sticks and stabbing prehistoric flying creatures with surgical precision) bring down the overall quality of the game a bit. Therefore, I shall deliver upon this game a resoundingly slightly good three. But don't fret, that's a perfectly good score my dear Joust, what else do you expect I'd give to a game involving men on ostriches killing each other and murdering innocent prehistoric creatures?
This is definitely a weird game. Though I somehow managed not to be THAT bad in playing I never quite got the objective - sure, Joust - the name says it all, somehow you, on the back of that bird, have to fight against the knight on the flying horse - and against that dragon too, if it happens to come up. Well, so much about that. Try it - can be fun sometimes.
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