Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is a 2D run-and-gun platformer where you control a 3-foot-tall, anthropomorphic green hare. The game has often been likened to Sonic the Hedgehog with guns.
The storyline begins three thousand years after Aesop's The Tortoise and the Hare, when conflict between hares and tortoises escalates into war. This "plot," though, is mostly an excuse to run around creatively designed levels and shoot tortoises.
Jazz Jackrabbit 2: The Secret Files could be called the definitive version of Jazz 2. Not only does it have all the content of the original game, but it also includes the 9-level Secret Files title episode, the Holiday Hare freeware episode, twenty-three new single and multiplayer levels, plus a new character (Jazz's sister Lori).
The Secret Files episode is good fun. It's harder than the original game and has some cool settings, like the haunted mansion environment. Levels are packed with alternate routes and secrets that increase replayability, but also capture the feeling of the original levels. This episode is the highlight of the new content.
I wish the same could be said about Lori. While she is a fun character to play, I was hoping that Lori would add some new abilities to the game. Alas, however, Lori only has Jazz's helicopter ears (which can slow down her rate of fall) and a faster version of Spaz's karate kick which can, if you hold down the crouch and jump keys, be used repeatedly.
She's also not quite so well animated as either Jazz or Spaz and, bizarrely, is unable to grab onto helicopters, making one early part of the main campaign impossible to bypass without cheats. Her lack of an extra high jump ability is also irritating. In general, Lori feels like she was hastily crammed into the game without even being playtested. Still, it's hard to complain about an extra character, and having her does increase replayability of the game.
The music of the game is simply awesome. Every tune gets stuck in your head while blasting your way through levels, and I could sit and listen to the main-menu music for quite some time. The new tracks for the Secret Files episode are no different, although they aren't quite as catchy as the original tunes.
Jazz Jackrabbit 2 is a fine game, but The Secret Files adds nothing you couldn't do without. If you're an obsessive collector of all things Jazz Jackrabbit, then you'll love the new episode and levels. Otherwise, I'd recommend the plain-old vanilla version of Jazz Jackrabbit 2.
Jazz Jackrabbit 2: The Secret Files is the final release in Epic Megagames' celebrated Jazz Jackrabbit series, which remains today one of the best shareware platformers of all time. In The Secret Files, Epic and Project 2 bring us a new standalone release, sequel-of-sorts to Jazz Jackrabbit 2, featuring many all-new levels, new weapons and new enemies, and even some homemade levels.
The gameplay is still the same as Jazz 2, which means you can expect a lot of well-designed levels, funny enemies, and addictive gameplay. The levels in this release is even more devious than Jazz 2, with a lot more secrets and alternate routes that boost the replay value even higher. I feel TSF is much more difficult than Jazz 2: even at the easiest difficulty setting, I still have a hard time finishing each level. This is due mostly not to tough enemies (which are even sparse on some levels), but to devious little physical puzzles and challenges that you need to figure out. You can play the campaign mode, i.e. all the levels in order, or 20 of the best levels submitted by Jazz 2 fans.
Similar to Jazz 2, TSF also includes it's own standalone editor, thought it's not as easy to use as the actual game. But the best news for die-hard Jazz 2 fans might be superb multiplayer support: up to 32 players can play simultaneously over the Internet or LAN. You can even play the game in hotseat mode, with several gamepads hooked up and two players on keyboard. There is also a great variety of multiplayer modes not dissimilar to today's FPS games, including battle mode, capture the flag, and others.
All in all, The Secret Files is a great ending to an excellent series. Its addictive, nonstop action, wonderful sense of humor, wacky levels, and superb multiplayer should make it a permanent resident on the hard disk of every platformer fan. Highly recommended!
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