Retrospective: Jetpac

Fuelling gamers for 30 years - here's a Golden Joystick retro-rocketing classic...

Back in the day (we're talking the dazed and confused 80s here), graphics were... a bit shit. Pixelated mashes of sprites ruled supreme, hamstrung by the tech of the times. Hence a certain genre became VERY popular, one that didn't need fancy-dancy graphics. Just black, endless boring space...

Space Wars, Space Battle, Space Raid - you get the gist. Enter the Stamper Bros, offering their take on a tired genre. Jetpac retained the space setting, but stole the essential single-screen mechanics of Atari 2600 classic Centipede and ramped the blasting upto hitherto unseen levels of manic-ness.

Frenetic, slick ET blob blasting was allied to ship part/rocket fuel collecting as heroic Jetman boosted about the screen searching for his errant kit. It also looked gorgeous for its time - with an eye-popping 15 colours and ultra smooth sprites.


So... build your rocket, fill it with fuel (but be careful to drop the parts on top of one another, not easy when you're dodging a slew of aliens) and escape into the stratosphere... only to land on another planet and do it all over again. Although, to be fair at least the devs treated you to a fresh rocket sprite.

Happily, despite the admittedly repetitive gameplay (heck, this game was only 16k) shooting stayed fresh, enemies mutated, stages re-jigged themselves - while your rocket just kept getting bigger. Ooh-er. Frankly insane reactions were required in later levels; this game cost many an irate gamer their precious Sinclair joystick.


If you're reading this lamenting the loss of your beloved ZX spectrum, thinking you'll never again bump space-fists with Jetman, chin up. Jetpac : Refuelled hit Live Arcade back in 2007, though it arguably wasn't as vibrant as its age-old daddy, which deservedly scooped Game of the Year at the Dave Lee Travis-hosted(!) Golden Joystick Awards back in 1983.

So if you're retro-mad and happened to miss this GJ winning el-classico, we heartily recommend a blast into this game's airless past via a spot of emulation. Just remember; in space, no one can hear you scream... in sheer mind-bending frustration, that is. Happy jet-packing readers.

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