#587 – Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship

 

         Conquer 12 alien worlds, then Westernize them so that they may know the joy of McDonalds.

 

                                                       

                                                                                                             Run, little jetman.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Tradewest

DEVELOPER: Rare

GENRE: Adventure

RELEASE DATE: September 1990

 

Solar Jetman carves its own weird niche on the NES, with little regard for what any player thinks. There’s slight action, a good deal of non-linear exploration, and a little strategy. But what ties these three elements together are the game’s equally impressive and abhorrent physics.

 

Solar Jetman takes place within the confines of twelve (thirteen, counting the bonus world) planets, each with its own gravity. If a planet has little gravity, your miniature exploring ship/spaceman will bounce around like a pinball; on the plus side, it will be easier to lift essential items out of each planet, like pieces of the golden warship or crystals used for currency, fuel upgrades, etc. Lifting said items requires hovering near the item (a task in an of itself), waiting for the tractor beam to attach to the item, then flying it back to your main ship. If a planet contains more gravity, you have more control of your ship, but forget about lifting anything. Whatever item you attach to on a planet with higher gravity will lower you farther and farther down, unless you fly towards the item with enough momentum and it latches on miraculously.

 

Two problems with that: 1) if you bounce your ship on the planet’s terrain, your ship will slow down and you’ll likely start to sink; 2) enemies will be shooting at you, and one stray shot can explode your ship, leaving your spaceman out in cold space, unable to pull anything. If the latter happens, your wee jetman can propel up to your main ship and re-generate another exploration ship. But why? Why does Solar Jetman force you to go to such great lengths to accomplish a simple task, like pulling an item out of a cavern? Because Rare wanted to show off their physics “engine.” Take away the physics and this game is revealed as a spartan item-collecting exercise; insert the physics, and the game has substance, depth, and frustration in unequal amounts. Kudos and congratulations to Rare for simulating pseudo-realistic physics on an eight-bit system. Jeers for making Solar Jetman‘s potentially satisfying gameplay rely so heavily on them.

 

D+

 

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  • I used to own this as a kid. I actually got all the pieces of the Golden Warship together, and then the final level (SPOILERS) is a hard-as-fuck shooter level…..on which I died…..and got a Game Over. One of the biggest letdowns of my childhood. Goddamn game. LOL

  • Agree with everything here. It reminded me too much of a very old PC game called Lander with how needlessly complicated it is early on. Great concept that could have pulled off better on the SNES.

  • I remember the day I bought this. My dad and I went out for breakfast and he noticed an ad in the paper featuring this game on sale. What we didn’t notice, however, was that physics had just been invented (the newspaper headline). As such, I never got a handle on this game.

  • Dude, I love your blog and check it out almost everyday. Your friend at NintendoLegend.com gave Solar Jetman a 4 out of 5, so I figured I’d check it out. He was wrong, you were right – this game sucks and is damn near impossible. Keep up the good work!

  • Thanks Joe! Haha, yeah NintendoLegend is a buddy of mine. When we agree, we agree, but when we don’t, well… Solar Jetman is one of our fairly large disagreements.

    Thanks for reading and I will do my best!

  • Oh man, I hated this game as a kid, haha! I never even got past the first level! I even tried playing it later as an adult to see if I could figure it out and I just did not have the patience.

  • P.r. Behler

    You guys miss the point. This game is not about beating your 354th similar same-y platformer or sidescroller on the NES. It’s about playing something different and wickedly cool. This game is the next generation in the outstanding line of Luner Lander, Thrust, and Gravitar. It also has spectacular graphical animation that is way ahead of it’s time. I didn’t know it was Rare studios that produced it, but I should have guessed. Thank you for that information.
    I can count on one hand the number of NES games I’m interested in playing. I grind to earn a living, not for fun. A great arcade experience is like life, boys. You are going to die, and you will never accomplish everything you want to. How lucky are you to be experiencing something extraordinary along the way?

    • Flatlander

      Agreed! Like other NES games the difficulty of Solar Jetman can be frustrating but there is nothing else like it on the system. I would say the closest would actually be Bionic Commando due to the the challenge caused by the innovative play mechanics. It’s refreshing to have something to fight against other than AI controlled enemies and bullets, and to be able to solve problems using finesse instead of twitch reflexes and brute power. When you are towing something back to your ship, it actually FEELS like you are towing a heavy object. Your ship has momentum and can bounce off things. Great stuff!