Jill of the Epic MegaJungle
*jungle music* *clogged tube* *machine shutting down* [CIVVIE] Uh oh… looks like the boom shoot tube is clogged. Let's see what else I have lying around. *TV buzzing* *jungle music* So, let's talk about something nice, and comforting, from a time when none of us were worried about bills, or rent, or extrajudicial trials held under the Nevada desert, I'm talking about the early 90's, the nice, family friendly… Come on, bring it up now.
Yeah, look at that. And now, for the family friendly version. Awesome! An actual game from my childhood, but like most games I only had the shareware because having more than that costs money, and it would have taken hours to pirate all like 2 megabytes of this game. Episodic gaming exploded in the early 90's, and while Apogee, The Height of Gaming Excitement was at the forefront of it, the DOS era was the wild west, and one of the companies looking to break onto the scene was Potomac Computer Systems, with their first game called *zzt*.
A company started in Maryland by a young man by the name of Tim Sweeney, who decided to rename his company, because Potomac Computer Systems is a boring name, right? *zzt* is fine though, no changes, but the company needed to be rebranded into something with attitude, so it became… EPIC. MEGAGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMES! You might recognize them currently as "Epic Games", those crazy kids who own that big money printing machine- [PALPATINE] [CIVVIE] - NO! NOT AGAIN! YOU SONS OF BITCHES! [POE] - Somehow, Palpatine returned. [CIVVIE] They only let me use Rise of Skywalker clips now because I shivved someone in the large intestines… how he got in the large intestines, I'll never know.
*stock laugh track* *Civvie's canned laughter* He died. So Tim Sweeney's first game after *zzt*, and the first to be created under the name Epic Megagames, a name they did not officially change until 1999, AFTER UNREAL TOURNAMENT… That first game was Jill of the Jungle. And if you think calling stuff "mega" was just a little thing they did for the company, let me introduce you to Meganoise. [reading] Oh, you bet, let's go! *gong* *disc scratching* *evil laugh* *disc scratching* *No!* *disc scratching* *No!* *evil laugh* *disc scratching* *evil laugh* *No!* *evil laugh* *No!* *disc scratching* Sound effects are pretty cool. Right here, we boot up the game, and we are treated to the first 256-color, VGA, DOS-powered thirst trap that I can remember.
And if you think I'm going to take this opportunity to make crude, lazy sex jokes, well, you're obviously a longtime fan, welcome back. And what do you do in this game? What challenges await this surprisingly clean and extremely blonde jungle dweller? Snakes, frogs, crabs, bees, uh… phœnix? Giant ants? Lizard Men?! Pac-Man ghosts?! Instant death spikes? WHATEVER THESE THINGS ARE?! WATER?! Here we see the majestic and copyright-friendly DerpFish. The DerpFish Exists! There's something so comforting about a simple platformer.
Shift to jump, Arrow Keys to move around, Alt to throw your weapon. One of those fun little DOS platformers that feels forgotten when you've got like id hitting us with that Commander Keen. [reading like a radio newscaster] Because he's 13 and can't spell. [reading like a radio newscaster] [normal] That's an epic burn on that fucking nerd! This game throws shade at Commander Keen, which at the time, is fairly niche, being a PC game, and then takes aim at Pac-Man, for some reason, and then the shroom chomping Nintendo mascot himself, who is not cool enough to compete with Jill, and is also said to be 72 years old.
And instead of retiring, he's gonna clean gorilla cages at the local zoo. I think Mario might have won this contest. I'm surprised at how much air control you have when jumping. It's a little more stiff than what you might expect with something like Duke Nukem or Mario, and it still works most of the time. Usually, if you die, you can only blame yourself, like here where I die in the first level on some instant-kill spikes. I can skip them, this is a secret area, but I won't.
I have to go up here and collect nothing. I'm looking for apples, which are sort of like Mario coins in that they give you points and health. There isn't a lives system and if you die, you go back to the start of the level or sometimes a checkpoint, and you can save anywhere at any time so it doesn't matter. Episode 1 is "volume 1 of a 3-part… MEGA-series". [reading] Until Jazz Jackrabbit in 1994! [reading] Where's the in-game text shitting on Samus? [reading] It's not a secret if you tell me, but I already knew about it, see you collect gems in these levels to open new areas on the overworld map, and if you visit all of the levels, you'll end up with an extra one that will let you visit the bonus level, which is level 593,480,156,531,765,536,123,791.
The amount of content they put in these old games still amazes me. This episode isn't very difficult, it being the shareware that you could get for free as opposed to the full game that you… can get for free. I got this version off of Good Old Games for nothing. I'm constantly at war with myself over whether or not I enjoy this game because it's good or because of nostalgia.
I mean, it plays well enough, it has some fun features. In the first couple of levels, you'll be transforming into a phœnix so you can fly or a fish so you can swim, or a frog so you can have a little taste of what it's like to be the most annoying thing in the game. A few levels are centered around puzzles like The Castle, which tells you in no uncertain terms that it's tricky. Because you have to jump onto this slightly lower platform to get one of the keys. *yeah!!!* Odd choice for sound effects, but okay. The Knight's Puzzle has you dodging killer suits of armor and doing switch puzzles before abandoning being a puzzle entirely and having you gather some keys and marvel at particle effects that slow the game down, shut up, commenters, I'm playing with the cycles that GOG gave me! Episode 1 ends with Jill outrunning some bees and the game telling you to sit down and enjoy this in-game cutscene.
No, seriously, look at this shit. It says "ending sequence". I have no control over this. She turns into a phœnix and flies into a… space? Another planet? With mushrooms? No, that can't be right.
*psychedelic funky rock music* [AX3 reading] [CIVVIE] But… the… jungle? Did she? What? [AX3 reading] [CIVVIE] But? Space?! Flying?! What is happening? Why wasn't her hair messed up when she got turned into a frog? Or a bird made of fire?! Oh, she's got a change of clothes and all the sound effects are different. And the frogs are rabbits now. And she's belching knives. *burp sound* *burp sound* The one problem with these knives, compared to the spinning blades, is that they go in a straight line and anything below you tends to not get hit unless you move down and get it to boomerang into something. THIS GAME IS LYING TO ME. I'm… confused, because that is the background from the last level of Episode 1, so did we or did we not transform into a phœnix and fly into space where we landed on a mushroom planet and threw knives at killer rabbits and malicious caterpillars? Can a phœnix burn in space? I feel like an asshole for asking a question like that. It's a video game.
Unless Jill of the Jungle prided itself on the scientific accuracy of mythical creatures, it seems like a petty nitpick. But not a funny one. And this episode doesn't have an overworld map like the last one, it's linear, so we're off to Montezuma's Castle. Which, I think might be the closest we've come to a jungle. And the frogs are back. Outstanding! Crocodiles! That's jungle-adjacent, right? Just like the flame-spewing… things?… Uhhhh… You know, I only had the first episode as a kid and this game is going places I really didn't expect.
This game turned into a fever dream really quick. We're still doing all the stuff from Episode 1 but it's slightly more difficult. Even if the game is telling you what to do. Oh, a high jump? Switch puzzles, sure. It's visually very nice, the sound effects are still a little weird this time around, I'm not sure how long… I want to get off this ride now. Even the music is sinister.
*sinister music* And these demons throw attacks at you that are like compound projectiles, like a bunch at once, what is this episode? Where did this come from? Was Tim Sweeney going through some shit? This is more like it, this is nice, chill, it doesn't take place inside of a fiery inferno that houses the souls of the damned. Music still sounds like it does though. *Gothic? music* Jill doesn't swim to shit in this game! Oh god, we're back in hell. And Jill swims equally as well in lava.
Hey look, it's the demon's hideout, we can put all of this to bed right now, that's really conveniently labeled. So is this maze, man, Tim Sweeney was really thoughtful and conscientious towards the player at the start, but I'm sure us gamers wore him down eventually and turned him bitter. It's what we do.
"This is a hard maze." Is it? I don't… You know when you write that on a wall in a game, I'm not sure if you're trying to fuck with me or not… I just… I just want to get out of the underground, I don't like the underground. Long live *zzt*! Is that who's doing this to me? Is it *zzt*?! I can't take much more of this. Please god no, I don't want any more weirdness, much less ETERNAL weirdness. "WINNERS DON'T LOSE FROGS?" BUT DO THEY LICK TOADS? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? I CAN'T SPRINT, THERE'S NO SPRINTING! IT'S… IT'S 1992, NO ONE HAS PUT SPRINTING LIKE THAT IN GAMES YET… WHY AM I TRAPPED IN FREDDY'S SWEATER? Oh… *porn music* Oh. "Jill Better Think Fast!" No, no, no, no, no, she was raised in the jungle, that's not her superpower.
Yes, I got all four keys, you're lucky death is a slap on the wrist in this game. I'm lucky death is a slap on the wrist in this game. The… bat hangar?! Okay, this episode is drugs, I don't care what the end screen says about the jungle being safe for "normal jungle stuff to occur".
You know what "normal jungle stuff" is?! [WERNER HERZOG] It's a land that God, if he exists, has created in anger. Taking a close look at what's around us, there is some sort of a harmony. It is the harmony of overwhelming and collective murder. When I say this, I say this all full of admiration for the jungle.
[CIVVIE] Okay, see that? Jill saves the prince! That's something I can wrap my head around. Not a fucking Mushroom Samba. The overworld map is back and also different. It's overhead and you can see that yes, there was a pixel put in to make sure we could see titty. It functions a lot like the one in the first episode, except this time there's a maze, and I recognize the tiles here from the regular levels so you're not fooling me, thirty-year-old video game. Jill is dressed in blue and all the sounds are different again. *roar* NO! *roar* NO! WHY? *sneeze sound* Did you shell out 200 bucks for a sound blaster card in 1991? Well, now you too can hear Tim Sweeney sneeze every time you exit a level.
*sneeze sound* Episode 3 is probably the best one and really the fully-formed version of Jill of the Jungle. There's still no jungle and no, the forest doesn't count, it's a totally different climate. It's a lot like Episode 1… except harder.
The demons are back and- A lot stronger than I remember. The knife won't kill the demon, only the spinning blade, so putting him in this level was kind of a dick move. They're not even the main antagonist, that would be the lizard men, these, let's face it, badly drawn sprites, in this level where you board their ship and the game doesn't give you any weapons to fight them. And the demons that come later are still way harder. Most of these levels are fine though, except when "Jill trys her luck in the pyramid puzzle", because I'm petty and that's spelled wrong. We've been turned into a frog, and we have the choice to either hop or leap.
There is no difference between these two things. The game really ramps up the difficulty on level 11, which is called "level eleven", because the game has run out of level names. It's got that demon murder room from before, the killer armor suits, death spikes, and… the frogs. It is particularly evil to put the frogs against this green background.
It still has nothing on the next level, which is called: "If you think the next level is number twelve, you're right!" This level is pretty cruel even by the standards of DOS platformers. But if you made it this far, they've already got your money. "Jill finally discovers the castle" so we can do all that prince saving that's been promised at the top of the screen this whole time. This one is pretty tricky too, not as bad as "If you think the next level is number twelve, you're right!" but have a look at this death here, where I touched the very outside of the hit-box of the killer armor suit and tell me that's not some bullshit.
There's a second part to this castle, with the prison cell holding the prince clearly marked around the center of the map. It's as simple as getting a gem and dodging lots of frogs. So they knew what a pain these frogs were and they filled the last level with them. Or, instead of saving the prince, you can just head to the exit.
[AX3 reading] [CIVVIE] Motherfucker, we still haven't actually gone to a jungle so I don't know anymore! Okay, technically she goes into the jungle once when she "journeys into the forest" in the second level but then in the level after that, "Jill explores the forest"! Although there are no trees in that level but there might be a canonical explanation because the lizard men were planning to bulldoze the jungle to put up condos. Because they're looking to retire somewhere nice but Jill, who apparently hates the elderly, doesn't want them to. And I'm gonna side with her! We do save the prince, the game forces you. [AX3 reading] [CIVVIE] Being rescued from a prison cell by a hot jungle chick with a lax dress code and then marrying her, man, that's like 90% of my fantasy! She says "okay", the jungle is saved, the prince is saved, there are no bosses in this game so I guess we also eradicated the lizard men at some point, and I'm having some trouble connecting this to the studio that would become Epic Games, minus the Mega. "Cosmetic DLC with the spiked leather one-piece is $9.99."
Okay, kids, Civvie needs you to send me pictures of your mom's credit card, front and back and the little number- *tube switching on* OH MY GOD STOP RELEASING NEW GAMES! WHAT IN THE GODDAMN FRESH HELL IS A FROGMONSTER? DON'T YOU KNOW I HAVE TO DO A VINYL GODDESS FROM MARS VIDEO NOW? *end credits*