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Bomb Jack

Jack be nimble.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

A perfect example of how brilliant gameplay can shadow a multitude of developer sins, Bomb Jack has become something of a cult icon in the gaming industry.

A quick look at Tehkan's original Bomb Jack cabinet (before it changed its name to Tecmo) and it's clear this game got nowhere on good looks. A tacky conti-board cab (even by 80's standards) with a miniscule screen, crayon drawn marquee and unadorned control panel, players weren't exactly hypnotised by the game from across a busy arcade floor.

Then we take a look at that tiny screen nestled unadventurously in the thrice brown cabinet: A small figure with a moronic smile jumping around catching stationary cherries against random backgrounds of landmarks and monuments. If a gamer in the know didn't force 10p from their friend's pockets and hold them by the throat in front of the machine, it's unlikely anyone would remember Bomb Jack today.

And yet, those brutalised, resistant arcade creepers soon revelled in this apparently uninspiring title. A surprising crossbreed of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Bubble Bobble (even though the latter didn't exist at the time), this inspired little gamer's game quickly became one of the best kept secrets of the arcade world. Bouncing at breakneck speed from platform to sky, grabbing bombs (ah, bombs! Not cherries, then?) as their long fuses burned dangerously low, the unsung superhero saved the world's treasures from terrorist threat.

Still readily available today, the refined precision of Bomb Jack's gameplay (over unnecessary aesthetics) has ensured there's yet to be a duff conversion, while unwavering addictiveness has become synonymous with Jack's anti-terrorism activities.

8 / 10

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