A blast from the past, Jazz Jackrabbit 2: The Secret Files (JJ2: TSF) is a hare-powered action-platformer that revels in its simplicity. The base game is one of my favourite games from my childhood, but I had never previously played The Secret Files expansion. But since it’s more of the same packaged alongside JJ2, so in essence sort of a complete edition, the review is on JJ2 as a whole.
There’s a quote from Gameslice on the physical box of JJ2 that says: Jazz Jackrabbit is back in business for a sequel that one-ups every other platformer in existence. That, of course, might be a slight exaggeration on their part, considering Mario 64 came out two years prior. Indeed, the platforming is, most of the time, simplistic jumps over obstacles. But, added to that, there’s a dedicated run button, not quite Sonic the Hedgehog speed but still there, and several guns to blast your enemies with. It’s simple and it works, so that’s all that matters to keep it playable two decades after release.
There are eight weapons you can unlock throughout your playthrough, plus your trusty basic infinite ammo blaster. And honestly, the blaster is the best. Initially, it shoots slowly, but as you collect Fastfire upgrades dropped by enemies, it will turn into a formidable machine gun type of weapon, which is why I’ve always loved using it. As a child, and even now, the blaster feels so good to use. I mean, missile launcher and flamethrower are cool too, but they’re not nearly as fun.
The graphics are lovely to this day. The enemy movement animations, backgrounds, collectable food, etc., look great and are fun to observe in motion. On the worse side of graphics, you have the breakable squares that stick out like a sore thumb within the environment since they’re not visually consistent with other elements. On one hand, you see them clearly to know where you can break them, while on the other, you see them too clearly. The contrast between the two is just barely bearable to look at.
But if there’s one thing that rises above the rest in JJ2, it’s the fantastic soundtrack composed by Alexander Brandon. Seriously, go check out tracks like Medieval Jam, Hell Freezes Over, Jazz Belmont or Labrat. The soundtrack is pure electric goodness and adds a lot to the game experience.
JJ2 features a split-screen co-op for up to four players. I often played this game as a two-player split-screen using one keyboard as a child. It was, at times, awkward to work with, but hey, it still worked! You can also utilise any gamepad you own with the joystick controller configuration. Although, if possible, go for the one keyboard for two players just for the experience of shared pain enjoyment.
There’s also the online multiplayer with Player-versus-Player-modes and custom levels. JJ2, surprisingly enough, still has a small but dedicated player base. I’ve never played the online, but I think it’s a testament to JJ2’s status as a cult classic.
It matters not if you play solo or co-op: JJ2 is a blast to play through. The game isn’t that long either, lasting only a few hours if you hold a decent pace and do some exploration. The short length helps keep the game fresh and not bore you with its simplicity. It’s also very cheap on GOG whenever it’s on sale, and it comes with the separate JJ2: The Christmas Chronicles, which features three additional levels for the single-player. Easy purchase if you’re into playing a piece of history!
Developer: Epic MegaGames
Publisher: Gathering of Developers
Players: 1-4 (local – including co-op), 1-32 (online)
Release date: 7.5.1998 (original), 15.3.1999 (The Secret Files)
Platform: PC (GOG.com)
Pictures: Screenshots taken by the author