One of the biggest reasons I started doing this A to Z steam was to play some games I had been sitting on in the collection for quite some time. There are plenty of games I hadn’t played, so it was kind of easy to get things going. However, it didn’t just start earlier this year with All-Star Slammin’ D-Ball. Technically that was the first game of this alphabetical endeavor. However I started this concept of playing a game for the first time on stream a year before and only got through a small handful of games. One of them was today’s topic Jersey Devil.
My ambition at the time was to play a game here and there, get a good grasp on the title, and then move on to the next: a basic plan to get through an ever growing backlog of games. Jersey Devil was perhaps the most fun I had during this alpha test of the stream project. It offered fun albeit dated platforming, as well as a unique setting and some inspired enemies. It sadly also offered cliches and poor design choices we’re so far removed from nowadays in 2023: Tanky controls, needlessly difficult jumps, cheaply hidden collectibles, the list goes on. Still though, a decent game for what it is and when it was released.
Initially I was attracted to Jersey Devil because I played a lot of other mascot platformers (also, there was a pretty heavy ad campaign I can recall too). Heavy hitters like Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, Gex, Super Mario 64, Klonoa, and one of my personal favorites Cool-Spot just to name a few. On the Playstation alone there are several platformers I never even got around to playing, most of them probably aren’t all that good. We’re talking things like Rascal, Rayman 2, Tomba, Skullmonkeys, 40 Winks, and Blasto. Jersey Devil was perhaps the biggest name though, and I was all too excited to finally have the opportunity to play it. My expectations were held up by nostalgia from said advertising push, as well as kind of just liking the genre in general. Those thoughts of wonder were soon to be subverted when I finally played it.
Jersey Devil suffers by being released when it was released. It came out in mid-1998, which placed it nearly two years after the success that was the Nintendo 64’s Super Mario 64. I think it goes without saying how influential that game was, inspiring countless 3D action platforming imitators for generations to come. Going back to something like Jersey Devil, which was in development at the same time as Mario 64 is painful. Archaic character movement, floaty jumping mechanics, dated collectibles in each stage, and the list goes on. It’s tough to find the game to be good when it might have more in common with Bubsy 3D than anything else (for what it’s worth, Jersey Devil released nearly 2 years after Bubsy, but that’s not really saying all that much).
Reviewers at the time reacted similarly to the dated antics of the purple-clad character. Being on older hardware (the PS2 was less than two years away) meant the game would not be able to compete with faster, more impressive hardware seen on the N64 or even the Sega Saturn. While I have to commend the game for trying out the 3D platforming made possible on a system like the Playstation, it’s also hard to look back at this one and see a lot of good choices. Everything feels kinda samey, in a sort of “been there, done that” way. But truthfully what else could the game have done? It’s a platformer, with all the checkboxes marked, so why could I not enjoy it? Sadly, this is one example of a game killed by nostalgia: had I played it during the time of release, I may have enjoyed it much more than I did some 25 years later.
I’d like to pour one out for Jersey Devil, and I’m sure countless other games that have sat in my backlog and essentially rotted way over time. Their quality tarnished by age, and unlike the fine wine of gaming greatness, it will go down in history with the other flat sodas left in the back of the fridge for years and years, waiting for someone to at least acknowledge its presence before proceeding to move on to bigger, better things.