"Run and gun" games would come a long way in the year or two following the Arcade release of Jail Break by Konami. They would eventually perfect the format 1 year later with the release of Contra in the arcades, and 2 years later saw William's electronics release the excellent Narc, which caught controversy over it's "realistic" digitised sprites and ultra violent theme. However back in 1986, the arcades had not seen anything like this. Even Double Dragon would take another year to reach us. This is Jail break, a pseudo isometric side scrolling shoot em up, where the prisoners have escaped and taken over Manhattan. This release sees the game fixed for NTSC machines and an assortment of handy training modes for The C64 version.
Unfortunately being first didn't always mean being best, and the C64 conversion was a rather poor conversion of an at best mediocre arcade original. The 8-directional firing of the arcade was lost somewhere, so you may only fire left, right or up and down in this version. The extra weaponry dropped by the hostages doesn't seem to have any discernible impact in the game. And the arcade's smooth scrolling of player, enemy and NPC sprites was not implemented at all. Instead sprite quality, movement and collisions are all way too poor.
Having said that, this is by no means the worst game on the C64, and trying to reach the end of each level is weirdly addictive. Particularly if you try to reach the end without releasing the joystick's "right" control. It becomes more of a avoid em up and twitch shooter, similar the beach landing finally of Beach Head. Other plus points include hostages and enemies can be killed by your or your enemies bullets, so fun can be had trying to cause prisoners to shoot on each other by positioning your player between. And some impressive digitised speech, and in game music.
Overall it's a game I most likely won't keep coming back to, but I did have some fun with it. And fans of the genre, or of Konami shooters in general should at least give it a playthrough to see how the conversion fairs against the arcade, and to check out the roots of this classic arcade gaming genre. Maybe not a diamond, but a lost old five pound note in the rough.
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