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Jawbreaker - The Atari Times


Pac-Man... Yet not...
by Darryl Brundage

February 18, 2008
Being versed in history in certain fields of interest can be pretty...well, interesting indeed. I'm no fan of history in general, but there are still certain areas of it that I enjoy, of course. I'm not into sports, so there's no chance of my being thrilled of finding a gallery of black and white shots of my favorite baseball team from 40 (or more) years ago. I knew one guy who was so into war in general that he had a stack of model warplanes and tanks that literally went up to the ceiling in one room of his house. He estimated that it would take him seven years before he finished building them all at the point he was at then (!).

Most of history that I'm interested in general is entertainment-related, like movies, music...and video games, of course. :) So much discussion of Today vs. Back Then, good and bad, can go on for quite some time.

As far as the good involving today's gaming rigs, you've got incredible graphics (for the most part), games that you can play and save for years if you have to (like RPGs), and exciting online play, among other things. Some of the bad would include two out of the three most current consoles (at the time of this writing) being unreliable (Microsoft spending $1 billion for bad XBox 360 repairs, Sony's Playstation 3's high failure rate), the gaming industry is pretty stagnant as far as original ideas go, and arcades are pretty rare for the most part, if not nearly extinct.

As far as the good points go during the heyday of gaming in the early 80s, there were many consoles, games and computer platforms to choose from (even if you didn't have much money, chances were you probably had a friend that had consoles or computers that you didn't, and you could play their games), everything was fresh and new back then, and there were new innovations popping up all the time in this new field of video games.

Unfortunately the bad side was not being able to pause, much less save games back in the early days of consoles, the video game crash, and if some game genre got popular, there were a flood of rip-offs for it, many of which would pretty much suck joystick.

Jawbreaker only somewhat falls into that category, due to it landing in the Pac-Man rip-off genre, since it's object involves eating things, being chased by things (uh, these aren't the same things that you eat), eating a certain special thing will allow you to be able to briefly turn the tables on the things that chase you and you can eat them, and you have to clear mazes.

However, that's where all similarities of the game ends, since Atari never sued Tigervision (to the best of my knowledge) over their Jawbreaker game, since it was different enough from Pac-Man that Atari never bothered (although as anyone could tell you that have played it, Magnavox never deserved their lawsuit over their K. C. Munchkin game from Atari either; go figure).

The game *appears* to be a bit simpler than Pac-Man, due to it's "maze" (or not) being several flat horizontal corridors, and that's it. Looks can be deceiving though, as your only way around them is either from slipping through the edges of the corridors or through doors that move through the corridor rows.

And hence the problem: there's a few pointers for succeeding in the game, but no real flat-out strategy that works for it, since the doors move at different speeds, and, unlike Pac-Man, the smiley faces will change direction in the middle of a row and come after you. So so much for your teeth being able to clear a row just by following behind a face through a corridor, you'll have to go back a lot to rows in order to finish them.

Oh yes, you're a pair of teeth, which makes the game a bit funny (unless you don't find the novelty teeth humorous that are depicted on the box cover). Makes sense, due to what a nice lesson it would be to the kids to let them get away with chomping down candy bars all day long, like this game allows. At least a toothbrush appears at the end of a level and brushes your teeth though, a bit rare of an intermission for a 2600 game.

Of course, the usual power pill will appear in the middle of the screen that will allow you to chomp down the smiley faces for a few seconds. However, it won't take long to realize you're better off using it for cover just to clear a row, rather than be greedy and try to eat a smiley face, no matter how much they might irritate you (just like in Berzerk, you shouldn't trust a smiley face).

The graphics are ok (not much to drawing smiley faces and squares), as are the sparse sound effects, which the chomping sounds pretty identical to the "trot"of the Space Invaders for the same system (which sounds like someone coughing really fast), which makes up the majority of the sounds, as there's only a couple more, and that's it. However, there's no flicker at all (take that, 2600 Pac-Man!), and I like how your dentures turn to the side once you slip through a doorway. I can't judge the controls though, since I'm playing it on emulator, and not by actual cartridge, although they seem to be a bit slippery. I suspect playing it on cartridge with a joystick on a flat surface would help though.

For those that were disgruntled by the so-called 2600 "port" of Pac-Man, this would be a refreshing change, but then, it's not exactly Pac-Man though. It's addicting and fast-paced, so fast that you might have trouble just getting to the second screen at times. Unfortunately all the smiley faces do is move faster and faster, and that's pretty much the whole game there, but then, what else can you expect for less than 4K for an entire cartridge?

This isn't a very common cartridge though, so good luck in trying to get a nibble (har!) of a sale for it somewhere.

And don't forget to brush your teeth.


(c) Tigervision

Apparently, they spent all their memory on the game, so no title screen.
I guess a dynamically changing maze is cool.
Ooohhh... The bad guys turn RED when you eat a power pill.
System: 2600
Publisher: Tigervision
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 65%
Sound & Music Score: 60%
Gameplay Score: 80%
Control Score: 0%

Final Score: 80%

Reader Comments for Jawbreaker

Jawbreaker lawsuit? by Ryan C. Fahy on 2008-02-18 15:39:25
Atari indeed never sued Tigervision, but they had no reason to...Jawbreaker was developed by Sierra On-Line. Tigervision was simply the publisher. After Atari obtained the console and computer rights to do home versions of Pac-Man, they in fact did threaten Sierra with legal action over the original version of Jawbreaker for the Atari 400/800 and Apple II (which was a straight-up Pac-Man clone) and that is one reason why John Harris altered the gameplay of the 2600 port of the game (the other reason being the hardware limitations of the VCS). All later computer versions of the original Jawbreaker were replaced with a new version referred to as 'Jawbreaker II'.
kudos by Darryl B. on 2008-02-18 18:27:55
Hi Ryan, thanks for the info, never even knew about the 'other' Jawbreaker, that's a bit pathetic! :)
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