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Jinks - The Atari Times


Jinks is Junk
by Ethan C. Nobles

December 17, 2004
When I think of Jinks for the 7800, a lot of terms come to mind - unmitigated disaster, abomination, shovelware and cruel hoax are a few that come to mind immediately. Make no mistake - Jinks (or, "Junks," as I like to call it) fails on almost every level and plays like a late-1980s computer programming project from a kid in junior high school. To make matters worse, Atari actually licensed this 1989 release from a company called Softgold. I've not played the original version, and I sure as hell don't want to, either.

In short, Jinks plays like an updated version of the classic Breakout game, only with all the fun removed and hurt-your-eyes colors tossed in for good measure. Unlike Breakout, however, Jinks takes place on a side-scrolling playfield and the paddle used to smack the pesky ball can be moved all over the board. While not a bad concept, the control really wrecks this game. Jinks takes place on a playfield which is absolutely huge, but the ball is almost impossible to control.

There are bonuses and such thrown all over the place, but it's difficult to hit them because about all one can do is keep the ball moving left toward the end of the board. To make matters worse, there are four levels and the latter three contain things that can hurt you, and those are very easy to hit. For example, there's a set of chomping that shows up from time to time, and the game ends if the ball hits it. That's right. Poof. Game over. Too bad. These days, such sneaky tricks are referred to as "cheap." But, hey, Jinks is extremely frustrating, so what else would one expect?

Oh, but it gets worse. At the end of each level, the player is taken to an "interlude screen" where he must try to bounce the ball into one of four blocks, each with a number indicating the level to which they "warp." Good luck with that. The ball is so hard to control, you'll probably miss the level you want and wind up stuck on one which you've already completed.

Heard enough yet? Well, I'm not done griping about the control. The game is set up so the triangular-shaped paddle can be turned upside down at the touch of the button achieve various angles. That's not so bad, but another joystick button can be pressed to shake the playfield and knock the ball loose when it gets hung up on the board somewhere. Can you say, "lazy programming?" Good! I thought you could!

As for graphics, everything's well-defined, at least. However, gazing at bright pink backgrounds and the like makes my head hurt after awhile. At least I can follow the bouncing ball, however. Still, these graphics are sub-par for an Atari 7800, even though they're clean, large and crisp - the playfield is built primarily of geometric shapes. In the late 1980s, perhaps people thought throwing geometric shapes made things look futuristic. Jinks looks more gaudy than futuristic, however. At least the animation is fairly smooth.

The sound is horrible. Heck, it's even bad for a 7800. You get a constant "plink, plink, plink" which is the digital equivalent of Chinese water torture. Ick. The sound on the title screen, however, is great. If I'm not mistaken, there are some samples taken directly from Gauntlet in there. Gauntlet was a great game. Using samples from it to introduce this Jinks dog is both inappropriate and insulting.

I can, however, think of one good use for this horrible game. I've got a seven-year-old son. Now, he's a good kid, but he's downright mischievous and sneaky. The next time I catch him misbehaving, I should make him play Jinks for about an hour. I'd like to implement that punishment, but I think it might be too cruel.

Avoid Jinks like the plague. It's very common, so you can find a copy of this easily. Regardless, there are enough bad games for the 7800. You don't need another one.

Some nice looking graphics here.
So, it's a sideways Breakout clone?
Erm... Now you gotta put the ball in the level you want.
"Has anyone seen my baseball?"
System: 7800
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Action
Graphics Score: 70%
Sound & Music Score: 30%
Gameplay Score: 20%
Control Score: 25%

Final Score: 25%

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