by Robert A. Jung
Atari Corp., for the Atari Jaguar
1944. The Allied forces are shaken with disturbing news: the Axis Powers are on the brink of military breakthroughs that can win the war for them. New weapons, chemical arms, even rumors of undead mutant monsters. President Roosevelt can't ignore the danger, but he doesn't have the forces for a conventional assault. So he turns to B.J. Blazkowicz, the Army's one-man fighting machine. All alone, he must stop the Nazis, foil their plans, and possibly go up against Hitler himself...
This is Wolfenstein 3D, the Jaguar version of the PC action-adventure game. From a first-person point of view, you travel through 30 dungeon levels on six missions. Each stage is filled with twisting passages and hidden storerooms, through which you must find the exit to the next level. Against you are the forces of the Reich: soldiers, stormtroopers, guard dogs, and more. You start with only a pistol and knife, but can find additional arms such as chain guns and rocket launchers, along with scattered treasure and other useful items. Finally the game offers four levels of difficulty, unlimited continues, and the option to save three games for later play.
When it was first released, Wolfenstein 3D ignited the excitement of PC players with its rapid action, uncomplicated rules, and a first-person sense of "you are there." Happily, the Jaguar adaptation retains all of these attributes, and remains a fast, uncomplicated game. Despite the plot's premises, the game is essentially a frenzy of bloodlust, where the goal is to kill as many Nazis as possible. And while higher scores can be obtained only by finding secret rooms and hidden treasures, the combat is the main appeal of this title.
Players familiar with other versions of Wolfenstein 3D will get a strong sense of deja vu. The original levels and enemies have been transposed with minor changes, though two new features have been added to the Jaguar version. First is the flamethrower weapon, providing a wicked combination of speed, range, and damage. Second is the elimination of extra lives. Instead, by finding treasure and "extra life" icons, you can raise your health beyond the normal limit of 100 points.
Controls are simple and responsive. The joypad and buttons are used to move, attack, and open doors, while the numeric keypad shows a map and saves the current game. The only problem is that there's no confirmation when saving a session -- if a "save" key is pressed, even by accident, its slot is automatically overwritten. As the "map" key is nearby, this can cause a few accidental erasures from zealous players.
The sights and sounds of Wolfenstein 3D on the Jaguar are improved from the original. While the graphics are still cartoonish, they have also been redone with extra colors, higher resolution, and more detail. Scaling and scrolling are incredibly smooth and fast to the point of inducing vertigo. And unlike some versions, this adaptation is uncensored: Nazi swastikas, bloody corpses, and other sensitive visuals remain intact. The only flaw is that side-view animation has not been added, so at times some characters appear to walk with a sideways shuffle.
Similarly, sound and music have been touched up in the translation from the PC game. Effects consist of gunfire, chimes, and opening doors, along with assorted voices and digitized sounds. All are clear and distinctive, using stereo and volume to convey distance and direction. Numerous background music plays throughout, mostly military marches and fast-tempo rhythms. Most of them have been cleaned up and refined, and a few have been completely re-recorded.
The original Wolfenstein 3D was a fun game, and the Jaguar version is the best adaptation yet, keeping the fast action of the original while adding a few enhancements of its own. Players who haven't tried this game before and aren't repulsed by its violent theme will find hours of primal delight here.