Jungle King (Taito, 1982) is a rather innovative title from a time when side-scrolling games weren’t nearly as common as they would later become. With four different modes of gameplay, there’s a good amount of variety in this easy to pick up, yet still rather challenging title.
The first mode has the player, who is basically Tarzan (the game would later encounter some legal problems with this), swinging from vine to vine – a task that takes careful timing. After that, our hero dives into the river, and swims upstream against vicious crocodiles. This second part is the only section where the player has some defense, and can knife the vicious fish. The third section involves running up a hill and avoiding a bevy of boulders. This bit sort of resembles Donkey Kong, as the player will control their speed to duck or jump over the bouncing boulders. The final section is a rather challenging single frame, where our hero must avoid a pair of spear-wielding cannibals, who have a lovely lady dangling over a boiling pot. Successfully contacting this jungle queen leads to a rather charming win screen, complete with its own graphics and music, before the game starts over and the difficulties are all increased.
Jungle King has an impressive soundtrack, with a song complex and melodic enough to belong in a Mega Man title. It’s definitely a memorable tune, and will set the stage for many a jungle adventure! Unlike just about every side scroller before or since, Jungle King goes from right to left, which really does feel like a change of pace.
From the barely-audible Tarzan yell that kicks off the gameplay, to the hard-earned win screen, Jungle King is a great example of early side-scrolling, and a lot of fun to play!