The Jetsons: Cogswell's Caper!
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Natsume
  • Publisher:
    • Taito
  • Released:
    • US December 1992
    • JP 04/23/1993
    • UK 08/26/1993
Score: 80%

This review was published on 11/27/2016.

Today, I'm going to review a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Natsume for the Nintendo Entertainment System and Famicom called The Jetsons: Cogswell's Caper! It was originally released in North America in December 1992, Japan on April 23, 1993, Europe on August 26, 1993, and Australia in 1993. The game was published by the Taito Corporation in North America, Japan, and Europe, whereas Mattel published it in Australia. As its title signifies, this game is based on The Jetsons, a well known American animated television show produced by Hanna-Barbera. The show is the sci-fi counterpart to The Flinstones, and it originally aired from September 23, 1962, to March 17, 1963, although new episodes were also produced from 1985 to 1987. In 1990, the series got a film titled The Jetsons: The Movie, which acted as the finale to the television show. So yes, that means this is a licensed game. However, unlike most licensed games, this one is actually good.

Image

George Jetson, the main character of The Jetsons, is the protagonist of this game. Like the TV show, George works at a company named Spacely Space Sprockets, which is owned by his boss, Cosmo Spacely. Spacely's main competitor is Spencer Cogswell, who owns Cogswell Cogs. Mirroring a common gag on the show, this game opens with George sleeping on the job, getting yelled at by Spacely a few moments later. After the quick reprimanding, Spacely tells George about Mr. Cogswell's latest moneymaking scheme. According to Spacely, Cogswell set up a mining facility on Planet M38 that could destroy the entire planet. In addition to that, Cogswell is violating the rights of the alien inhabitants on the planet. Therefore, Spacely wants to send George to put a stop to Cogswell's greedy ambitions. Being that he doesn't want to get fired, George accepts this dangerous mission and leaves at once. Maybe they should just call the sci-fi police.

Image

As usual, Natsume hits it out of the park when it comes to this game's presentation. The graphics are an absolute delight, sporting amazingly detailed backgrounds, even more detailed foregrounds, splendid sprites, and nice animations. It's not uncommon to see some of those impressive animations in the backgrounds, too, which is something the NES didn't do much of in its earlier releases. Something else this game has that most NES titles don't is special effects: there's a wavy teleportation effect later in the game that looks quite good. All of this is rendered in a rather vibrant color palette that's reminiscent of, but not quite on par with, NES games like Kirby's Adventure. The soundtrack is also fairly good, being that almost every track is catchy. Most of the music is original, but some of the tracks are 8-bit renditions of music from the TV show, which sound as close as you can get to the real thing on NES hardware.

Image

Like a lot of Natsume's other 8-bit offerings on the NES, this game rips off another vastly more popular title. This time, Natsume ripped off the fondly remembered NES classic, Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers, which was developed by Capcom and came out in 1990. Basically, George has no actual attacks of his own, so just like the Chip 'n Dale NES game, he must pick up and throw boxes at his enemies in order to inflict harm upon them. Every stage is littered with boxes, and they're very easy to work with: simply press the B button while near one to pick it up, and press the same button again to throw it. By default, thrown boxes will travel forward in a completely straight horizontal line not unlike a bullet, but if you hold up on the d-pad during a throw, they'll be tossed in a curved manner not unlike a grenade. You can occasionally pick up and throw other objects, too. Besides that, George controls like any other platform hero, except he uses a jetpack to do ordinary jumps, though this is mostly for visual flair.

Image

Items are frequently hidden under boxes, like small hearts that restore George's health, big hearts that extend his maximum health until he dies, extra lives, stars that grant extra lives when ten are collected, and Power Packs. Power Packs resemble pills and are used to power special items known as "Remote Control Defenses." At key points during his adventure, George will receive these special items. To use them, you press start to pause the game, then left or right on the d-pad to switch Defense items. The items include stuff like a small glider that'll attack a single enemy, a shield that'll protect George from attacks as long as it's active, magnetic boots that allow him to walk on the ceiling, and a jet board that lets him fly over areas which cannot be jumped across. All these special items use up different amounts of Power Packs, so in addition to collecting a lot of those, you need to be strategic in how to use them. This adds a slight Mega Man vibe to the game that's greatly appreciated.

Image

There are a whopping twelve stages to this game. While that may sound like a big number, some stages are extremely short, being only a few screens long. The length is still decent for a game with no saves or passwords, though. Anyway, the stages are all rather cool. Most of them have an industrial theme, and there's some decent design here. One factory stage has rocks fall from tubes onto conveyer belts, eventually reaching a device that resembles a trash compactor that'll transform them into cogs, and you have to carefully make your way across without being squished. There's also a bit with rotating gears like in the classic Castlevania games. Then there's a strange facility that materializes monsters from the dreams of sleepwalking men. Not all the stages are in factories; you'll be bouncing on plants in the botanical garden, avoiding wrestlers in the sports gym, dodging balls in the space ball stadium, and riding a hover board at a rock concert hall. Every stage brings with it interesting challenges, making the whole game feel varied.

Image

George will often encounter switches throughout his adventure. To activate a switch, you merely need to stand in front of it and hit the B button on your controller. These switches do a plethora of things, such as cause platforms to move, temporarily reverse gravity, turn on the lights in a darkened area, activate elevators, and much more. A fair amount of them also activate stage-specific gadgets like water spouts you can stand on. There's a tough section in a later stage where you need to flip switches to temporarily lower the lava level. Another stage has switches that shrink George down to size, allowing him to fit through tiny passages. Some switches do the opposite of a typical switch by deactivating things, like temporarily stopping rotating gears so you can safely cross them. Since almost every switch does something different, it's always exciting to see what the next one will do. This game really knows how to switch it up.

Image

Mr. Cogswell will send bosses after George at the end of most major stages. Since you can't attack the bosses directly, boxes or other objects you can grab and toss will appear within the boss arena. The game always finds new, creative ways to hand you boxes in each boss fight. For example, there's a conveyer belt that'll periodically carry in boxes during the first boss battle. Then there's a pair of bosses that toss stars at you and you must grab the stars out of the air to toss them back at the bossy duo. There are also a few notable boss fights that change things up on you. For instance, there's a boss you battle while the gravity keeps switching up on you, making you go back and forth between the ground and ceiling. Other than that, most of the bosses aren't too special.

Image

For a platformer, there's a fair amount of dialogue in this game. There's even a lot of tutorial text during the early portions of the game, which is pretty bizarre for an NES title. If the text ever becomes too overbearing, which it occasionally does, then you can skip it by pressing the start button. At any rate, many characters from the TV show are here, like George's wife Jane, his daughter Judy, his son Elroy, his dog Astro, and his robotic maid Rosie. Most characters typically do nothing more than dole out meaningless dialogue and give you special items, though. Still, it's nice to see countless familiar faces from the show. If you're a fan of The Jetsons, then all these cameo appearances should make you a happy camper.

Image

Given the lack of adventure and action on the TV show, it's hard to imagine The Jetsons making for a good game. Somehow, Natsume managed to pull it off with The Jetsons: Cogswell's Caper! It's got good graphics, nice music, varied stage design, and decent game play. The controls aren't as precise as the NES Chip 'n Dale game, but they're good enough to get the job done. This is probably the best Jetsons video game ever made, though admittedly, there isn't a whole lot of competition.

Word Count: 1,548

Tweet