Arcade games are something I’ve always struggled with. While home consoles gave me hours to hone my skills, arcades required me to master controls in an instant. I’d often burn through a pile of quarters in a matter of minutes, and walk away wishing I’d played Skee-Ball instead.
But while plenty of games wasted my quarters, no game could obliterate them as quickly as Taito’s Jungle Hunt.
I think I was drawn to Jungle Hunt because it felt like a contradiction. Not one, but two names were boldly emblazoned on the arcade cabinet — Jungle Hunt at the top, and Jungle King at the bottom. The dual names were a mystery I desperately wanted to get to the bottom of, and I thought playing the game was the only way I could get answers.
Jungle Hunt was made even more enticing by its bizarre appearance. It was a neon green eyesore in a sea of ordinary black cabinets. It was much older than the other games at my arcade, and even in the 90s, it felt like a relic of the past.
Like many classic arcade titles, Jungle Hunt was essentially an endless parade of death traps. Every river was infested with crocodiles, and every mountain had a rock rolling down it. There was always something to dodge, something to jump over, and some kind of obstacle to avoid. When you played Jungle Hunt, you couldn’t relax for an instant.
Of course, Jungle Hunt was slightly different from its brutally hard brethren. It was one of the very first games to employ parallax scrolling, a technique in which objects in the background move more slowly than images in the foreground. Parallax scrolling was designed to create an illusion of depth, making 2D games far more visually immersive.
But because Jungle Hunt‘s graphics were so simplistic, it didn’t cause immersion as much as it caused nausea. As I stared at the screen, I’d slowly become sicker and sicker, until I was forced to blink or glance away. I would then miss a jump or get swallowed by a crocodile, and kiss my quarter goodbye.
I’m not sure why I continued to play Jungle Hunt in spite of this persistent problem. While the soundtrack was delightfully catchy, the game itself wasn’t that impressive. I was throwing away money on a sickness-inducing death machine when I could have been playing Bubble Bobble.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter that it made me sick, or that I never came close to beating it. Jungle Hunt had an allure I just couldn’t resist. Maybe I was a glutton for punishment, or maybe I just really liked the color green.
I kind of wish I had those quarters back — or that I’d at least spent them on something like Cadillacs and Dinosaurs — but at the end of the day, it was probably money well spent.