Market Forces

Even though the Jaguar was a massive commercial failure, Atari went all out to make it the world-conquering success it deserved to be: the advertising budget was probably as big as the console's R&D budget, and when you look at the adverts you can see the amount of effort they poured in. One thing I've noticed though, is that all the game ads have bespoke slogans at the bottom. Here's a selection of the best:


Ah, Cybermorph. The pack-in game for the Jaguar and the butt of a thousand jokes. The thing is...I think it's a pretty enjoyable shooter. The premise of the game is fairly simple - your ship (amusingly named the Transmogriffon) gets dropped off on various planets in the sector and you have to zip around collecting floating yellow pods that contain 'survivors, weapons and expertise.' When you've collected the required number of pods (it tells you how many there are on each planet on the mission select screen), a portal opens and you must fly through it to exit the stage. If you do particularly well, you'll be whisked to a bonus stage where you must collect floating power-ups and then exit through the portal before the time runs to exit in time and all the bonuses get flushed down the bog.

Throughout the missions, your onboard 'holographic intelligent agent' [sic] Skylar (the infamous bald, green chick) will chime in with helpful encouragement or berate you if you crash (yes - I'm sure you've seen the Angry Video Game Nerd's rant about the whole "where did you learn to fly?" thing), but it really isn't as annoying or constant as you'd think. Dotted around the landscapes, you'll encounter enemies that'll attack if you get too close or even fly straight at you, kamikaze style. Happily, you have upgradeable weapons that can be used to see them off. The 'morph' bit of the name comes from the way your ship changes shape depending on how fast you're moving, and it's quite a cool effect.

Cybermorph has got a bit of a bad rep - the graphics are one of the main things that get lambasted, and people are often quick to point out that Star Fox on the SNES looks better, but Star Fox is on rails and offers no real freedom; Cybermorph lets you fly around a 3D landscape to explore, fly through tunnels, under bridges and around towns. I'm not for one second saying Cybermorph is better than Star Fox, but they're different games and should be both taken on their individual merits. I really like Cybermorph, it's a good game to just zone out with due to the fairly tranquil and easy-going nature of the missions. I'm also quite intrigued by the sequel, Battlemorph, but it's a CD-only title. Battlemorph improves on Cybermorph in several ways - the graphics are better and the ship can dive into the lakes and rivers on the various planets to search for pods underwater.

Verdict: Cybermorph's a really enjoyable game that doesn't deserve the stick it gets. Sure, the visuals look a bit poor these days (the pop-up is quite bad), but as a pack-in game and example of an early 3D game, it's definitely worth a play.

Bonus trivia: There are actually two different versions of Cybermorph, one released in 1993 and the other in 1994. You can tell which you've got by the date (obviously) printed on the cartridge label. The 1994 version has fewer voice samples and a static title and ending screen. You learn something new every day.


The Atari Jaguar now has a cult following that many, more popular consoles can only dream of (y'know, if inanimate bits of plastic could dream), and in some ways the failure of the console to penetrate the market like Atari's earlier ventures has been a bit of a blessing. There's a lot of homebrew development going on and some amazing system modding being done by members of the Jaguar community. However, there is one aspect of the Jaguar's legacy that is truly bizarre: The Imagin Systems Hot Rod. The story goes that after the bankruptcy of Atari, the original Jaguar shell moulds were sold to the highest bidder - and that just happened to be a manufacturer of dental imaging cameras. Here's how the Jaguar ended up fighting plaque and cavities on a global scale:

Even the cartridge moulds were used as expansion modules! I'd love to see one of these in the flesh (well, plastic), and it seems that some Jaguar owners have managed to get their hands on one of those beautiful white cases and transplanted their Jaguar innards into them for a truly unique-looking console. I did see an eBay auction for these cases a few weeks ago, but the seller was based in the US and shipping costs were extortionate...which is a shame because my Jag is a bit bashed up and could do with a new shell.

Watch this space!

Hover Strike Gameplay

Thought I'd put together a short video of some Hover Strike gameplay. Hover Strike is one of the better looking Jaguar games as it features a fully textured 3D world that's populated with polygonal enemies and structures. As you can see from the video, the frame rate stutters at times and the view from the cockpit is a bit narrow (and the external view is pretty useless, as shown briefly), but on the whole Hover Strike is a fairly decent shooter that reminds me a little bit of Tunnel B1 for the Saturn/PlayStation.

It would have been nice if the enemies were a little easier to hit (they tend to zoom in and out of the field of view, letting off cheap shots as they go), but once you get the hang of the slightly 'floaty' controls of the hovercraft it's fairly enjoyable.  There are plenty of missions, each with various objectives (mainly search and destroy) and the different planets all have their own terrains and colour palettes. Oh, and the music is really good too, even if there is only the one track! Enough from me though - here's some footage (apologies for the dodgy editing, I'm still getting to grips with iMovie!):

790 Meg Tune-Up

The Jaguar CD is often described as an 'ill-fated' add-on. I personally cannot stand that phrase (when do you ever use such language except to describe a console peripheral that didn't sell much?!), and hate it almost as much as 'moribund,' and 'bedraggled' when it comes to writing about games systems. However, the the truth is that the Jaguar CD was an unsuccessful attempt by Atari to extend the lifespan of the Jaguar base system. In principle it looked like a pretty sound investment - you've already got the base unit, and adding the CD drive makes it a console equipped to touch gloves with the new heavyweights from Sega and Sony, right? That's what Atari wanted consumers to think anyway...even though the Mega CD was already on it's arse and about to be superseded by the Saturn...and that's essentially what the Jaguar CD was.

I do recall going into a branch of Silica in the Manchester branch of Debenhams (another game shop from the past) and seeing a stack of Jaguar CD boxes but being uninterested because I already had a Sega Mega CD at the time *cough.* If I knew then what I know now...well, I'd more that likely have done everything I could to secure at least a truck load. Only 20,000 Jaguar CD units were produced and so the add-on is now a highly desirable item for Jaguar enthusiasts. Reports of a high failure rate with the hardware still haven't dampened my ambitions to one day own a Jaguar CD, and I really want to play Battlemorph because it looks fucking amazing...but for now, I'll console myself with watching videos on Youtube and reading old adverts like this:

Trivia: 4 of the games shown here never came to the Jaguar CD officially. You buy? YOU BUY?!

One thing's for sure now though - you won't get a Jaguar CD for $149 (or the equivalent £3.79) these days...!

Retro Gamer Magazine: Minority Report

Scans of the fantastic retrospective on the Jag by Kieren Hawken of Retro Gamer Magazine. This was published in issue 118 (the rather excellent Flashback edition). Enjoy (click on the images for a bigger version):

What's in a Name?

Seasoned Jaguar gamers and collectors will know exactly what 'Do The Math' means. Those not so au fait with Atari's (sort of) 64-bit swan song will probably be a bit confused. Basically, the whole 'Do The Math' slogan was an intrinsic component of Atari's advertising campaign for the Jaguar. Rightly or wrongly, Atari marketed the system as a 64-bit console, and used this impressive sounding tagline to draw comparisons with the 16- and 32-bit systems that were also available at the time. Somebody at Atari obviously equated more 'bits' with better games, and thought that the buying public would be swayed by this claim. Hence, the whole 'Do The Math' thing was born.

The campaign wasn't used in the UK as we refer to mathematics as 'maths' (note the 's' on the end there), and so it probably wouldn't have made much sense to a lot of people ("what, only one 'math'?!"), but you can see what the Atari hierarchy were getting at. Tsk, tsk...those ker-azy Americans!

My Jaguar Life

If you get that reference to the Motion City Soundtrack album, I salute you. If not, ignore my often wayward references to obscure shit. Anyway, as alluded to on the main page, I do have a bit of a history with the Atari Jaguar. I decided to start this blog/fan site after I recently acquired what is my third Jaguar console, and also managed to win an ebay auction for a bundle of carts. Before I get to those, however, here's a whirlwind history of my love affair with the Jag.

I first became aware of the Jag probably sometime in 1994 when I saw a programme on TV called 'Movies, Games & Videos,' which was (if I remember rightly) a sort of evolution of the ITV Chart Show that featured videogames as well as the music videos of it's forebear. I have a very vague memory of seeing Aliens Vs Predator or DOOM (I can't remember which - I just remember seeing the shotgun being reloaded) and being completely blown away by it. That shotgun animation was quite simply the coolest thing I had ever seen, and I knew that the Mega Drive just wasn't going to cut it anymore. After that brief period amazement and infatuation, I just kind of forgot about the Jaguar and the other new machines because they were unobtainable items to me back then - I was a school kid with a paper round but hardly the kind of capital to throw around on new-fangled hi-tech exotic games machines. About a year after that though, a friend of mine announced that he'd been to a car boot sale or something and that he had a new console. Intrigued, I went around to his house and there it was: an Atari Jaguar.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing - we played DOOM and AvP (this lucky twat had BOTH the games that had shotgun reload animations!!!) and from that moment on I was smitten. That year I got a Sega Saturn for Christmas but I was still really intrigued by the Jaguar, and after much haggling and weeks of mithering, my friend agreed to swap his Jag with DOOM and AvP for my Sega Saturn steering wheel, my copy of International Victory Goal and my Webley .22 air rifle. I had my first Atari Jaguar.

I went on to assemble a fairly decent library of games, including Chequered flag, Iron Soldier, Flashback, Club Drive, Sensible Soccer and Crescent Galaxy. Even though I also had the Sega saturn, the Jag was the machine I played with the most. I had the machine for a few years and then for some reason I didn't have it anymore, and I can't actually remember why! I just remember selling the games through the LOOT free ads paper (I put the advert in there by using my Dreamcast to go online, so that probably illustrates how long I had it!), but what happened to the console is a complete blank!

The second Jaguar I owned came into my possession while I was at University. I was walking through the town centre with a friend when we just happened to go into Electronics Boutique (remember them?!), and what greeted us just inside the entrance but a massive pile of Atari Jaguars! I bought one for £49.99 and got a copy of DOOM with it. That machine I kept throughout my time as a student but found I had to sell it (along with my other consoles) when I graduated so I could afford to buy a suit and some shoes for job interviews!

That was in 2003. The Jaguar I have now I got off eBay a few weeks ago. It was advertised as 'untested,' and is slightly faulty (the power socket needs a good wiggle to get the machine to come on Edit: I soldered the socket from another board and it now works perfectly!), but it was fairly cheap and is a fine addition to my retro cave:

I recently started collecting consoles again (my Dreamcast collection is by far the largest, although I also have a 3D0, Mega Drive, Saturn, PlayStation, N64, Gamecube, PS2, Game Boy Advance and Xbox 360), and have been regularly attending car boot sales and flea markets, but retro games are really hard to find in the wild these days. As such, my main hunting ground has been eBay and as I get more Jag games, I'll be adding reviews and gameplay videos to Do The Math.

So that's my potted history with the Jag. If you read all that to the end, fair play to you!

Penguins and a Blimp...?!

Chequered Flag is a polygonal racer in the vein of Virtua Racing that gets a fair old walloping whenever it's referred to. The frame rate is fairly low, granted, but it's a fun(ish) racer if you can get into it. I remember seeing this advert for Chequered Flag in a copy of American mag EGM back when I had my original Jaguar in the mid 90s. To be fair, it makes the game seem more impressive than it actually was...but then isn't that the point of advertising?!

Just as a side note, there are Penguins in Chequered Flag, but they don't actually do anything. If memory serves me, you could just drive through them and due to the weird aspect ratio bending that the game has, they look massive too. Not sure where the aforementioned blimp is though...

Chewing Up The Competition

A slightly inflammatory magazine advert for the Jaguar implying that the console was 'chewing up the competition,' which in this case is clearly meant to indicate Sega and Nintendo. With hindsight, probably wasn't the best tagline, but you have to admire Atari's early ambition with the Jag!