Jack The Giantkiller was an old arcade game released by Cinematronics way back in 1982. Cinematronics was already well known for their high quality vector titles such as Space Wars and Star Castle, but vector games were on the way out due to the high cost of vector equipment, and the many problems associated with them. So they bought 5000 arcade boards from a Japanese manufacturer (Jaleco), and set out to develop a line of raster games to run on their new (purchased) platform. Jack The GiantKiller was the first of three games on that hardware, the others were Zzyzzyxx and Naughty Boy.

The game

This game plays a lot like Donkey Kong except that the controls are not quite as smooth. There are five screens to master if you want to help Jack in his mission. You do not get to play each screen at first, they are added on as you progress through the game. The first time through the game skips from screen one right to screen four.

The first screen is fairly simple, you just have to climb to the top of the beanstalk. There are a few enemies, but they can be defeated by simply tossing beans at them. You can find the beans scattered all around the stalk, and picking one up adds one to your ammunition count (or two, depending on the dip switch settings).

In the second screen, Jack manuevers through the clouds and attempts to cross the drawbridge into the castle, but lions and birds stand in his way.

The third screen has Jack climbing the castle stairway in a scene that was obviously inspired by Donkey Kong. Avoid the cat and the mouse and you can make it to the top.

On the fourth screen you have to jump from platform to platform until you reach the giant's lair. There will be several treasures, grab the flashing one and try to make your escape.

The fifth screen is the first one again, except that this time you are climbing down the beanstalk, and you have falling rocks to dodge, and the giant himself may even be after you (that one depends on the level).

After making it back to your house you get to watch a little intermission before going after the next treasure. There are four different treasures altogether. The last one is the princess, when you have her the giant himself will follow you down the beanstalk, and you must chop it down to defeat him. After rescuing the princess the game starts over with increased difficulty.

The Machine

Jack The Giantkiller was available in two different dedicated cabinets, and upright and a cocktail. The cocktail one really lent itself to easy conversion due to the large control panels, so the upright is far more common.

The upright machine came in a conservatively designed cabinet that had curves instead of sharp angles. This same cabinet was also used for Zzyzzyxx, Naughty Boy, and Boxing Bugs. The marquee showed Jack about to get squished by a giant boot as he runs over clouds toward the beanstalk, while carrying the golden goose. The sideart was a large sticker and it showed Jack scaling an immense beanstalk while a bearded giant points at him with a menacing look on his face. The monitor bezel shows a few more images of Jack and the Giant, while the control panel contained game instructions, an 8-Way joystick and two buttons for jump and shoot. The one really nice thing about the artwork on this machine was that it all actually appears to have been done by the same artist, in the same style, with the same color scheme. So many games seem to have trouble with that.

The cocktail version of the game came in a small table format that had woodgrained sides, and control panels on either end. Most cocktail tables tended to have tiny control panels that were in strange places, but the panels on this game were full sized, and were right up next to the monitor with only a slight downward slant to them. The game's top glass had beanstalk graphics bordering the screen, and the control panel overlays were exactly the same as the upright machine, except for a few stripes, and the lack of start buttons on panel for the second player. Some game cabinets just scream out "easy conversion" to the arcade operator, and this was one of them. The large control panels and 19" monitor meant that you could easily convert this one into almost anything, so that is what happened to almost all of them. Only the Joust cocktail seemed to be even better for conversions, as it had the players sitting side by side.

Both machines used a standard 19" arcade monitor and used a unique wiring harness that was not JAMMA compatible.

Where to play

This title is well supported by the MAME emulator. All you need to play decently is an 8-Way joystick or gamepad. This is a vertical game, so it isn't going to take up the entire screen, unless you turn your monitor on its side and change a setting in MAME.

Games like "Jack The Giantkiller" are excellent choices for the arcade game collector on a budget. These machines are not really in high demand, so they usually only sell for a few hundred dollars in decent condition. That is much less than the $600 - $1800 that a Galaga or Ms. Pac-Man machine would cost. Although given the choice you may want to get a Jungle Hunt/Jungle King machine instead, because the price and gameplay is similar, but Jungle Hunt is a lot more fun.

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