Jazz Jackrabbit 2: The Christmas Chronicles is an enhanced version of Holiday Hare ’98 and was developed by Epic [Mega]Games and published by Project Two Interactive in 2000. It apparently only saw a limited release initially, due to the publisher going out of business, but it has since been re-released on GOG.com as part of the Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Collection.
It’s obviously a Christmas-themed iteration of Jazz Jackrabbit 2, with snow, presents, Christmas lights and everything else you’d expect in a Christmas-themed video game. The gameplay is basically that of a platform shooter, with a speediness that sometimes makes it feel a bit like Sonic the Hedgehog at times. Not that I could whizz through the game – at least not with any real style – and initially I struggled to make progress in it. It took me a while to figure out what to do; how to change weapons, and how to get past certain obstacles that require a specific type of weapon to destroy. The key to progress, I found, was reading the various signposts that explain what to do. If you stop by a sign, what it says is shown at the top of the screen. And what it says is usually pertinent to progressing.
Jazz Jackrabbit 2: The Christmas Chronicles has a single player mode and a multiplayer ‘party mode’ (playable over a LAN; online, and up to four-player split screen); three playable characters (Jazz, Spaz, and Lori); three difficulty levels, and a variety of progressively more difficult levels. I don’t know how many levels in total, though.
An important aspect of gameplay is holding down shift to boost movement speed, which is essential in most levels as without it you don’t seem to be able to reach certain platforms. It does make controlling the main character rather tricky, though. The number keys change between the various weapons you’ve picked-up, ammunition for which is strictly limited. There are also springs that propel you upwards (their colour indicating the strength/height of the bounce) and you can also jump onto the tree tops (but not climb up them).
The graphics in Jazz Jackrabbit 2: The Christmas Chronicles are decent enough – especially with hardware acceleration and 16-bit colour turned on – and the re-release version runs at a resolution of 640×480 (SVGA resolution, whereas the original ran in VGA mode, at 320×200).
The music in the game, however, is one grade above elevator music in my opinion, and although it does incorporate some vaguely recognisable Christmas tunes they’re not at all rousing or as festive as I would have liked.
As Christmas-themed video games go: Christmas Chronicles is not bad. It’s a playable and challenging game, but can be very frustrating at times, and the lack of decent music degrades the festive feel somewhat.
Merry Christmas from The King of Grabs!
More: Jazz Jackrabbit 2 on Wikipedia
GOG: Jazz Jackrabbit 2 Collection on GOG.com