Like many of you, David Bowie had a profound presence on my life. As boy of the 80s, I first came to know him as Jareth the Goblin King in the brilliant family film Labyrinth (still my go-to film whenever I need cheering up), but over the years his infinitely inventive entertainment became just as important. In the world of video games, most would cite Omikron as a major piece of work - and rightfully so - but that was not his first stab into the digital world. That award goes to JUMP, Bowie's 90s stab at the in vogue CD-Rom multimedia disk.
1994 was an exciting time for PC gaming, at least on the surface. CD-Roms were gaining popularity for their increased storage over the floppy disks that were the norm. While it did allow for some impressive interactive achievements such as Myst and the 7th Guest, there was soon a glut of shovelware under the guise of "multimedia". JUMP, despite the developers best intentions, turns out to be a rather vapid form of the latter.
To play devil's advocate, David Bowie's original vision was something new, exciting and ambitious - too ambitious for the technology of the time. It was intended to have a truly non-linear storyline with a world that was fully immersive and interactive to the point that no two playthroughs would be alike. Alas, what we got was little more that a promotional disk for his 1993 album Black Tie, White Noise and the upcoming single Jump They Say. The final product turned out to be something of a disappointment. To quote the man himself:
I hated it. I absolutely loathed it. ... There were aspects of it I thought had potential, but then again, there was so much information on the disc itself that made the idea of anybody using it interactively a joke. Interactive, as far as I'm concerned, is when the person who's operating the computer has as much to say as what's on the screen. That is interactive. And at the moment, it's just the ABC options. Even the most sophisticated CD-ROMs are just 'Here's the hard information. Now, you can take one of these three steps'.That's not to say that there aren't any innovations. The game boasts the ability to mix the audio for Black Tie White Noise and edit the video for Jump They Say. To keep it in the realm of your average Joe, these segments aren't very complex, but they do offer a few minutes of entertainment. The audio mixer simply lets you change the volume on certain aspects, though listening to Bowie a cappella is a weird treat. Is it me or does he sound a little off key? The music video also features outtakes and never-before seen alternative shots and angles. This disc is the only way to see some of these takes, but it's a diversion that quickly loses its appeal. In fact this segment brings to mind the SEGA CD's deplorable Make My Video series. You can save your results, but I doubt the final product will be anything worth saving.
You also get some exclusive interviews with the man himself, who's obviously having it on with the interviewer by sprouting pretentious lines about the "texture" of a song. The smirk on his face makes you wonder if he's saying this obvious bollocks just to keep his mind occupied from an otherwise dull interview. In the world of YouTube where any video is but a click away, the technology doesn't seem so impressive, but it was once considered a unique feature.
In order to access these features and the four complete music videos, you navigate a drab, grey office building that featured in the Orwell inspired music video. At the end of each corridor is a room filled with random stuff to interact with. This is where you can see the dormant remnants of Bowie's original vision. Certain objects and interactions hint at a plot, but the many other distractions hide them under a barrage of pointless animations that wouldn't be out of place in a kid's title. While one click may begin a low-quality quick-time music video of Miracle Goodnight, another may make a dog bark, or bring a framed picture to life. This is a David Bowie game not an Animated Storybook.
What is very clear when exploring the disc is that in spite of the hurried and compromised final product, David Bowie himself was a true original. He was an artist that would constantly seek new ideas and styles and follow them through to the point of failure or success. His music and cinematic achievements - or even Omikron: The Nomad Soul - may be a more fitting tribute to his legacy, but I'm still glad I experienced this snapshot of his early 90s period, flaws and all.
Rest in peace Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, Jareth the Goblin King - David Bowie.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox running Microsoft Windows 3.1 to get the game working on modern systems. Tested on Windows 10.
JUMP: The David Bowie Interactive CD-ROM is © Ion
Black Tie, White Noise is © EMIReview, Cover Design and Installer created by me