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CONSOLE: Famicom DEVELOPER: TOSE PUBLISHER: Takara
RELEASE DATE (JP): March 25, 1987 GENRE: Platformer
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

I have your lost word right here, Jenny...

Jenny is a famous Japanese fashion doll line. The product was formerly known as the "Takara Barbie" until Mattel Inc. decided they could take Japan without the help of Takara. This is the Jenny game; there are no others — a tie-in cash-in walk-out and forget-it platformer created merely to bring in the big yen bills due to the doll's popularity. I couldn't imagine some poor child playing this; maybe we have discovered the true cause of the Sasebo Slashing.

There is very little information on this game available out there on the world wide procrastination station, so I have to go with whatever seems right. Which to me, is that Jenny is in a game with no real story, reason, rhyme or motive of any kind. There doesn't appear to be any story digest when you wait on the title screen — instead, we get to see Jenny committing suicide, attacking thin air, and running at walls. Computer-controlled Jenny is also unfamiliar with how to climb stairs.

At the beginning of the game, a typical mobster walks past Jenny. I can only presume he steals something. Then Jenny buggers off to one of far too many levels, where she spends most of the time being vastly underpowered and taking crazy damage from enemies. Enemies which range from vampire bats to Ku Klux Klan-dressed cultists.

To know which level you can enter first, you have to try all of them until you find the right one. When the game begins, the order you can play the stages is randomized. Why would you do this? Now this wouldn't be so much of a problem if there weren't rabid dogs, reckless drivers, and mafia hit-men to avoid on the map screen. If you simply collide with them, you take damage. Not just Jenny's feet, but if she touches them at all, it's a one-way ticket to Damageville. There is no sense of perspective here.

Once you nudge the bell above a level enough to be allowed to enter, you'll be whisked to a side-scrolling section. The controls here are a bit stiff but par for the course when it comes to Famicom games. Jenny can jump, and she can kick. Attacking while in a ducked position allows Jenny to punch. Pressing Select will swap the (lame) physical attacks for a spray can of some description, which is much more powerful but is limited in its use. There just isn't enough of it — there are enemies that can be farmed for extra "sub-weapon", but even the process of doing that takes a million years.

One of my many gripes with this game takes the form of the staircases — levels are littered with them, and they're a pain in the framework. While standing on a staircase, you can only go one way: up or down, depending on the angle you started at. If an enemy appears and starts giving you what for, you're trapped. You have to keep ascending or descending — even the original Castlevania lets you quickly drop from the stairs in a pickle — but not in Misplaced Speech Unit of Jenny!

The levels are quite an eclectic mix, including a clichéd haunted house (with vampire bats), a field with giant flowers, and a pirate ship. In this empowering game that aims to dismantle societal gender norms, Jenny spends the majority of her time being a gold digger — collecting jewellery and money. Also, in each level are letters and keys. Open every chest/coffin/flower bud etc., find the door, and you are whisked to a level called "Cow Head". The way to open these containers in each level is to jump in front of them — however, most turn into enemies rather than items. It isn't randomized though, so play enough and you will know which chests you need to activate and then run from.


She's still Jenny from the block...

So when you get to Cow Head, you fight skeleton demons and dodge ghosts in what appears to be a temple somewhere in Hell. Sounds great; where do I sign? Get to the end of Cow Head (and find the elusive hidden door) to get a password from a massive cult member and then you're back to the map screen. I've only been able to find the hidden door once. I think it is rigged, I want my money back.

I don't think anybody has actually beaten this game, just imagined it. To beat the game, you would need to find all the items and beat the Cow Head stage for all of the stages in the game. You could also learn to cook in that time, take up new language classes, or familiarize yourself with a musical instrument. Anything else would be more productive, even seeing how many crackers you can eat before your mouth goes dry.

There are guides online for Lost Word, which means somebody wasted valuable limited breathing time dismantling this game so that nobodies can get through it. I'm not trying to make fun of people for doing this, though; I just think it is kind of sad. In a world with finite resources, spending those on playing Lost Word of Jenny is just, well, it's pathetic. I know this, because I just wasted a load of my time doing just that.

I get the feeling that Lost Word of Jenny is just a few ideas away from being a decent platformer. Taking into account the time in which it was released and its contemporaries (Castlevania, Metroid), Lost Word of Jenny is by no means a terrible attempt. Its difficulty level is a very much a product of its time, and the overall experience is intriguing enough. There are better games based on Taka Tomy toys, and I'd be more likely to steer you towards the excellent Choro Q/Penny Racers series personally.


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