Back in the 90’s development cycles were a lot shorter than they are today. Activision’s yearly Call of Duty releases, for example, are only possible by having the games alternate between several teams. Back then though, it was quite common for a sequel to a game to follow just a year after it’s predecessor and be made by largely the same people. And so, a year after Desert Strike, Jungle Strike was released.
Expanding in just about every way on Desert Strike, Jungle Strike sets out to give more of everything. It has two villains instead of just the one, multiple playable vehicles, 9 levels (over the original’s 4), and a wider variety of enemies and environments.
The nameless pilot of Desert Strike is called into action again to save the world. This time he has to face the son of the Madman, Ibn Kilbaba, who has teamed up with South American drug lord Carlos Ortega to destroy Washington D.C. with nuclear weapons. After defeating their initial attack on the White House, you are then tasked with tracking them down and stopping them.
This is where Jungle Strike really changes things up compared to Desert Strike. While all four of Desert’s levels were (somewhat unsurprisingly) set in similar desert landscapes, Jungle’s plot following the villains to their hideout takes you through jungles, the sea, another desert (this one has some trees though!) mountaintop bases and even a snow covered area.
The primary vehicle is still a helicopter, this time upgraded to the RAH-66 Comanche helicopter (which didn’t even have any built examples at the time the game came out, making it seem a bit futuristic) instead of the Apache, but aside from the cosmetic change to the design of the sprite in practice it still works exactly the same. The three weapon types are unchanged, as are the controls.
In some of these levels you also get to control other vehicles. The second level puts you in control of a small hovercraft to track down and destroy a nuclear submarine, while a later level has you driving a (heavily armoured) motorbike complete with bombs that can be dropped in the path of armoured vehicles. Both control fairly similarly to the Comanche, with the special weapons for each replacing the Hellfire missles while the other two weapon types remain the same.
The centrepiece of the game though is its seventh level, the river raid. This has you stealing back an F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighter that the enemies had somehow gotten hold of – you quickly transfer from the chopper to the fighter and spend the rest of the mission with it. Unlike the other two alternate vehicles, the stealth fighter has unlimited fuel and ammo (since it can’t easily stop to pick more up) and moves a lot quicker than the Comanche giving a completely different feel to the level with you blowing up basically everything in sight. It’s a great level, and one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each time I’ve replayed it since the 90’s.
The game overall still has a very high difficulty level, particularly for beginners. Extra lives can be found occasionally (most notably on the stealth fighter level) but generally for each level you have three lives and that’s it. Accidentally stray into a danger zone or too far from a fuel pickup and you can find these running out very quickly. The stealth fighter can’t take any collisions and explodes immediately if you crash into something, making those extra lives very welcome. There is also the fourth level, which is set entirely at night. The level is almost entirely black apart from when explosions light the area up, meaning it’s incredibly difficult to see anything and a large number of enemy helicopters in the area mean that death is very likely – I’m pretty sure I remember game over screens from this level a lot when I was younger!
Jungle Strike was truly one of the great sequels. It takes everything that was great about its predecessor, and adds to it well creating an even more fun game, one that for good reason is remembered as one of the very best games released on the Mega Drive.