RISC World

Jet Set Willy

Matt Thompson comes over all nostalgic...

What can you say about this game that hasn't been said already? Well not a lot really, but I am writing this as a tribute to my all time favourite game. I really have no idea why I like this game so much, but I remember seeing it way back in about 1985 on a friend's ZX Spectrum and that was it, I was hooked.

Back then I had an Acorn Electron and Jet Set Willy wasn't available for it until Tynesoft did the honours and converted it. It wasn't quite as good as the Spectrum version but it was still Jet Set Willy and now I could play it on my own machine. I upgraded to a BBC Micro a few years later which had a better version but after all these years and various machines the ZX Spectrum version for me is still the best.

Jet Set Willy was the sequel to the hugely popular Manic Miner. It was written by Matthew Smith and released in 1984 and it was a massive hit. Unfortunately the original release still contained some bugs and this meant that it was impossible to complete. However it is well known that the game was hacked by a few people in order to enable them to complete it, and Software Projects later released these 'pokes' officially so the game could be completed.

As a game Jet Set Willy was pretty basic. Guide the character around some screens collecting items and avoiding things that kill you. Not that original, but it was the way it was done that made it so good. The fact you could wander around all the screens at once, not have to collect all the items on one screen to get to the next. You could go anywhere at any time and have a different game each time, discovering the rooms until you found them all and then you could try to complete the game properly.

There is plenty of humour within the game with some obvious Monty Python influences (the big foot for one) and many rooms with strange names. Over the years since the game was released it has been been explained what they actually meant.

Due to the massive success of Jet Set Willy on the Spectrum it was inevitable that Software Projects, with some help from Tynesoft, would port the game to other home computer systems. Versions followed for the Amstrad, Commodore 64, Commodore 16, Commodore Plus4, BBC Micro, Acorn Electron, MSX, Atari 800 XL, and even the Dragon had a version. The VIC 20 missed out due to memory limitations, but VIC 20 owners did get an exclusive Miner Willy game called 'The Perils Of Willy' instead.

The background story to this version of the game was that Miner Willy, now a wealthy man after discovering some lost mine workings and then making his fortune (see Manic Miner) has bought himself a large house and thrown a big party which leaves his house in a bit of a mess. After the party all Willy can think about is crashing out in bed, but his housekeeper Maria will not let him into his room until he has cleared up all the mess.

There wasn't a great deal of difference between the many versions of Jet Set Willy. The C64 and Amstrad versions are, from what I have seen, pretty much the same, although it is noticeable in all the Commodore versions that the stairs actually look like stairs rather than lines (maybe this has something to do with the background story to JSW2?). The music is different from the Spectrum version, but apart from that it's pretty much identical. There may be different screens further into the game but I didn't get that far. One noticeable difference in the Amstrad version is the inclusion of a high score table, something which only appears in that version.

I have never played the Dragon version so don't know what it is like, and as I don't have a Dragon emulator, I can't try it. However the screenshots on the JSW remakes website show that it ran in black and white and this version also had some exclusive rooms. One screenshot on the website shows 'The Guest Room'.

A version of Jet Set Willy appeared for the Atari 800 XL and from the description on the JSW remakes website it is the worst version, I have never played it so cannot say if it this is so, but it has to be said that the screenshots do not look good. There was also a version of JSW for the MSX. I have yet to see this version so cannot say what it is like, but would imagine it would be similar to of the others.

Another version of Jet Set Willy that was different was that for the Commodore 16. It looked like the Commodore 64 version but only had about 20 rooms due to lack of memory. It also lacked the toilet in 'The Bathroom' and Maria was not present in the 'Master Bedroom' which rather defeated the object of the game. However the pillow on the bed would kill you if you touched it and on collecting all the items if you return to the 'Master Bedroom' it would still be the same, and the pillow would still kill you. This isn't really a proper ending to the game, perhaps I missed something, but I don't think I did.

On the other side of the C16 tape of JSW was the C16 Plus 4 version. This was billed as an "Enhanced" version, though it didn't say of what, presumably they meant an enhanced version of the C16 version which is exactly what it was. It doesn't have all the rooms of the original Spectrum version but had more than the C16 version and had another exclusive room the 'Back Gate' where 'The Beach' would normally be. This version doesn't have the toilet or Maria either, but I never finished it so don't know what happens when you collect all the items.

The BBC Micro and Acorn Electron versions were the same except that the Electron version had monochrome rooms and no music. The BBC Micro version had the music and full colour screens, the room layout was the same as the Spectrum version and it was possible to complete this one.

Your Sinclair magazine famously published an April Fool in the form of a listing to allow you to find a 'hidden room' called 'April showers'. What the listing actually did was created that room and added it onto the JSW game. They ran a competition asking people to find the new room and the first person to tell Your Sinclair magazine where this room was located won a prize.

I managed to complete the BBC Micro version and if you collect all the items around the house, then upon returning to the 'Master Bedroom' Maria has now disappeared (if you don't want to know how the game ends look away now!). Walk up to the bed and walk through it. When Willy touches the pillow the computer will take over and guide him back across the top landing into the Bathroom where he will now stick his head into the toilet!

JET SET WILLY 2 - The Final Frontier

As with all games which are a success the sequel comes along and in 1985 Software Projects released Jet Set Willy 2, this time written by Derrick Rowson. Although the game sold well it was bit disappointing in that it was basically Jet Set Willy with extra rooms and the bugs of the original game removed.

The background story for this game is that Willy fell down some stairs and has had the builders in to remove the offending edges from the staircase (could these be the ones in the Commodore versions of JSW1?). While the builders were there they added many new rooms to the mansion and left a lot of mess all around the house. Needless to say Maria the housekeeper isn't happy about this, so as before Willy has to tidy up the mess before he can get into his bedroom.

The extra rooms make the challenge of completing the game even more difficult as there are now well over a hundred and some of them are not part of Willy's mansion. They include a rocket room, which takes you on a trip into space, and if you flick the switch in the new room 'Trip Switch' then make it back to 'The Yacht' without losing a life the yacht will sail away to 'The Deserted Isle'. There were rumours that this happened in the original Jet Set Willy if you let the game continue until a certain time but of course it didn't, so because of this it was incorporated into Jet Set Willy 2, where you can now sail to the deserted island in the yacht!

There were many myths and legends surrounding the original game including secret rooms, things that happened at certain points in the game, and others. None of them were true. I remember being told a few things that happened if you did certain things, these all turned out to be false as well.

Another interesting room is 'The Cartography Room'. This room can be found on the moon and it makes a basic map of all the rooms that you have visited during the game. Each room visited is represented by a block. If the block is red then it means there are items in that room to be collected, if the block is green then all the items in that room have been collected. The more blocks that appear the more rooms that have been visited. There is an item to be collected at the top of the screen, so in order to get it you need to have visited enough rooms so you can climb up the green blocks and collect the item. The following website shows how 'The Cartography Room' works.

Jet Set Willy 2 was released on all the major 8 bit computers. On the C64 version you could walk through the toilet to discover some new rooms, and the bath in 'The Bathroom' is purple for some reason. The Spectrum version gameplay was the same as the first game, and the Amstrad version was pretty much the same as the Spectrum version except for different music and graphics variations. I'm not aware of any other new rooms, but that doesn't mean there aren't any.

The MSX had a version of Jet Set Willy 2 which I have yet to play but the screenshot on the JSW remakes website looks good and shows a room called 'The Maze' and the description of this version is 'Perfect' ! so I would imagine it is worth checking out.

Commodore 16 users fared much better with Jet Set Willy 2 and there were many more rooms this time. The game was split into 4 parts and you had to collect a certain number of items before you could move to the next part of the game. Perhaps they should have done this in the first place for Jet Set Willy and then the C16 version could have been the same as the C64?

The BBC/Electron tape version was strange, due to memory restrictions of 32K. Just about all of the Jet Set Willy rooms have been removed and about 95% of the Jet Set Willy 2 rooms remain, however there are a couple of rooms which I think only appear in this version. There is "The Fallout Shelter" which leads to the moon, and also "Ethel The Aardvark" which is another Monty Python reference. The enemies and the types of items collected are also different, plus when Willy goes to the moon he decides not to wear a spacesuit!

The BBC disc version featured all the rooms from Jet Set Willy and just about all the rooms from Jet Set Willy 2, although a few are missing. This was achieved by loading the game in stages. At various points during the game the disc drive would become active and then load the next part. The delay was minimal and didn't spoil the game at all, and was a good way of getting just about all the Jet Set Willy 2 rooms into 32K.

I have yet to complete Jet Set Willy 2 on any format, so haven't seen what happens when you do, although I guess that Maria will disappear and you have to touch the bed and he will then walk across to the toilet again. I have read that the Central Cavern from Manic Miner makes a reappearance!

In the late 1980s Software Projects commissioned versions of Jet Set Willy for the Amiga and Atari ST. Unfortunately neither were ever released, but the Atari ST version was finished and can be easily found on the internet. It works with fine with ST emulators. The ST version is a carbon copy of the original Spectrum version.

As for the Amiga version, I don't think it was ever finished and I have not found it when searching around on the internet. There are, however, plenty of Jet Set Willy games such as Jet Set Billy, Willys Weirdy Nightmare, Top Hat Willy also Jet Set Willy 2, and from the screenshots they look very good.

To get hold of all these versions of Jet Set Willy 1 and 2 the place you need to visit is here you will find all the original releases plus many other remakes.

Although Jet Set Willy 2 was the last official release there have been many Jet Set Willy games created using a variety of game editors. They seem to have been mainly written for the Spectrum, and they should work without problems with any Spectrum emulator.

One of the first (if not the first) Jet Set Willy remakes was, 'Join The JetSet' and it was written by Richard Hallas.

This is a very good game. It keeps the feel of the original Jet Set Willy games unlike some of the remakes which are for advanced players. It is easy to get into, and on his website the author tells the story about how this game came about and the other Jet Set Willy remakes he made. The website is at

ZX-Heroes - this Jet Set Willy game pays tribute to many of the ZX Spectrum platform games, in which each room is from a ZX Spectrum game. The gameplay is the standard Jet Set Willy, and games featured include Chuckie Egg 2, Bubble Bobble, Henrys Hoard, Dizzy to name but a few. This can be downloaded from the World Of Spectrum website.

Another remake is 'Maria VS Some Bastards'. In this game you take on the role of Maria, who has to rescue Willy after he has been kidnapped. This game shows what can be created with game editors as the gameplay is different from normal. For example, Maria can fall without dying, some enemies can be touched without dying, some can't. The graphics are very impressive and to think they all run on a ZX Spectrum as well.

A very good resource for Jet Set Willy games is The author, Andrew Broad, has created a number of Jet Set Willy and Manic Miner games, some of which are based around a theme, such as Lord of the Rings and a Neighbours themed Manic Miner remake! A collection of new Jet Set Willy/Manic Miner games were released together called 'Party Willy'. Included is a new Jet Set Willy adventure called Party Willy, and also the original Jet Set Willy game totally mirrored so the whole game is round the other way. There is also Jet Set Willy in the Manic Miner gamestyle, meaning that you have to collect all the objects before you can get out of the screen, and also Manic Miner in Jet Set Willy gamestyle, where you can wander through all the Manic Miner screens without having to collect the items first. This collection is well worth a look as is the website, as there are a number of game editors and utilities available, plus previews of many other forthcoming games.

These are many other Spectrum Jet Set Willy games, too many to mention here, but they can be found at World of Spectrum and a list of (currently) 40 Jet Set Willy games can be found at with links to download them from.

In addition to the Spectrum Jet Set Willy games there have been many remakes of Jet Set Willy on other machines, such as the Amiga remakes mentioned earlier. There are other Jet Set Willy remakes on the PC such as Jet Set Willy - Trash Of The Universe, and Jet Set Willy - The Need For Sleep. These can can be found on the internet. The website have a few listed. These new versions have new and enhanced graphics and music and give a whole new JSW experience.

There are also PC versions of both Jet Set Willy and Jet Set Willy 2. The gameplay is identical to the Spectrum versions but they have much improved graphics which look really good and there is a choice of different tunes. Check to download Jet Set Willy, and for Jet Set Willy 2 go to homepage.ntlworldcom/dan_richardson_uk/JSWII.html. This site also has a number of other JSW related links.

There is even a version available for mobile phones, but it would be really good to see a brand new version with the original rooms and lots of new ones, plus enhanced graphics and music, perhaps as a 3D or 2D platformer. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won't, but there will almost certainly be many more remakes.

Another Jet Set Willy remake was for Acorn RISC OS machines. It includes both Jet Set Willy 1 and 2 and has excellent high resolution graphics. It is very playable and highly recommended. There are some good touches, for example as well as Willy wearing a spacesuit on the moon he also puts on his coat and gloves in the 'Cold Store'. Another good feature is that when you die you get about five second of invulnerability so you don't die again instantly.

There is also a very good multi-tasking editor to create games with, of which there are two included. My only criticism about this version is that the end of game 'foot squashing Miner Willy' sequence has been replaced with a simple 'Game Over'. That aside, this is an excellent remake of Jet Set Willy, and one of the best ones I've seen so far. If you use or have access to RISC OS then why not give this version a go? It can be downloaded from in the games section.

There was the heavily rumoured third Jet Set Willy game which was known as 'Megatree and Willy meets the taxman'. The game did technically exist and has been recently uncovered in Issue 5 of Retro Gamer magazine. There was never much of it actually written, and that is probably how it will stay.

With all these new games and remakes going on twenty years after the first game was released it is a true testament to the greatness of the game. It is one of the all time classics and will probably continue to be played for the next twenty years and beyond. Who knows, one day I might even complete Jet Set Willy 2!

Matt Thompson