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Video game designers have drawn from a wealth of cultural inspirations over the years: movies, comic books, comic book movies. But the large stable of fairy tale adventures has, for the most part, gone unrepresented, with a few notable exceptions that gear more towards warping the tropes of Grimm tales to a more mature audience (see: American McGee's Alice, Fable, some elements of the Kingdom Hearts series).
Enter 1982's "Jack the Giant-Killer," which envisions four sequences of the classic beanstalk fairy tale in the form of a primitive platform game. You can play Cinematronics' arcade classic for free in your browser by clicking the image below, thanks to the folks at the Internet Archive!
Your first task as Jack is to scale the proverbial beanstalk. Then you'll need to dash and jump across the clouds to reach the giant's lair. You'll then have to snatch the treasures from the sleeping giant while avoiding magic lamps and gaps, and finally descend the beanstalk back to your home. Falling from the beanstalk, off the clouds or getting hit by enemies will cost you a precious life, and you're shooting for a high score here, so be aware of the risk and reward offered by seeking hard-to-reach treasures.
Cinematronics released Jack the Giant-Killer in an arcade market flooded with classic titles. Nintendo had released Donkey Kong the year before, Ms. Pac-Man was gobbling up quarters and the Disney film "Tron," which romanticized video games, was in theaters. Cinematronics first big success, a vector graphics game called "Space Wars" based on one of the earliest video games ever created, released in 1977.
After "Jack the Giant-Killer," which was a relatively traditional platformer for the time, Cinematronics went all out and released "Dragon's Lair," one of the first narrative video games which is widely credited for popularizing the quick-time events that we all experience to the level of nausea in Call of Duty games and other first-person shooters.
Cinematronics was acquired by the company Tradewest in 1987. That company would go on to publish the popular side-scrolling beat 'em ups Double Dragons and Battletoads before itself being sold in 1994 to pinball megadeveloper Williams.
What's your favorite video game based on a fairy tale? Would you like to see more games based on the Grimm stories? Let us know in the comments below, and check back next week for another free game.