Back in the early 90s, one of the most popular ways of getting new software was through shareware. The idea behind shareware was that developers would put demo versions of their software onto floppy disks or BBS and have them freely distributed in the hopes that it would find an audience and create enough interest that people would pay money for the full version.
The internet was still in its infancy and most people at the time could only get shareware on floppy disks at computer conventions. Most of the time the disks had cheap labels and you could never tell what you were going to get. But that was part of the fun. Hoping to discover the next Castle Wolfenstein or Doom among the sea of disks. I remember going to a computer show with my dad and rummaging through a table of shareware floppy disks. In time we collected several dozen disks and I would guess about 80% of them were only used for about five minutes. Eventually he switched to downloading his shareware on this new thing called the Internet (probably through Compuserve).
He would find all sorts of random software, and just to show how awesome of a dad he was, he would also install several shareware games for me to play with. These weren’t full games, but in a world of cartridges it was a real treat to get a new game every day, even if they were only a level or two.
One of these games that sticks out in my mind is Jazz Jackrabbit. It made an impression because it was the first shareware game I played that felt like a real Nintendo game, and not like the many cheap shovelware type games I was used to. Jazz Jackrabbit looked great, had awesome music, ran smoothly, and was an absolute blast to play. Despite the fact I never got the full version I must have played that demo over and over again.
Here’s a look at the first level of this iconic mascot game.