Catching up with Jambo! Safari after 17 Years

Earlier in the week I recounted my sub-par experiences with pinball during our vacation to Disney World. But just a few feet away from those janky machines was one of the best surprises of the whole trip: Sega’s Jambo! Safari. I probably haven’t touched the game since 2000 and at the time it wasn’t as appealing as Crazy Taxi, Emergency Call Ambulance or any of Sega’s other wild arcade racing games. I may have played it five or six times in my life but just recently I’d been thinking about it more intently.

This also reminded me of the pseudo-port/sequel that Sega released on the Wii in 2009. Jambo! Safari: Animal Rescue has some of the same gameplay as the original but it’s also inflicted with Wii-itis: the compulsion to throw in kid-friendly motion controls and minigames. On top of that it looks like a slow paced zoo sim that requires you to pet, feed and manage your animals. Look, I’m just here to powerslide around Africa… at least that’s all that I remembered about the arcade original.

The machine we found at our resort was in the streamlined stand-up cabinet which made managing the brake and gas pedals a little tricky and uncomfortable for me. Nevertheless I was happy to dive in and rediscover what set Jambo! apart from the rest. “It’s like car fishing,” Katy and I agreed. Jambo! Safari takes the race-the-clock design of Crazy Taxi and mixes it with Sega Bass Fishing of all things.

After you rope an animal you have to manage a tension meter to wear them down until you can finally line up a second shot to net them. If it weren’t for the timer it would be painfully easy but as the seconds tick away you push to be faster which brings out the game’s hilarious shenanigans. Grappling a large animal or powersliding too sharply can send your jeep barreling into comical spins. As animals elude you they’ll throw up a mocking emote while the broken English text chides you.

Some of the “Final Research” missions are coin-gobblingly sleazy if you aren’t ready for them but overall it was a surprise and a treat to play again after nearly 17 years. Check out the 2-part video above for an overview of the machine that we found and a few brief rounds with this unsung Sega classic.

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