Game Freak's ambitious initial title was followed up by a much more standard platformer. Funny enough, it was also one of the first of a minor trend of platformers where you play as a blue gelatinous ball, like the later Putty and Claymates games. You play as Prince Jerry Bean (GET IT!?), a young man or royalty sent to marry your betrothed Princess Emi after the passing of your father and king. However, your younger brother Prince Tom Bean (GET IT!?!?) wishes to be crowned the king instead. Tom hires a wizard to zap Jerry into the beany blob and takes off with Emi in tow. It's up to you to save Emi and stop Tom and the wizard and change back to normal.
As an early SNES title, it isn't far removed from the platforming faire of the NES days. The blue slimeball Jerry heads left to right using the standard 2-button attack/run and jump methods perfected with Super Mario Bros. years before. Aside from the music and sound effects, there is little push to take much advantage of the 16-bit system, lacking transparency effects for the underwater segments. The only real attempt to showcase the new console's visual capabilities was the Mode 7 scrolling on the moon, though many first gen SNES games abused that built-in graphic setting. Luckily, a certain level of charm in the blocky build of the colorful sprites holds up today better than during its debut.
Playing as a slime ball brings a few spins to the platforming mix. Since Jerry has no limbs, he has to find other means of offense. He can stretch up or squished down around or on enemies to knock them away, or fling balls or other power ups he collects and stores in his jelly mass. His slurping goo form can also climb walls and on ceilings or slip through pipes to traverse levels or save his slimy bacon from plummeting into a pit. He can collect items in flowers throughout the levels, gathering multiple balls as ammo, a steel ball that weighs Jerry down but can be flung over and over again, a hi-jump booster, or a seed he can plant for a beanstalk to climb. Each stage has posts that spell out J-E-R-R-Y, which grant two extra lives to Jerry Bean if he touches them all and serve as checkpoints.
Much like the Mario series, the kingdom seems to stretch a myriad of biospheres. The game leads through many stock level themes with a beginning grassland leading to an urban area, desert palace, the aformentioned moon, the arctic, a beach, a dark castle, and more. In between each stage is a city, town, or village to head through, chatting with townsfolk and earning 1ups from the helpful but mysterious elderly mentor watching out for the cursed prince. The populated locales do spread to strange areas like a mountain villa, a collection of igloos, a cloudy heavens inhabited by angels, even a few people living inside the belly of a whale. They serve as breathers with plenty of tips, flavor text, and free extra men-- er, slimes. The Magician's controlled army are quite cutesy, with walking mice and googly-eyed boulders, living flames, penguins patrolling the landscape en masse. A few out-there foes stand guard, like unfrozen cavemen, naked fire-breathers, spatula-throwing chefs, to even a constellation as a boss.
The soundtrack for Jerry Boy / Smart Ball deserves attention as it was partially created to show the power of soundchip. It doesn't reach the technical heights of Yuzo Koshiro's early SNES work ActRaiser, but tries better than many titles of the time that fell back on the built-in soundbank of overused filtered Mario Paint Flower trumpet and Seinfeld-like bass guitar backbeat. Much of the OST was headlined by veteran producer and keyboardist Yasuhiko Fukuda (credited as Hirohiko Fukuda). Known for his work with 80s bands like YOU and QUYS and composing the soundtrack for the anime They Were Eleven but before working on many of the Bomberman titles, Fukuda brings his chops at creating a eclectic mix of genres for the score. Yasuhiko was also assisted with 2 other new starlets to bring the music to this game, one of them an up-and-coming Akira Yamaoka getting his start producing chiptune tracks unlike his industrial edge to them.
The biggest issue with Smart Ball is the sloppy controls. Jerry tends to stick to walls and likes to fall off ceilings if scooted off the wrong way. Much of these problems stem from wrestling with the D-pad and especially the Run/Attack button. Jerry is a pokey blue slime by default and barely moves on walls and never on the ceiling unless he's moving fast enough. Even jumping high enough without a hi-jump power-up inside is difficult without enough dashing momentum. The second problem is the sharing of run and attack on the same button like on the NES. Like Fire Mario, Jerry tosses a projectile as he starts picking up speed due to the shared button, but Jerry's ammo is very limited, costing precious balls due to having to perform a required running start or wall climb. Since any power up not health or a 1up supercedes your gathered balls, it's very quick to lose any added firepower Jerry might have. It's best to stock up on regenerating flowers for a bunch of balls and hope for the best, though their weak throwing arc still requires the blue bean to stick close to baddies. Death can come quick due to level design or devious enemy placement, but the generous extra lives and multiple checkpoints helps curtail the cheapness. These faults knock the game down to merely "okay" status as the lack of a rush on Sony's side might've given time to tighten the controls - or at least move to use at least 3 buttons on the control pad.
Production came about due to Tajiri's advisor ties to Sony months before release of the Super Famicom. Due to the DSP soundchip being manufactured by Sony, the company wanted a game to promote the capabilities near the launch date. Submitted ideas within Game Freak were tossed around, originating as a silly premise of creating an RPG with the protagonist as a low-level entry enemy staple slime. Over time, the RPG elements were removed to make the game more actiony while using the slime's powers for platform elements. The effort turned to be a means to be as opposite a title as Quinty was in order to become a bigger seller. An early prototype under its original monicker "Jelly Bean" was showcased at trade shows and a few gaming magazines, revealing a more "realistic" (for the time) graphical style before going with a more cartoon vibe all around. In fact, more gag and comical one-off enemies were planned to crop up within the game but had to be trimmed out due to memory concerns, leaving only the rare out-there enemy like the wide-eyed running man. Aside from the name and title screen change, the US version Smart Ball removed the story intro and every town/NPC interacted segment, trimming out a large chunk of the levels and much of the life of the game to focus on the action. The only cutscene left is right after the final boss is defeated with Emi running into the now-human-again Jerry before they console Tom. The Japanese text accompanying the scene was removed entirely. The only mention of the wizard and the curse along with any plot was placed within the US instruction manual. Once again, Sugimori's cute anime cover was replaced with extreme airbrushed 90s attitude with flaming meteors, a strange representation of the giant bird boss, and Sony Imagesoft's logo taking a huge chunk of the corner. The title was changed to differentiate itself from the similarly titled but more lackluster Ocean-developed Jelly Boy. These changes hindered the game's chances of standing out in the wave of titles for the SNES, causing it to drift out into forgotten waters.
Aside from the game proper, a brief manga adaptation was released in Japan, Serialized in Family Computer Magazine and drawn by Ken Sugimori, it's a cute but simple retelling of the backstory and game's progression. A collected trade of the run was published in 1993, containing interviews and documents of the making of Jerry Boy, along with a bonus mini-story named "Jerry Girl" which focuses on a high school girl named Cherry Fujio asking the wizard from the game to grant her better stretching and flexibility for rhythmic gymnastics and being turned into a slime. After that, the IP would lay dormant for good, except for a planned sequel that never saw the light of day.
In 1994 Game Freak decided to expand upon its earlier slime platformer, taking the same mechanics with an entirely new plot. The sequel is centered around an amusement park known as Jelly Land. A group of five kids and their dog are heading to the park for fun and games until a jester wizard zaps them all, transforming them into slimes before capturing all but one kid. The main blue blob boy named Marine must now tracked down his friends (and dog) before taking on the jester that's caused the amusement park to go berzerk.
Rather than have the strict linear progression of its prequel, Jelly Boy 2 opts for a Mega Man style choose-your-stage approach with five levels open from the start. Each attraction you choose to go to is broken into five sections, usually having a mid-boss around the end of the 2nd or 3rd segment before the stage boss guarding one of Marine's kidnapped companions. Each slime saved becomes selectable before the start of a level, each with his or her own unique abilities. Marine is the default with the standard ball attack from the first game, now always available with a recharge timer added. His true skill is being the fastest of the group. Mint is the green-haired/green blob girl with the star in her hair, able to fling the barette like a boomerang without recharging at the cost of movement speed. Carm is the shy girl blob with the bow, having no special means of attack and is one of the slowest characters but was planned to be the fastest swimmer by using her bow as a propeller. However, the unfinished ROM as-is has her still matching the same swimming speed as the others. Carm's only advantage left is being able to climb down from certain ceiling angles without dropping. Ed is the glasses-wearing purple blob, able to leap higher than the rest and can lay proximity bombs that can burst through certain breakable blocks most of his friends can't. Schenna the dog blob, like Carm, has no special attack, but can hover slowly in his descent with his tail. The chubby kid-turned-orange blob York can't jump quite as high and drops like a rock, but has a swift dash attack that can also break blocks Ed's bombs can.
Naturally, the presentation is a step up from the original from three years prior. Each level represents a themed area a Disney-esque amusement park might have, ranging from pirates to a lost prehistoric jungle temple to a space world and even, yes, an old-fashioned Western-slash-Ninja setting. The easily-squishable mice from the first game still run rampart but are joined by many new threats - a lot of the them clown-based. Your same old wall-sliming and tube-travelling methods are back as well as you inch your way toward the exit door to the next segment of the stage. The controls have been tweaked to make climbing and dashing a smoother experience. Your attack and run commands each now have their own separate button assigned to them, no longer forcing you to waste a power-up just to hoof it faster and scurry up a ledge. The kids' unique traits and attacks encourage varied playthroughs for the best means of tackling levels. Sadly, Yoshinori Sunahara's music score is much more forgettable than the tracks from Smart Ball.
Many design streamlining and changes serve to make the sequel a bit more by-the-numbers than its predecessor. Gone is any towns to visit or NPCs, as well as the unique power-ups due to the characters' built-in movesets. Instead, players collect jelly beans for 1ups with each batch of 100, along with health hearts - though as a twist, collecting a heart with full life makes you invincible for a limited time. To remedy this, the game puts more emphasis on finding secrets, needing slimes' skills to find doors leading to such treasures as empty heart pieces to collect to increase your health bar and nine mysterious black puzzle pieces in order to see the true final boss and ending. It can be a pain to scower and stumble onto these hidden pathways, but being able to hop right into each level section eases the journey.
Jelly Boy 2 was shaping up to be a good if a little underwhelming sequel. However, Sony cut production of video game projects not tied to their new PlayStation console, leaving this title cancelled before its near-completion. The late-stage beta ROM leaked onto the net a decade later, now complete with a translation hack for those wishing to experience the title. It's so near-finished the only thing aside from a little gameplay polish is the heart of the rougher first game. The charm is there in spades, but without other humans around to breathe life, this amusement park ride feels emptier.