Jinx – The PSone’s last hurrah

By 2003 the PlayStation 2 had been available for three years – successfully establishing itself as the must-have console for that generation. The writing had been on the wall for the humble PSone for some time, and come January 2003, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe released their last major title for the long-serving 32-bit system, publishing only Platinum re-releases from thereon.

That game was Jinx, a 3D platformer released only in Europe, and developed by Hammerhead – a studio formed of ex-Traveller’s Tales staff, best known for 1998’s Psygnosis-published dark fantasy shooter Shadow Master. Jinx sees the titular court jester leap around six typically themed stages, with the first being a pastel-hued castle kingdom, and battling the fantasy-themed enemies within. A pretty typical platformer with nothing new to offer, but one more than competent.

Developers had long mastered getting the most out of the PSone, and Jinx certainly showed off what the system could do. But its constraints were also on display, with the former polygon powerhouse showing its age. It both looked and played not unlike one of the earlier Spyro games, only with less creative flair. All signs point to Sony simply wanting a causal 3D platformer in their winter 2002 portfolio – with the PSone’s demographic being teens and pre-teens at the time – and this is what they ended up with. Diminishing returns likely only allowed for a modest budget.  

Jinx PSone screenshot

Winter 2002 was the PSone’s last major Christmas at retail, poised as a low-budget entry system and routinely bundled with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Sony had released a few other games in the run-up to Christmas, each spaced around a month apart. This began with the Disney tie-in Lilo & Stitch and was followed by European exclusives WRC Arcade, and Firebugs – a simplified take on the Rollcage series, aimed at a younger audience. Jinx was the last title in this final wave of first-party software; one last push before Sony bid the PSone farewell.  

Curiously, Jinx made its debut not in the pages of The Official PlayStation Magazine, but rather on a demo disc given away at McDonald’s during a promotion that ran between June and July 2002. It wasn’t until a few months later that news of Jinx’s existence emerged in OPM, and even then, it was only briefly covered with a few small screenshots and the barest of details – despite a playable demo existing. It was duly eventually covered in more detail, along with a preview, before finally taking the cover of the January 2003 issue (dated February 2003) – with the demo adorning the cover disc, and an 8/10 review score.

Official PlayStation Magazine UK advert scan

There’s something quite calculated by all this. Not so much the generous review score (Eurogamer could only muster a 4/10) but rather Sony was obviously spacing their final games a month apart so they could grace the cover of OPM – which was still reportedly shifting 30K copies, despite its glory days long gone. The January 31st release date was also timed perfectly to coincide with the first payday of the year. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Jinx’s development was wrapped up months before launch and that Sony was sitting on the title waiting for the ideal time to release it.

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with this approach – it just simply followed Marketing 101. A very text-book example of how Sony promoted and launched games in the early noughties; fabricated rumours, news, previews, a playable demo, and an exclusive review and cover feature in OPM.

Incidentally, this also marked the last ‘big budget’ new release to grace the cover of the official magazine. Despite no continued support from Sony, Future’s once flagship mag managed to run for another year, covering budget games and running extensive features that celebrated the console’s colossal back catalogue. You could even say Jinx marked the beginning of the end of OPM.

Jinx’s legacy is kind of non-existent. A forgotten title from a time where most gamers had ‘upgraded’ to a PS2, Xbox, or GameCube, that failed to gain much press coverage at launch. Copies are readily available on eBay for around £20, so it doesn’t seem particularly rare or desirable. But the fact that it was the last first-party PSone game, and a European exclusive to boot, does count for something.