Data East was one of the leading lights of the arcade scene in the 80s and the early 90s, but they didn’t start off as a game developer. They actually started out as an electronics engineering company in 1976 and one of fruits of their labor was the DECO cassette system.
Years before companies like Capcom, Taito, and SNK looked to loading games via cartridges in the arcade as opposed to replacing EPROMs, replacing boards, or buying new cabinets, Data East came up with something similar in 1980. Back then before floppies became popular, computers could also receive instructions and programs from cassettes and it was a concept that Data East extended to the arcade with their DECO cassette system.
Instead of having to gut or replace an entire cab, arcade owners could insert a cassette tape, load the program into memory, and run the new game for as long as the cab had power (if it was rebooted, it’d wipe the memory and the program would have to be loaded all over again which could take several minutes). The arcade archive over at System 16 has a shot of the DECO along with an impressive list of games that used it.
However, that it took several minutes to load a game, that turning off the machine blanked its memory requiring owners to reload said game, and the respectively delicate nature of keeping said game on magnetic tape (please don’t keep near magnets), presented its own problems to arcade owners. As innovative as it was, it didn’t replace the hardware solution Data East adopted later going forward.
One of the games that ran on both a dedicated hardware setup and was available as a DECO cassette was Bump ‘n Jump in 1982.
Bump ‘n Jump was a top-down driving game where the object was to “bump” other cars into obstacles for points or “jump” and land on top of them earning the same. Jumping activated only after the player achieved 100 MPH and an indicator in the upper left hand corner would let them know when it was okay. As the game went on, however, the twists and turns of the track — including where it just ends in front of obstacles like water — also required the player to jump over them to keep racing and scoring.
This was a pretty fun game and cabs could often be found years later in other arcades simply because its bare bones formula worked so well. The game was also ported to the hottest consoles at the time — ironically, right at the eve of the Crash — such as the Atari 2600 in ’82, Intellivision in ’83 (when stuff really started to hit the fan), and the ColecoVision in ’84. It even made it over to the Nintendo Entertainment System in ’86 which tweaked it to include car repairs, a boss fight, and a rescue story complete with and ending.
Bump ‘n Jump didn’t involve a story of its own — the only story here was what you made of its challenge, the only achievement “unlocked” was in beating the top scores of the day to make it to the top of the scoreboard. There were no continues — only your skill kept you in the game. It was road rage, 80s style, without having to shoot anyone on the way to the end of the stage. Just you, a car, and the ability to leap small vehicles in a single bound. And crush them for points.