Journey to Northpass is a short RPG Maker game parodying gender roles. It’s a standard fantasy setup, but all the gender roles are completely flipped. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have much else going for it. The battle system is essentially “press confirm to win”, and though there are sidequests, they’re basically all just simple fetch quests. The story doesn’t take itself seriously at all; the gods of the setting are literally called “Pretentious” and “Apostro’Phe”, in just one example. Cute, but it kinda makes it hard to get emotionally invested in anything.
I feel like the patriarchy flip isn’t as incisive as it could be, which is unfortunate when that seems to be the game’s main draw. It tends to focus on the most extreme misogynistic cliches — there’s a point where the Prince in Distress is told to shut up because “the women are talking” and that “men just don’t understand money”, for instance. The main villain is also a gender-flipped temptress archetype, and his motivation ends up being because HIS CHILDRENNNN etc. It got a chuckle out of me, but it didn’t feel terribly challenging or brave social commentary. Maybe I’m just in a dreary mood, but more than anything it just reminded me of real misogyny. Part of it is perhaps just that it’s too compressed, and I think to be effective satire needs room to breathe. For instance, there’s one Strong Male Character — and while, like all Strong Male Characters, he is hilarious, there being only one of him means the game dumps every single Strong Female Character trope on him at once, which just ends up feeling rushed. Strong Female Characters have kinda evolved with the times, to the point that there are a lot of different takes on the concept now. I think it would have been stronger to have multiple characters to lampoon those different facets — in particular, a calling-out of “morality pet” characters like The Last of Us’ Ellie and Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth would have been both more timely and immensely cutting. The problem is no longer so much that women aren’t included at all, I think, but that they’re relegated to support and satellite roles.
Overall, the parody here felt a bit too… I dunno, easy? I mean, people have been making fun of scantily-clad Warrior Women for years now, and I don’t think “women are seen and not heard” has been seriously pushed in popular media for decades. It’s too easy to feel smugly enlightened and say, well of course I’m not like that… It doesn’t get into the more subtle misogyny that’s more common in modern video games now. And I do have to say, the absurdity of everything else rather sent the wrong message to me — it just reinforces the idea that haha, women being the default is so CRAZY and WACKY that we can only have this in a game where nothing at all is taken seriously! It would have been much more effective to be completely straight-faced about it, I think.
While giving the male characters feminine appearances feels like a natural extension of the patriarchy flip, I’m rather on the fence about it. It feels a bit like it’s reinforcing the concept of feminine traits being weak and inferior. It might have been a more effective parody to have the objectified characters still look distinctly masculine. Granted, the female characters do still look feminine too, so the artist may have just wanted to try out a setting where femininity was the default appearance.
I liked the plant people, though. Holly was very cute.
So, good intentions overall, but it’s still very rough around the edges. I found it more a proof of concept than a finished product.