Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass, and Open-Ended Stories

Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is an RPG by Kasey Ozymy, the developer of A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky and The God of Crawling Eyes, two games we previously reviewed. It’s clear that the developer learned a lot about game design in the intervening time; Jimmy is actually fun to play, with challenging battles that never feel like brick walls or games of roulette, as well as a tight and intuitive set of tools and mechanics for you to play with. It also just doesn’t bother with elemental effects, which I thought was a nice bit of streamlining. There’s a ton of content and it’s honestly a steal at $15, so definitely pick it up if you’re in the mood for a jRPG.

(Don’t bother with the postgame, though. It just throws you against the exact same enemies and bosses from the main game with literally no difference except bigger numbers, then caps it off with a really tedious battle that’s a total crapshoot followed by you effectively winning halfway through but having to continue punching your way through mountains of HP anyway. Save yourself the time and just look it up on YouTube.)

Unfortunately, story-wise, the author decided to dive into a completely different genre, and his inexperience in that area is very stark. The premise of the game is that it all takes place in the imagination of Jimmy, a young boy — and because it’s a world of his dreams, it’s also a world of his nightmares. To the developer’s credit, this is not your typical “looks cutesy but is secretly SUPER EDGY!!!” affair: the story does genuinely oscillate between horror and truly lighthearted segments, and most of the horror elements are relegated to the edges, which I thought was very fitting — to confront Jimmy’s repressed fears, you have to go searching for them. It does a really good job of making it feel like the horror is intruding on Jimmy’s fantasy, and that he’s actively trying to push it back.

My issue is that none of it really goes anywhere. The horror elements are all flash and no substance — or if there is substance, it’s so vague and opaque I can’t find it. Individual areas are very well-designed, but they don’t seem to add up into any coherent whole. Supposedly, the horror levels are meant to give us a psychological profile of Jimmy via his worst fears, but I couldn’t find any consistent thread that paints any meaningful picture beyond the most banal, superficial, and obvious reading. I wouldn’t mind this so much if the horror levels were just window dressing, but they’re not. The main story is one of those infuriatingly obtuse plots where everything is ~up to your interpretation~, right down to the ending itself, which explains absolutely nothing, not even what the Pulsating Mass is. The horror dungeons feel like they’re supposed to be vital pieces of the puzzle, but trying to use them to read into the main plot feels like grasping at straws.

More details under the cut, with major spoilers, obviously, but I will say that I don’t think the spoilers will ruin the game for you — the plot’s strength is in the characters and areas, and like I said, there’s not even a big ending reveal to spoil in the first place.

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The Other Pokeauthors, Part 123

“Fun fact: Outside of fan fiction, I actually wrote an original story and got it published under my real name as a paperback, and that was BEFORE I began writing that fanfic of mine based on Diamond and Pearl, so don’t you EVER try to tell me that I can’t write, mate. I can clearly write well enough to convince people to pay me MONEY for it. Let’s see your counter-argument for THAT one.”

People really have no idea what we do here, do they?

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Disgaea: Hour of Darkness

You know those made-for-TV movies MST3k and Rifftrax do sometimes, where it obvious it was two episodes of a show that were smooshed together into a ‘movie’ because halfway through the plot resolves and the entire second half is an unrelated plot with completely different characters? That’s this game, except that the first plot was actually very good and I liked it and then 30 hours in the game ended, brought in a new cast, switched genres, and started up a completely different, worse plot, and somehow continued for another 15 hours. The whole thing was so weird, and it was so jarring and the new plot/characters so shitty I just couldn’t finish it. I ended up watching the True End on Youtube to see how the loose ends of the first plot tied up and felt totally satisfied and like I had no more questions, which goes to show how out-of-nowhere the second plot was. The game is largely worth playing through Chapter 10 (I think? It may have been 9). But there’s really no reason to finish it.

I’m publishing this concurrently with the Phantom Brave review because Phantom Brave does all the things Disgaea does well even better, has a coherent plot, and is without all the shitty sexualization, so it’s worth looking at them together, but I had too much to say about each individually for a single dual post to make sense.

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Phantom Brave

Phantom Brave is a very good, surprisingly heartfelt tRPG with some wonderful messages about female friendship, disability, environmentalism, and prejudice. It also has a really unique item system that had a moderate learning curve but was lots of fun once I got the hang of it.

I’m publishing this concurrently with the Disgaea review because Phantom Brave does all the things Disgaea does well even better, has a coherent plot, and is without all the shitty sexualization, so it’s worth looking at them together, but I had too much to say about each individually for a single dual post to make sense.

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this was a wild ride

I’m dying and unable to function, but you can enjoy this bizarre exchange in which my personal brand of media criticism smashes headlong into whatever the fuck tumblr considers media criticism. I’m still not entirely sure what happened; maybe I’ve lost the ability to use words. Also my comment was absolutely flagged on purpose, which I know because disqus told me, the ol’ devil.

Anyway my point is that was a fucking great post on Saber and I want y’all to appreciate the one time in 10 years I’ve posted more than ‘fukkin takeuchi’ about her design.

Trusting you not to comment there; I will ban you from here if you do.

The Other Pokeauthors, Part 121

“Since most people writing Pokemon fanfictions on http://www.fanfiction.net are writing anime fics anyways maybe you should consider moving over to archiveofourown where you can find almost exclusively game-centric fics. But we all know you won’t do that because you enjoy complaining about shitposts from http://www.fanfiction.net too much.”

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