Tag: rpgmaker

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.


Alter A.I.L.A. Genesis

A grungy soft sci-fi post-apocalyptic RPG! That’s… really the best description I can give of this, as the particulars of the plot and setting aren’t anything particularly noteworthy. The story is a bit cliched and has a lot of weird animesque characters and twists, but I overall found it to be really enjoyable even if it wasn’t anything spectacular. The most notable thing about this game is that it bucks a lot of RPG Maker trends in terms of presentation and gameplay. Exploration is done in sidescrolling platformer-like maps, and cutscenes are shown through comic-like panels. I found both of these things to be really original and well-done — exploration was sleek and straightforward without being simplistic, and there are in fact many fun puzzles to be had. The cutscene style was also really well-executed and made scenes feel much more vivid and dynamic than I’m used to in RPG Maker games. The gameplay, too, is honestly one of the best and most elegant RPG battle systems I’ve ever seen. It has a lot of rough patches (an engine goof apparently led to enemy defense being completely useless, completely wrecking the balance of weak speedsters vs. big hitters) but also provides a lot of fresh new ideas and produced some really snappy, enjoyable battles.

It’s also a great example of how to make a self-contained story while also providing an enticing sequel hook. As so often happens the promised sequel went up in smoke, but unlike SOME GAMES I don’t mind, because the main conflict and mysteries are adequately resolved and I don’t feel like I need to know the answers to the remaining threads for emotional satisfaction.

In general, I recommend this to aspiring game devs in particular — while it’s not the greatest at everything, it forwards a lot of clever and original ideas I’d love to see gain wider use.

(This is also a remake of an earlier game, just titled “Alter A.I.L.A.”, that contains the same characters and similar plot elements but is ultimately very different. If you liked Genesis and have time to spare I’d say it’s worth checking out for its alternate take on several characters, though I would say it’s a less enjoyable experience overall.)

A Nightmare in Sunnydale

Buffy the Vampire Slayer fangame! The game interprets the opening of the worlds in the season 5 finale as creating a hodge-podge dimension of characters and locations from other works, resulting in a massive crossover world. Unfortunately, I am culturally illiterate and Buffy was the only one I was familiar with. The opening involves a hotshot demon hunter dude trying to protect her from demons only to get oneshotted while she beats them herself, which amused me and was delightfully in keeping with canon. Unfortunately, Buffy gets outclassed by everyone else pretty quickly. I can understand the necessity of flattening the power levels for an RPG cast, and it’s stated that the purgatory world is giving people additional magic powers, but it’s still rather annoying that Buffy isn’t that special gameplay-wise. At first I thought she was meant to have a unique weapon type that was superior in some way… except there’s another party member who can use more weapon types than her including her specialty weapon, and her specialty weapon kinda sucks anyway, having a lot of skills with random targeting and high health costs.

Despite that, I did find the Buffy characters to be very in-character, and Buffy has the same degree of proactiveness I liked about her from canon. Cordelia also shows up and is basically the best party member, which is awesome.



My experience with this game can be pretty aptly summed up as “pleasantly surprised”. The game’s official description implies it to be a tedious 2edgy4me thing about how God is evil and high school students need to use the power of SATAN to beat him!!! What I actually found was a surprisingly well-done story about mental illness and self-actualization. The tone of the overall plot is still extremely tongue-in-cheek, but when real issues come up it addresses them with astounding sensitivity and depth. The characters initially appear to be one-dimensional archetypes, but they are eventually revealed to come from places of deep pain and trauma, and their loyalty to one another is truly genuine and inspiring.


Mownt: For Peace

In Mownt: For Peace you guide an insect-like creature through multiple lives in a quest for peace. Despite the interesting premise, I found the game unremarkable. The gameplay is utterly meaningless; you can outheal almost every enemy, so battles are a foregone conclusion. The story is actually pretty linear; it’s clear you’re expected to do the endings in a specific order, and the game doesn’t even try to hide this fact. After a while, they get very predictable; the PC is never allowed to find peace, and the plot creates increasingly contrived diabolus ex machina to railroad you onto the next ending.

(Spoilers within, might want to play the game yourself first. It’s very short and can be finished in 1-2 hours.)


Soma Spirits and the Golden Mean Fallacy

Soma Spirits is a neat little RPG about philosophy and choices you should check out. The premise is that, after the world erupted into war, the gods split the world into two spiritual planes: the World of Joy, where everyone is always happy, and the World of Sorrow, which lacks the unchecked emotion that led to the war. This worked pretty well for a while, but now the worlds are becoming unstable and There Can Be Only One. Each god obviously wants their own world to dominate, and you are led through five scenarios where you must solve a dilemma by either curbing unbridled joy or alleviating sorrow. Generally, this comes down to a choice between personal happiness and societal responsibility. I am all about that stuff.

Unfortunately, the conclusion leaves a lot to be desired. The warning signs become obvious the moment you learn there is a true ending. Though the game’s description claims that “you may find that the choices made in Soma Spirits are not so black and white. Every major choice made will have some impact on the story, and there are rarely any ‘correct’ solutions”, there is objectively one correct choice: make a perfectly even number of Joy and Sorrow decisions to create a fully balanced world. Deviate from this at all, and the game makes sure to inform you that you are crazy, stupid, and/or evil. As much as the game loves to tout that every individual decision has logical merit, it doesn’t extend the same tolerance to aggregate decisions.


Pokemon RMN

My brother told me to play this, possibly in revenge for all the weird games I’ve made him play.

You know that fanfic that newbie barely teenage boys have, the one with the new region and new pokemon but this time it’s got ALCOHOL and SEX REFERENCES and ZANY unlike those squares at Nintendo? It’s that. Like, beat by beat. If that’s you? Well, you’ll love this.