Quickie Review: Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass (Demo)

Developed by Kasey Ozymy

Genre: RPG

Title

An RPG Maker game that borrows heavily from the Mother series (known in the west as the “Earthbound” series), [Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass] follows the adventures of Jimmy, a precocious and kind 8-year-old boy who’s running an errand for his doting mother Helga with the help of his jerk-with-a-heart-of-gold older brother, Buck. What begins as a simple task quickly spirals into a series of errand quests: you can’t get the honey you need for your mother to make a cake for you until you settle the hash of the thugs who are harassing the sentient bees who make the honey (and, for some reason, have an all-encompassing grudge against you, to reiterate, an 8-year-old boy). Besides the quirky, sometimes all-too-believable characters (Jimmy’s tenderhearted slacker uncle Lars and his science-minded geeky father, Andrew) and the innocent ambience of the world, the main drawing factor of the game is the special ability of our hero: empathy. After subduing a boss, Jimmy will have a short moment where he’ll imagine himself as the felled enemy; he’ll live a few minutes of their life before gaining the ability to transform into said enemy. Each transformation gifts Jimmy with that enemy’s skills, be it the ability to squeeze his gelatinous form through a small hole, or to shake objects and people. Regardless of the form he takes, though, it should be noted that people who already know him are still able to recognize him, putting into question whether his altered forms are figments of our imagination or are actually occurring.

The music for each area ranges from playful to unsettling, and is every bit unique, while conveying a feeling of fresh and new exploration; a feeling of a wide-eyed child exploring the world on their own. The track used for the first “dungeon” (a forest, of sorts, with cloud platforms) is adorable, and possesses a sound-effect I found interesting when I first noticed it: right as the track was about to loop, the sound of something being wound and a person sighing in relief can be heard, as if someone had to rewind a music box before the song ended. Little details like that made me just stop and listen to the music on several loops. The funky track used for battles made me think more of “Toejam and Earl” than of Mother, but the oddly misshapen and just plain weird enemies is a clear reference to the multitude of weirdos you take on in Mother 2. The overall visuals of the game fit the tone and are quite clearly made as a homage to the series, though some of the enemies are lacking in a bit of polish (the bee enemies, for instance), and at times, it’s difficult to determine what you’re looking at (apparently, the shopkeeper is supposed to be a bird, despite looking very much like a mole). Also, for being a game that is, for the most part, cutesy in its artwork, there are little moments that break away from it (such as Information Guy’s gory deaths or the pulsating logo on the start screen). There are frequent mood changes that occur, making it seem like this game is more of a direct Mother clone than its own unique project.

The battle system bears very few differences from the Mother series, even going so far as including the “skip battle” mechanic (although, Mother 2 seems to do it a bit better: at least there, you still earned EXP when you throttled a weaker enemy outside of battle, a detail missing from “Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass”). Battles are in sore need of tweaking: it always felt like I was slower than the enemy, even when I overpowered them, and my characters felt slow to level up. Despite the endless amount of praise that can be heaped onto its audio and visual elements, the meat of the game (the random battles) are tedious and not fun. The amount of level grinding necessary to not die to random encounters makes enjoying the story a little hard, but it is a demo, so there’s still time to fix this. All in all, “Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass” is (barring the random battles) a thoroughly enjoyable RPG, and I look forward to playing the polished full version when it eventually comes out.

 

Pros:

  • Lovely soundtrack
  • Cute and quirky visuals
  • Empathy and imagination mechanics are interesting
  • The world is fascinating and the dialogue makes you want to know more
  • The characters are anything but boring

Cons:

  • Battles are tedious and un-fun (having to press the same key 6 times to attack one enemy got annoying quickly)
  • Most enemies are faster than you, even in the early game, so you’re constantly healing
  • Healing items go up in price in the third dungeon, but the money dropped by enemies doesn’t increase by much, so I had to backtrack to the previous village to stock up
  • Skipping battles with weaker foes doesn’t offer EXP (of any kind) or money, so you’re caught between sitting through tedious random battles for extra EXP and money or skipping the battle and risk leaving yourself too weak for battles you can’t skip
  • Some of the enemy designs seem lazy or too obviously done by a different artist
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