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Review: Unknown Game 5002
You’ve probably never played a klik game quite like Jonny RPG before. This is because, despite what else can be said about it, it is unique, individual and above all strangely fulfilling to play. It’s as much a voyage into the mind of its creator as it is a game, as much a piece of modern art as a piece of entertainment.
The mere premise of an “autobiographical game” may invite accusations of egotism (it certainly did from me), and to a certain extent, this is true – as evidenced in the title and main character’s sprite of the game. But this is all superficial - when you get into the game, it becomes quickly apparent that it is much more about Smeby’s sheer imagination and vision than it is his life.
Despite this, some dangerous and dysfunctional design choices have been made. The first level has been deliberately designed (sayeth Smeby himself) to be as annoying as possible. A good idea? Well, no, not in my opinion. Maybe it contributes to the idiosyncratic nature of the game, but it’s certainly not a welcome contribution by any means. Other minigames that must be completed during the game are similarly irritating - the GTA clone where you can’t reverse, for example, or the cycling level with questionable physics acting on the bike.
This aside, it’s refreshing to be able to say that the main component of Jonny RPG’s gameplay is fairly varied, amusing and challenging. It’s hardly an RPG at all, more an action game with some elements of talking to various NPCs. ‘Action’ basically constitutes running around swiping at enemies with a basic attack, then backing away, and repeating until they die. Bosses are also disposed of in a similar way, but all require slightly different combinations of attacking and dodging to be felled sufficiently. Action sequences are punctuated by an amount of exploration – but not so much that it gets tedious or repetitive. In this respect, at least, it feels like the right balance has been struck.
The tone of the game is light-hearted and funny, with a constant undercurrent of self-aware humour that makes the game unique in this regard. Several jokes made me crack a smile or snigger a little, but that’s as funny as it gets. There’s also plenty of parody from both within the Klik world and outside it – you’ll play a spoof of Operation Sitting Duck, shoot the Smidgets from Smidgets X, and watch a flash animation not too far removed from Homestar Runner. There’s also the opportunity to visit The Daily Pub, where you’ll see all the sprites people drew for the game in TDC’s forums. It’s community involvement engineered to hype the game up, but the end result is pleasing nonetheless.
Jonny RPG is very easy on the eyes – as we all know by now, Smeby is an excellent cartoonist, and this shines through in the sprites and backgrounds of the game. The colours are soft and well chosen, and the majority of the animations are well done. Presentation is also pseudo-professional with functional menus, flash movies and pre-rendered AVIs immersing you a bit further in the experience. The game is generally well coded – for a while I feared saving lest all the accomplishments I’d made were wiped by sloppy coding, but these fears were quickly laid to rest. Some areas, like the collision detection and areas where you sometimes get stuck (particularly in the final levels) also leave something to be desired. Musically, the midis are well chosen and don’t get annoying, but there’s nothing outstanding here – certainly not compared to other heavyweights like The Spirit Engine.
Jonny RPG is set to have you amused for a fair time if you approach it with the right frame of mind. Accepting the humour and randomness that drives the game’s transitions is a key part of this process, and tolerating the more irritating parts will also help. Still, despite the inevitable flaws, Jonny RPG is a game that is immaculately well presented and, in most parts, fun to play. A recommended download.
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