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Libby and the Pulsating Review

  • Liberty
  • 07/07/2016 02:36 PM
  • 5363 views
Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is a game that I've been keeping an eye on since it came through the Submission Queue last year. I've enjoyed the blogs and images shown thus far and so, when a demo was uploaded, I was fast to press that there download button and give it a try.

How does the demo fare? Let's see.

Presentation
Graphically the game is a treat. As far as I could tell, everything was custom and it all fit together very well. There were some really nice animation touches through-out - from the small poses of the characters to the battle animations. Each of them were infused with charm and care and you could tell that a lot of love and attention has gone into creating a game that looks unique despite adhering to the simplistic style that some would call Earthbound-esque.


Uncle SnorlaxLars, blocking the way since 199?.


That said, the game reminded me a bit more of Lisa the Painful than Earthbound, probably due to the more mature and darker touches found here and there. I honestly found the style very appealing and the small things that make you wonder if there's a more psychological side to the story (such as the police-tape in Jimmy's room) really helps enhance the light-hearted atmosphere.

Also, there's something about your uncle Lars blocking the way across the bridge like a Snorlax that really appeals to me.

Mapping was quite well done, though there were some small confusing areas in some dungeons that made it annoying to look around (I'll get into that a bit more in the gameplay area of this review). The maps looked great, though, and they served their purposes. They were charming and cute and the use of landmarks in larger maps were useful for telling where you were.

Writing was charming and quaint, though there were some more mature undertones (and overtones) that added to a feeling of bizarre going-ons. Technically, the writing was very solid. There weren't any spelling errors that I found, and the font used was clear but cute, lending a fanciful air to the writing itself.

The descriptions of Jimmy's imagination were a little odd but interesting, sometimes going a little dark but still falling into the realms of possible - never straying too far to make them feel awkward coming from a child. It was interesting to see them as they're the only real characterisation that Jimmy actually gets.

Characterisation was a mix. There was a bit for certain characters, but not much for those you'd think would have more. There were some cases when I thought Jimmy's older brother would have some sort of reaction to what was happening but didn't, which felt a bit jarring considering his personality seemed to be the type to butt in during certain events. Especially since Jimmy himself has nothing to say about anything.

The lack of characterisation on the part of Jimmy (outside of his imagination pieces) was a bummer as he's set up to be an interesting character and it is indicated that he has made friends with others who do try to interact with him. It comes off as a little jarring as they just talk to the blank wall that is Jimmy. I understand that the idea was for a blank slate for the characters to bounce off, but even some sort of reaction or two would have been nice to see, even if it were just a pose or action of some kind.


Punks ain't gonna follow society's rules.


The rest of the cast, though, are quite interesting and some of them rather zany. It's a world of animals, humans and crazy people and the game pulls off charming and quirky quite well.

Sound is, I think, custom. Due to the way I play games I tend to have the sound down quite a bit, so unfortunately if there were any special sounds, they got lost under the music.

Music was fitting. Some tunes were a little ear-wormy, which isn't a bad thing at all, especially if you hear a lot of them, and they fit into their respective areas quite well. I especially liked the forest song.

Play
Interaction with the world was pretty standard for the most part - you walked around, interacted with people and items and explored around. There was, however, some different interaction presented with the access to transformations.

Jimmy, once he'd beaten a particular type of monster (usually a boss of some kind) would learn how to transform into that creature and then be able to use on-map skills for it. For example, the slime has the ability to move through small gaps whilst the thug has the ability to shake certain items.


There's a 1 in 3 chance of a slime, punk or little kid being behind that cloud. Place your bets!


These are likely going to be useful for puzzles in the full version of the game, though in the demo I didn't find much use for them bar one or two things. Their real utilisation came in battle.

One thing that is offered is the chance to ignore battles that were against monsters that were lower level to you. To do this you'd press the cancel button when a green exclamation point showed up. If you instead pressed the confirm button, you'd be essentially saying 'yes' to the battle and go into it as though you'd left it alone.

Red exclamation points would show up if a battle was about to begin that was unskippable, but there was no way to get rid of them - it was just to warn you that a battle was about to begin. (Though I found climbing a ladder/vine would skip the battles.)

Battles were pretty basic affairs. You had use of normal attacks, skills and items. Skills were based by what creature you currently were (you could pretty much call them classes, really), whilst attack was based on physically attacking with whichever weapon you have equipped at that time.


I feel like I'm in an old-time comic book... and it's glorious!


Skills were learned via battling and gaining special experience for each 'class'. Each creature you turned into had specific skills they'd learn as you levelled them up. For example, if you got to level 5 as the slime you could then equip that spell and have access to it if you were transformed into either a thug or Jimmy - normally you wouldn't have access to those skills outside of the specific 'class'.

It added a neat touch to the game, but I did wonder if I was ever going to unlock any of the skills with the way I kept bouncing back and forth between the different classes.

There were also manuals you could find that could be equipped to learn specific skills, though Jimmy wasn't able to equip any (possibly because he wasn't that good at reading). These were only available for as long as that particular item was equipped.

Bugs weren't really a big deal, though I did accidentally run into one during the forest area with the brick wall. I'd just turned into the slime and was halfway through the wall when I cancelled a battle. For some reason this caused my sprite to disappear completely and make my move speed a lot slower than normal. I did manage to fix it by teleporting back home and going inside, but even changing between slime and Jimmy didn't work, nor going in and out of the world map or using the menu. Something to keep an eye out for!


Preference
Most of what I played of the game was really enjoyable. There's a lot of charm and effort that has gone into it and the small touches are really neat to see - whether they be small shout-outs or poses, they worked really well. I also really liked the custom animations for battle. I thought they were super well done and loved them to bits.

There were a few issues, however. Later in the demo enemies became a lot harder and with the sparsity of items to find, it became a bit of a ball-ache to get through certain areas. I started running from some battles because I just didn't want to deal with them.


I just want to give some balloons to the crazy laughing frog. Is that so much to ask?


While I appreciated the option to skip lower-level battles, it seemed that a lot of the time the monsters that I could skip were the same ones that I couldn't skip, leading to a feeling of "Why bother?" In fact, I didn't really like the red warning for battles as it just put me on edge waiting for the inevitable unskippable battle. It made me even more aware that a battle was incoming, that I could do nothing about it, and it just ended up annoying me.

Just as much as that, I'd much prefer to just have had the skippable battles gone automatically. There was no real reason to have the option to skip them because there wasn't really a reason to NOT skip them. You weren't grinding for gold and experience because the amounts they would give weren't worth the time. There weren't drops worth farming from them, so they just felt like a slap in the face if you were too slow to cancel them - especially if you tried to cancel them and hit the wrong button.

Perhaps it would be better to just have the confirm button set as the default cancel instead - because if you want to fight them, you just have to wait a few seconds, but hitting the confirm button is second nature in RM games so more likely than not, when wanting to skip, I'd hit the confirm instead of cancel. It got a bit tedious. And annoying.

Maybe it'd be worth it to have the option for skipping in if you got something for the bother - a quick idea would be to do as Earthbound does and award you the money and experience you would have gotten from the battle anyway. At least that way it would feel like the option serves a purpose.


This crazy laughing frog. He wants the balloons. Lemme give him the balloons. ;.;


Summary
Overall Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is shaping up to be a pretty good game. There's one or two design choices/bugs that could be looked in to in order to make it a little less onerous and flow a bit better, but all up it's a very solid, enjoyable little showcase. Good job!

I don't give official scores to reviews of demos, but if I did I'd give this a solid 4 stars - Good.


4/5 slimes agree this game is good

Posts

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Basically, I agree with this.

When you say "Forest", you mean Cloudy Hill, right?

Later in the demo enemies became a lot harder and with the sparsity of items to find, it became a bit of a ball-ache to get through certain areas.

Where? The Wilted Lands, I'd guess? Or Giant Garden?? If you're talking about Skitterbones, they have Weird Bones to steal to take them out immediately. You can steal Macks from Turtle Stacks to knock them down, but I don't know if EXP and $ drops change from that... It shouldn't? ... WAIT. Skitterbones are the animated skeletons of Skitters?! ... So obvious... *facepalm*

Hmm... Perhaps that should have been said by Info Guy, like "Some enemies have special items you can Grift for certain effects."

While I appreciated the option to skip lower-level battles, it seemed that a lot of the time the monsters that I could skip were the same ones that I couldn't skip, leading to a feeling of "Why bother?" In fact, I didn't really like the red warning for battles as it just put me on edge waiting for the inevitable unskippable battle. It made me even more aware that a battle was incoming, that I could do nothing about it, and it just ended up annoying me.

Just as much as that, I'd much prefer to just have had the skippable battles gone automatically. There was no real reason to have the option to skip them because there wasn't really a reason to NOT skip them. You weren't grinding for gold and experience because the amounts they would give weren't worth the time. There weren't drops worth farming from them, so they just felt like a slap in the face if you were too slow to cancel them - especially if you tried to cancel them and hit the wrong button.

Perhaps it would be better to just have the confirm button set as the default cancel instead - because if you want to fight them, you just have to wait a few seconds, but hitting the confirm button is second nature in RM games so more likely than not, when wanting to skip, I'd hit the confirm instead of cancel. It got a bit tedious. And annoying.

Maybe some encounter limiting mechanic, like Weird And Unfortunate Things Are Happening or remove the enemy attractor from Blob and give that to everyone or something, and have Blob allow selection of what mob to get? 'Cause if you want to train a Form, you have to use Blob to call them in, then transform in-battle, which is in-effect the same as just calling them from the field as the form you want to train. And it uses up Transform for 2 turns, which is the difference between defeating a Rad Ghost, and not.

Maybe it'd be worth it to have the option for skipping in if you got something for the bother - a quick idea would be to do as Earthbound does and award you the money and experience you would have gotten from the battle anyway. At least that way it would feel like the option serves a purpose.

Really liking this idea!

... No talk on the Clubhouse? Music Disks? Bank? Shake chats? ... Did you find Slither? The adult fun times?

I did mean Cloudy Hill, yeah.

Giant Garden was getting difficult in the caves and it increased a bit from there. I even died a few times due to those stupid grim reapers mowing me down. >.<; Didn't help that my healing went last so I was dead by the time I needed it. Adding some speed enhancement to them would be a good idea.

Grifting... didn't really work that often for me. Maybe I was having bad luck all the time, but I rarely managed to steal anything. For something that takes a turn to use, I weighed the odds towards dealing actual 100% damage than possible maybe getting something. If you're going to have stealing, at least make it worth taking the chance for. 15% for an item is kinda like... why bother?


I did mention you could shake things, and I meant to mention the music discs. I also mentioned that there were some mature writing in the game - the adult fun times was included in that.

I didn't mention Slither or the Clubhouse because I find it a good idea to leave some stuff for the players to be surprised by. I prefer not to mention everything in a review (especially for a demo) or people wouldn't have the joy of finding new things! ;p
author=Liberty
Grifting... didn't really work that often for me. Maybe I was having bad luck all the time, but I rarely managed to steal anything. For something that takes a turn to use, I weighed the odds towards dealing actual 100% damage than possible maybe getting something. If you're going to have stealing, at least make it worth taking the chance for. 15% for an item is kinda like... why bother?


Weird Bones and Macks have chances of like, > 70% - 80% when you meet them. It's only the furniture that has such low chances.
No, monsters in the Giant Garden had that issue and I didn't bother with Grift after that. :shrug:
author=Liberty
No, monsters in the Giant Garden had that issue and I didn't bother with Grift after that. :shrug:

Yeah, I thought so.

EDIT:

author=Liberty
I didn't mention Slither or the Clubhouse because I find it a good idea to leave some stuff for the players to be surprised by. I prefer not to mention everything in a review (especially for a demo) or people wouldn't have the joy of finding new things! ;p

Yeah, but then it's not a full review of the demo...? Perhaps Hide stuff you want people to find out for themselves?
And? It's the not player's problem that their introduction to grifting shows such low chances for success and thus makes them choose to ignore it as a tool. If the items you could steal when you first get the tool had a higher rate of success it would give more of a reason to steal stuff, but instead you're discouraged to bother from the get-go, so instead focus on attacking.

Part of that could be combated if there were hints about stealing stuff being useful for ending battles faster. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Honestly, I don't see why it's not set at 100% or near-to for every item anyway. You're wasting a turn in battle to do something that does no damage, thus depleting your chances of finishing the battle faster (or at all). It's a waste of time, really. Even if I knew it was a thing, I wouldn't have bothered because it's easier to just beat on the enemy for 2-3 turns than to hope for success in stealing (where, if you do fail, it will take an extra 1-2 turns to deal enough damage to defeat the monster).


Edit:
If you want to write about them, you write a review. I touched on what I wanted to talk about in my review and part of that wasn't Slither or the Clubhouse. Who said I had to cover every bloody aspect of the demo in any case? I could just write a basic over-view about everything and it would still count as a review.


Here, my alternate review, where-in I don't go into details:

Graphics were solid and really neat. I liked the style used and really enjoyed the bright colours, especially in contrast to some of the darker undertones of the story. There were some mature aspects to said story, including the mention of sexual situations, but they were done in a quirky, silly manner so as not to offend the player.

Gameplay was solid. Battles played out well with the use of skills that could be changed depending on which 'class' you played, and you could switch classes both in and out of battle, changing your skillset on the fly. The battles were well balanced, though they did get a bit harder as the game went along and the lack of items and money at some points did lead to inevitable game overs, which was a pity.

The on-map gameplay made use of the classes by allowing for using skills tied to those classes (which were unlocked by defeating bosses and Jimmy empathising with them, thus taking on their characteristics). The demo didn't really feature much of this additional gameplay, however, beyond allowing some shaking and squeezing through holes. It'll be interesting to see these used more in the full game.

The writing was very solid though the characterisation could use some work, especially when it came to Jimmy himself, who is a blank wall that some of the other zanier characters bounce off. Sadly, there were some times when you'd expect at least Jimmy's brother to interject with something, as per his nature, but he didn't. This came off as a little jarring and weird, but for the most part this area was really well done.

There were also a few small bugs in the game - one part where I got stuck in an invisible, slow-walking body when simultaneously squeezing through a wall and cancelling a battle.

Overall, the demo was a nice taste of what is to come. It has some short-comings but it was a fun time. Good job.



Because I can and it would still go through as a good review.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
18937
I haven't been following this game very closely, but, I'm somewhat surprised by the use of a Wild Arms-style of encounter-cancel system. Though, with Wild Arms, if an encounter is unavoidable, the exclamation is on-screen for a brief second before going into combat. I don't know how long the red exclamation lasts in this game, but, given the text of this review, it might be a consideration to apply that philosophy.
author=Liberty
And?


Nothing. I'm just saying that's what I thought happened.

author=Liberty
Honestly, I don't see why it's not set at 100% or near-to for every item anyway. You're wasting a turn in battle to do something that does no damage, thus depleting your chances of finishing the battle faster (or at all). It's a waste of time, really. Even if I knew it was a thing, I wouldn't have bothered because it's easier to just beat on the enemy for 2-3 turns than to hope for success in stealing (where, if you do fail, it will take an extra 1-2 turns to deal enough damage to defeat the monster).


It's offering a choice and a risk, even if you don't take that risk, doesn't mean other people won't as well. Personally, I went for the Grifting, even at low chances, just to get that stuff which I assumed would prove useful later, as it had stat boosts associated with it. And as it was part of a set, the ability to complete the set faster, seemed worth it to me. ... Also, I was bolstered by having my first ever attempt, on the Skitter Doll, succeed? At least, I think I succeeded on my first try?

Also, I assumed that if I waited too long, I'd forget about it, so I grabbed it at first opportunity?

I wonder... Does slowing down the enemy, or putting them to sleep, making theft easier? ... Is it solely based on Luck? ... Well, yes. The Rad Shoes proves that, doesn't it? But if it were dependent on both Agility and Luck, and possibly status effects, like real life... Hmm...
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
18937
It might be possible to alter the chances of stealing based on whither or not certain statuses are applied. It depends on how, exactly, the chances are calculated as-is. Although, by including the possibility to apply a status to improve stealing chances, you're asking players two use two turns to steal a thing. Even if the chances become 100% after the status is applied, is that worth it to players versus an attack, or healing, action for those two turns?
Nope. Not worth it in my book. I live for fast battles - kill or be killed. So a battle that takes over 2-3 turns is a turn-off for me. I'll still play the game its in but I'll look for a way to kill shit fast as I can. Just my preferred mode of play. I'm here for the cuteness and exploration, not the battles.
author=Liberty
If you want to write about them, you write a review. I touched on what I wanted to talk about in my review and part of that wasn't Slither or the Clubhouse. Who said I had to cover every bloody aspect of the demo in any case? I could just write a basic over-view about everything and it would still count as a review.

Well, in this case, it appears to me that you're going in-depth, and trying to cover everything, and deliberately not talking about the Clubhouse and Slither seems... Which makes the game seem worse, somehow? Like, if someone could have been drawn in by the interior design aspects, or the presence of sidequests or hidden areas, instead of a totally linear path, you've turned them off the game by not talking about all of it?

And the fact that this game is going Commercial... Means that your reviews have an impact on people's bottom lines? ... There's more to say there, but I don't know what it is, right now...

author=Marrend
It might be possible to alter the chances of stealing based on whither or not certain statuses are applied. It depends on how, exactly, the chances are calculated as-is. Although, by including the possibility to apply a status to improve stealing chances, you're asking players two use two turns to steal a thing. Even if the chances become 100% after the status is applied, is that worth it to players versus an attack, or healing, action for those two turns?

Well, in the two examples we have, it's extremely likely that you'll take out a Skitterbones faster by stealing than attacking, unless somehow you can OHK a Skitterbones at a higher chance than if you stole from it.

And stealing a Mack gives you two more enemies, but they're also incapacitated for at least one turn.
They don't know it's there to miss so how have I turned them off the game? Fucking hell.

Oh, so if you miss taking the item (which is, what? 70% you said) that's faster than wailing on it full strength for two turns? I think not.

author=Liberty
They don't know it's there to miss so how have I turned them off the game? Fucking hell.


No...? I mean, like, if they only play games that aren't totally linear, then you've turned them off by not talking about the bonus areas, and you've made it seem like the plot is a linear NoSidepaths, NoExploration, NoFreedom? ... That's a bit extreme though.

author=Liberty
Oh, so if you miss taking the item (which is, what? 70% you said) that's faster than full strength for two turns? I think not.


Wait. What???

author=Malandy
author=Liberty
If you're going to have stealing, at least make it worth taking the chance for. 15% for an item is kinda like... why bother?
Weird Bones and Macks have chances of like, > 70% - 80% when you meet them. It's only the furniture that has such low chances.


Uhh... How is this saying that > 70% - 80% is the chance to fail at Grifting for Macks and Weird Bones???
There's still 30-20% chance to fail. That is what I was saying. There's a chance to fail - if you fail you have to either try again (with possible failure) OR extend your battle by an extra turn. OR you could just whack 'em from the start and get it done sooner without worrying about possible misses.

I'll take the sure-fire way, thanks.

Again, you can just write your own review talking about all the things you can do if you feel mine is missing shit. That is an option you can do instead of pestering me to do something that I'm not going to do because fuck it, I spent enough time typing this review up (two reviews really) and it has a natural flow and progression that I am not going to break just because you feel like I'm missing shit.

God, this isn't even your game, why are you in such a fit over it? Shoo.
Thanks for the review, Libby! You've made a good point about putting in a stealable thing at a higher rate earlier. Basically, the item that you skipped was a clubhouse item that you could only get one of, and that's the only enemy type in the game that gives that. There are lots of ways to boost your luck (which increases steal rate) and your base steal rate in the game, so I kept Skitter's steal chance low as incentive to revisit the area for completionists (or for players who stick it out early to get a stat boost). But, yeah, that might deincentivize people from attempting grift on later mobs. You don't HAVE to use those strategies, but they're definitely factored into the battle design in a lot of instances.
...I tried to steal from a turtle. Not skitter. 15% chance.
What?! The turtle stack has a 90% base steal chance, and individual turtles don't have items. Do you happen to remember the item you were trying to steal? Has anyone else run into this?
Oh, it was skitter. I thought I'd targetted the turtle since it was the first one in the row, but apparently I hadn't. That in itself is weird.
I don't think that should happen either; Skitter is always further left when he's in a troop with a turtle.

Oh, also: thanks for finding that glitch with the wall. That was a dumb thing for me to miss, but it's an easy fix.
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