PEGBRJE: Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass and Task Force Kampas

They have cute little hates, and they love me but also can’t talk to me and I’m sad.

Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass, besides being one of the most uncomfortable sentences to say out loud, is an adventure with RPG-lite elements by Kasey Ozymy under the pseudonym Housekeeping games on itch.io. Players load in as Jimmy, the young protagonist who starts the game resting on his mother’s lap before walking through the clouds to get home. What unfolds afterwards is a bizarre journey of growing up, exploration of a world that may or may not be real, and the superpower of empathy.

JPM, as I’m going to call it since so many titles like length right now, is a title to fill the void created by Undertale. A quaint title that follows a small child exploring a dangerous world where they have powers of empathy and accompanied by an older brother who’s power is bullying? These powers do manifest into actual RPG stat-based powers, with Jimmy’s ability to empathize allowing him to take on the form of other bosses that he beats. This then gives Jimmy the ability to use their powers in other fights, or their unique ability such as the punk’s bullying and shaking ability in the world. JPM draws a lot of influence back to Undertale’s predecessor in Earthbound, where all three contain randomized encounters while in regions and enter a turn based combat with some interesting flavour moves that aren’t always attacks. The dog might preen, or the sunflower might dance, but it’s all in good fun according to them.

It’s hard to separate Undertale and JPM from comparison due to the similar approach in story telling, yet JPM leans more into its themes of exploration and the surreal viewpoint of a child. The world Jimmy is in is a dream, explaining the existence of talking bees, but his own viewpoint does cause some speculation on how much is a dream or his imagination. Jimmy explains and narrates like any child would, in short sentences and absolutes, causing the world to feel as real to us as it is to him. He wants to explore and find his friends, help others, and be praised for doing a good job so he does just that. The enemies he encounters are caricatures of real world objects, like fighting the clouds that startle him because of thunder. His parents are the ideal couple, loving and sincere to themselves and Jimmy, and his brothers are weird and bullies but will help him regardless. Messes are monsters to slay, and the darkness is an evil that cannot be spoken. So when an alien entity arrives to threaten the entire dream world, there’s more than a few speculations as to what this alien ‘pulsating mass’ could be. What could threaten the mind and dreamstate of a child? I’ll leave that to your own imagination.

Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is a narrative experience within a retro JRPG spin that on the surface looks a lot like Undertale, but can carry its own tune throughout the adventures of a child’s dream world. If you are looking for a tale that winds and bends the world to the imagination of a child, try out Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass. Saying the name alone will get you in the mood, trust me.

PEWPEWPEW- Wait, I’ve already done this joke? Darn.

Task Force Kampas is a retro bullet-hell space shooter by c a s i o p e a (stylized as such), a quad-indie squad in Spain. You select a squad fighter from a plethora of different triangle ships, each with their own special ability such as more health, different spray pattern, or looks way cooler than the rest. From there, you enter the subsequent bullet hell of pixelated space, where eyeballs and eyeball ships shoot at you while asteroids containing adorable T-Rex’s fly past with the hopes of being saved. Completing a run rewards the ship with two options: either more health for the ship, or more damage. Then the hell continues.

If you were hoping for more detail or depth, this is not the game. If you are looking for a simple yet refined arcade space shooter that strips out the bloat and keeps the fun, that’s where Task Force Kampas shines. In many other space bullet shooters, the need for new power ups and constant upgrades is obvious as the mechanics have been done for years and need a little more spice and excitement. However, this in turn creates more visual cues lost in the noise of the subsequent bullet hell, and adds a sense of randomness to every attempt. In the arcade days, this would make sense since they were trying to get you to lose. Nowadays, you’ve technically already fulfilled that ‘lose’ condition by purchasing the game, so developers don’t really need that sense of design. TFK wants to keep things simple, and decided that removing a lot of the unnecessary powerups and rng mechanics was the first step in returning to form, and they’ve done so. There are little in the way of pickups besides those previously mentioned cute T-Rex’s, instead opting for power spikes to be between levels — and even those are relatively the same every time.

The joy is in the shooting and survival, and Task Force Kampas wants you to remember that. Players can regenerate their own health by not shooting, giving players the difficult decision of whether or not they want to risk healing and having more enemies appear, or shooting and just going with the flow. Shields are generated after every instance of damage, giving players breathing room for the next few seconds to reposition, absorb some of those nasty bullets and shoot out a bunch of the enemies that are causing problems. It’s strengths are in the recognition of the simplicity, rather than in the upgrades and customization of the starships, and anyone who grew up playing arcade games will love this stripped down approach. Anyone wanting a game that’ll kill a few minutes, or a game that they believe will be short and ends up consuming their afternoon, pick up Task Force Kampas. It’s even available on the Switch if you want a game that you can spend hours in on the road or away from home.

PS. The soundtrack gets better the longer you play and I’m all for that style of reinforcement, even if it was unintentional.

Links below to both!

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Jacob Vorstenbosch

Jacob Vorstenbosch

Just a Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.