By Kieron Gillen on September 17th, 2008 at 12:58 am.
Andrew Smee asks us why we haven’t written anything about Mighty Jill Off. Because I hadn’t got around to playing it, Mr Smee. Like, obv. But I sorted that out this afternoon, and by doing so managed to make myself late for popping into Introversion’s office to see Multiwinia. You can take that as a recommendation, I suspect. Mighty Jill Off is the S&M themed Bomb Jack remix from the Gamer Quarter’s associate editor, general games theorist and the S-in-the-S&M, Ancil Anthropy. Or, at least, on the latter, I have to presume so.
Because it strikes me that the game is a fairly interesting examination of the master/slave relationship, with her in the domme position. Yeah, I’m reaching into art wank, which is part of the point. I’ll get around to justifications eventually.
This is a hyper pure platform game. The character’s movements are lifted entirely from Bomb Jack – high jumps plus a hammering the button to hover and thus zip around – and inserted into an upward scrolling platform game, which reminds me of Rainbow Islands, though I suspect that’s probably just because of the directional sense of play and that there’s always seemed to be a sex-based subtext to Rainbow Islands. The plot revolves around Jill Off and her mistress, with Jill trying to earn the right to lick her boots. What’s in her way is a series of regimented, artfully constructed progressive platforming puzzles which tend towards the punishing. Infinite lives, but a single mistake and you’re lobbed back to the part of the problem.
The point being obvious: we often say – primarily as an insult – that to like a certain game you have to be masochistic. Mighty Jill Off notes that’s true of any of these old-skool games, and that striving to complete something for no other reason than your master has told you to do is deeply ingrained in gaming’s core genes. In other words, the characters in the games are all masochists and we are too.
But there’s more to it than the obvious gag (And, yeah, about forty cheap jokes come to mind when I mention the word “gag”). It’s not a game which is about games as pain in a simple dumb sense. There’s been dozens of “impossible” highly punishing games – they’re not very interesting. Hell, there’s many commercial games which are far more punishing than what Mighty Jill Off asks you to overcome – but the point isn’t about just that “games players are masochists”. It’s that “games designers are sadists”, in the sense of a Master/Slave relationship. In that, it’s a question of trying to punish your slave in a way which makes it a relationship. True sadism would just involve offing the little shit. The point is to make them suffer in a way which they can endure and – by tickling those desires – enjoy. And equally, because of the way you’re wired, you enjoy doing. It’s a reciprocal relationship, and totally necessary for games of this sort to work.
That’s my take anyway. It’s also a slick little indie platformer, and terribly cute in a – to quote artist-friend Laurenn McCubbin - “Disney’s “The Story of O”, with like, singing birds and shit” manner. Get it from here.