Whip It: Mighty Jill Off

By Kieron Gillen on September 17th, 2008 at 12:58 am.

To be honest, I'm more switch

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.

Did you want to know that? I suspect not.

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.

Assuming I'm telling the truth. ALT text would be a weird place to talk about sexual peccadilloes. OR WOULD IT?

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.

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58 Comments »

  1. Dracko says:

    And no one talks about the release of Chex Quest 3 here either.

    What happened to the love?

  2. Esha says:

    Chex Quest I can actually sort of understand, primarily because that wasn’t borne of indie development, but as a marketing experiment given away with American cereal. Since the people behind RPS are British, and most of the reader-base seem to be too, and just European in general, most won’t know what a Chex actually is. Unless they’re really informed about American cereal brands.

    So a post about that might be a little awkward. I imagine it would go something about this: Errr… we have this game we wanted to show you, but it was created to market cereal at you. American cereal. No, wait, come back! It’s not that bad. You won’t know any of the characters involved in the shooter, thus you’ll have no kind of nostalgic connection, but the shooter itself is sort of fun, if you like Doom remakes. It’s better than it sounds, honest!

    It’d be a hard pitch.

  3. Dracko says:

    True sadism would just involve offing the little shit.

    Well, hm, no. That would just be offing the little shit. Where’s the hurt and torture?

    Either way, it’s a good title and one that I enjoy replaying on occasion.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    And as if we’re ever up for Breakfast.

    And offing the little shit EVENTUALLY.

    I’ve read my DeSade.

    KG

  5. Dracko says:

    Esha: You can’t have played Doom and not at least know what Chex Quest is.

    Point is, after a dozen years of waiting, the final episode is out: http://chexquest.org/index.php?topic=918.0

  6. Esha says:

    @KG

    I cannot believe you made the DeSade reference.

    I’m going to have a certain Jack of all Trades episode stuck in my head all day, now.

    @Dracko

    When Doom was first released, it was back in the days of the BBS, when most people didn’t have the Internet. And the popularity of Doom waned before the Internet was big enough for people to care about in the UK. As I remember, the first big Internet game in the UK was Quake, and people were racking up huge phone-bills just to play it.

    Considering that Chex Quest is still primarily an American thing, I’m not sure how you can make that distinction. Sure, if you’re American and you’ve played Doom, then Chex Quest will seem subjectively like something that everyone’s going to know about. But I, myself, did not encounter it first until about 1999-2001 or thereabouts on The Underdogs. At which point my reaction was “Eh, they marketed a Doom mod?”, and that was that.

    So I still think that only Americans would really get what the Chex Quest thing is all about. I still don’t even really get what the Chex Quest thing is all about. I know it’s some kind of cereal, and kids go nuts over cereal… but by and large, I’m in the dark.

  7. Dracko says:

    Nota bene; I’m not an American.

    And I don’t recall this blog being UK-centric.

  8. Frymaster says:

    Esha: You can’t have played Doom and not at least know what Chex Quest is

    I’ve played Doom – hell I even bought the shareware – SHAREWARE – version of it in Virgin Megastores for 3 quid – but I’ve never even heard of it before now, let alone know what it is

  9. Noc says:

    Lesson we can learn from this game:

    If you’re trying to get across a subtext, make it a subtext, and make the game good.

    It’s such a shame the game crashes when I try and run it.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dracko: When we post it, I’m going to insert a poll asking people if they’re aware of it or not (And if so, how aware). I suspect it’ll make interesting reading.

    KG

  11. Dracko says:

    Noc: So you haven’t actually played it, then?

    And what on Earth do you mean? What’s inherently wrong with a cartoon BDSM setting, whether you intend it as a discussion of player/developer relationships or not?

  12. Noc says:

    Dracko, you took my point as the exact opposite of what I meant. Probably my fault, though.

    What I meant was that I’ve read about this game multiple times on several places throughout the internet. They tend to mention two things. One is the premise, and the other is the fact that it’s a very good example of pacing and difficulty balance/curving. Since the latter is usually the complaint I hear about other 2D platforming games, I’m concluding that the game is probably pretty good. But no, I haven’t played it. Because I can’t, because of the crashing.

    The subtext I mentioned is what Kieron was talking about in the article. I.E. the metaphor of “Gamers as Masochists.” And it IS a subtext. At least, as far as I’m aware, that direct comparison doesn’t ever come up with the game. The master/slave thing is a premise, and there’s a game in the middle, but the connection between the two is made on the player’s side.

    So this game has, for an indie little platformer, had a decent amount of exposure. Because people play it, like it, and pass it on. Then the Internet helps. It’s therefore managed to convey it’s subtext, successfully, to a respectable number of people.

    Compare this, then, to Issue Games, where the game is bringing up an issue and wrapping a sort of half-assed game around it. The goal of these sorts of games is to convey this idea to the player, but they don’t do it very successfully. I’m presenting Mighty Jill Off as an example of how to so such a thing more successfully. Because a) the game is good enough to stand on its own, and b) it’s subtext is presented tangentially, instead of directly whacking the player over the head with the “point.”

  13. Kieron Gillen says:

    Dracko: I think Noc’s doing the opposite of what you’re assuming he is. He’s taking the way I describe the game as true, and saying that’s the way to get a “message” into a game and saying it’s a shame it doesn’t work on his machine.

    EDIT: Too late.

    KG

  14. Robin says:

    The only fly in the ointment being that the game isn’t fun or interestingly crafted. After a couple of obnoxious restart points I reached for ESC. I guess I’d be a shit masochist.

    Is there an umbrella term for games like this, You Have To Burn The Rope, and that one with the-guy-getting-executed who-is-then-dead-permanently-oh-no-you-monster? Games whose primary purpose seems to be getting blogged about.

  15. Dracko says:

    WiiWare?

  16. Smee says:

    Lo, I am satisfied.

  17. Cedge says:

    “Games whose primary purpose seems to be getting blogged about.”

    This. The mind boggles at the pretentiousness.

  18. Dracko says:

    Where?

  19. James Harvey says:

    Sup Keiron

  20. daphny says:

    “he S-in-the-S&M, Ancil Anthropy. Or, at least, on the latter, I have to presume so.”

    YOUR PRESUMPTION IS CORRECT

  21. Cycle says:

    I’d advise against playing this game in a room full of prudes.

  22. Ben Abraham says:

    This game is making me angry and sad all at the same time. Why must I wait so long to respawn after I die?

  23. Ben Abraham says:

    Sorry for double post, edit time ran out.

    Finished! My time 25:51.

  24. Kevlmess says:

    22:50 and I just might play it again.
    Not that I’m in any way masochistic, it’s just that… sheesh, I’m not fooling anyone, am I?

    (I also find the edit countdown oddly tempting. There’s no fighting the urge, I must edit while I still can!)

  25. Kieron Gillen says:

    James: I almost actually put a gag about you brutally editing my Wikipedia page in my article but decided that people would just take it seriously, no matter how I wrote it. Good work on this, man. As your blog essays say, it’s an interesting challenge in terms of character designs which you nailed.

    KG

  26. Sarin says:

    19:25
    The last section with the stationary spiders was really good.
    The perfect type of hard

  27. Lorc says:

    I loved this game. It introduces elements one at a time, lets you learn how to deal with them, and then starts lobbing them at you with twists, or in combination. The mileage it gets out of the dingle, simple enemy type is a testament to this approach.

    It’s always fresh because there’s minimal repetition during the actual challenging areas. It’s a skill test. You’ve proven that you can do X in situation Y so it doesn’t insult you by pretending that having to do it ten more times is a fun challenge. Instead you get little flashbacks to the easiest sections to give you a breather at the end of particularly nasty bits.

    Also liked the use of background colour to give the impression of progress and to tell you where the checkpoints are.

    Good stuff.

  28. Kevlmess says:

    12:5 \o/
    I wonder what is the fastest possible time? Around ten minutes, I presume.
    Is anyone else trying to speed-run this?

    Also: this isn’t really masochism. This might be in fact the most player-friendly game I’ve played that is still actually challenging. (Hell, I’ve felt more lost with Portal – or, for chrissakes, You Have To Burn The Rope – and both of them had to hold my hand and basically walk me through themselves.) There were no tutorials nor any help text in-game and the readme just tells you the jump/float key, yet the only trace of ambiguity was in the “final boss” room and even then I managed to figure it out before dying.

    And I totally love how you’re allowed to see those two long fiery pits in their entirety and without rush before jumping down into them. And how the checkpoints are so reasonably placed. And a dozen other perfectly executed little things.

    <3

  29. El Stevo says:

    Crashes on my machine too, with an utterly useless error message. Shame.

  30. randomnine says:

    It’s almost too simple and easy a game to support the premise, but it works well enough.

    Your analysis seems fair. As a game designer I know I find it a lot of (innocent) fun to draw people into a world I’ve created and watch them struggle – with the odd hint here, a helping hand there, and a few teasing glimpses of reward along the way. It’s a different way of thinking about the ideal designer/player relationship and probably closer to the mark than most :p

  31. Andrew says:

    I enjoyed it when I played a while back, although alt-tabbing out meant I got a time of around 30 minutes, hehe. I’m not even a platformer fan, the game was just quite well made and not too insanely hard that I gave up (unlike you, Mr. New Super Mario :( ). I don’t know if the game is really masochism as such, since it is actually so well designed with every “level” introducing gradually more complicated ideas – I got through some bits really easily, and some other bits which required more pixel-perfect jump timing I did even after a good few deaths. There are some games which aim to really, really kill the player (I Wanna Be The Guy, for instance, now there’s a game you might want to post about being masochistic), but this isn’t, I think, one of them funnily enough. Sorry Kerion, I don’t quite agree :) – Kevlmess explains some good points about the game too.

    Shame it crashes on some machines, it’s made with some game making tool and that can cause problems.

    I also think “Games whose primary purpose seems to be getting blogged about.” is a very pretentious thing to say. Egad, I just can’t think how wrong you are, you’re that wrong.

  32. Cedge says:

    @Andrew:
    No, it really isn’t. There are many games that exist just to get blogged about. It’s fairly typical among the “art game” set.

  33. Andrew says:

    Whatever you say, you still come off as someone who would say that about almost everything (after all, almost anything can be put on a blog. This is a PC game blog. This is a PC game, thus it can be blogged about). It’s ironic, you posting a comment on said blog posting about it too, haha.

    I’d much rather this be covered then many of the other mainstream games going around. This won’t get mentioned on IGN, Gamespot or whatever – go and read those sites if you don’t want to see “bloggable games” “that exist just to get blogged about” in the “”art game” set” and save us your comments on them all. Sigh.

  34. Cedge says:

    Yeesh, nevermind, dude. Every game/subject ever discussed on RPS is really cool and deeply thoughtful and intellectually stimulating. Happy?

    If nothing else, I could do without your aloof “sigh”ing.

    I guess what really puts me off about this one is the air of Freudian “everything is related to sex” bullshit, in it’s apparent need to compare game designers to sadists. Because I fragging hate Freud. And I stand firm that considering that the game is utterly unremarkable, yet it’s still getting blogged about quite a bit, that it is using the S&M kick to get noticed. Too gimmicky.

  35. Cedge says:

    I guess what I want to say in summation is that if they’re trying to compare the role of the game designer to that of a sadist, then I don’t see why it’s such a stretch for me to compare the role of these particular game designers, who specifically set out to make such an intentionally offbeat game that they knew would grab people’s attention, and whose game has almost no merit when you take away it’s kinky intro and end story art, to that of the attention whore.

  36. Kieron Gillen says:

    Cedge: So what you’re saying is that you don’t like Developers trying to make games about anything?

    KG

  37. James Edwards says:

    Through my super Dolemite-esque stealth recon of BDSM sex, I’ve made a few observations of the difference between sadomasochistic fucking and playing Mighty Jill Off -

    1) When you partake in BDSM you’re probably going to have an orgasm after the punishment. When you partake in Mighty Jill Off you’re probably not going to get an orgasm.

    2) BDSM sex involves touching a naked person, or being touched by a naked person. Mighty Jill off is a tepid shareware title.

    3) When you have BDSM sex it probably isn’t plagarising the mechanics of some other BDSM sex from the 1980s.

    Most of the games that have strict, difficult mechanics – I’m thinking Robotron, Alien Soldier and bullet hell shooters – manage to provide the kind of breathless exilaration that while it probably doesn’t feel like post-coital elation at least vaugely resembles a damn good handjob. They’re harsh mistresses for sure, but the pacing and skill required to get the better of them for a while will inevitably give the player a sense of release when a boss explodes or a wave falls. Mighty Jill Off has the wrapper (in the sense a touched up Bomberman sprite looks a bit like a gimp if you squint and try not to think of Batman) but it doesn’t have the sense of urgency, nor the pacing. There’s nothing sexy or vital about checkpoint respawns – Halo 3 on legendary uses them to keep you in the action, I suppose, but there’s actually some thrill to be had just beyond.

    Gillen, you should start a blog called “Give Us Attention! Please!”

  38. Kieron Gillen says:

    James: I think you’ve missed RPS’ special subtext.

    KG

  39. James Edwards says:

    Well, care to respond to the rest, Gillus?

  40. Kieron Gillen says:

    God, no. I’ve hammered enough already.

    KG

  41. Andrew says:

    Cedge; Kieron basically sums up my response. Man, you awfully hate designers. All designs are usually intentionally something, but saying this is meant to just be attention grabbing for the sake of it is really a poor view :(

    I also sighed because I knew, if you responded at all, I’d not convince you of anything, heh.

  42. Cedge says:

    I don’t hate designers. But just because their game is “about something,” I don’t think that should be a shield from criticism.

    As James so well explained, this game completely and utterly misses it’s mark, in the way it tried to play the player/designer = masochist/sadist card. Their game is shallow both as a game, and as a statement. They only just barely scratched the surface of this idea, and ultimately, their representation of it is shallow, and amounts to little other than “this game is difficult, making us sadists and you masochists; here’s some art to make that stupidly obvious,” instead of coming up with a better way to get the idea across in the gameplay itself.

    This game tried to be about something, failed miserably, and fell back on “ooh look I have a kinky plot concept that tries to cheaply relate to the gameplay” to make the blog rounds. And I call that attention whoring. Hence, my criticism.

    If you were trying to “convince” me that this game has any legitimate gameplay or intellectual merits, well, I regard that as your problem, good sir.

  43. Andrew says:

    Since I disagree with the opinion that link of masochist/sadist to player/designer as point of the game, since the game itself isn’t of the ilk (or maybe that’s the point? a BSMD game which isn’t a pain to play?), I can’t really see your point obviously.

    I don’t agree with the RPS analysis, but there we go, if you do then that’s your opinion. If you think that makes it valid criticism, well, you’re entitled to your opinions. I can’t fathom it since it’s built on what I see as a incorrect perception of the game though, so I can I guess do nothing but just shrug and say “fair enough”.

    Obviously if you didn’t enjoy the game, then whatever, I can’t make you enjoy it or like it.

    Perhaps I just don’t read into the damn thing enough! I’ve not exactly interviewed the designer of it and asked her specifically what she had in mind or why it was “too easy” and “not orgasimic enough” or “not naked enough”, or even on the story/gameplay segrgation or the allegory for the player/designer relationship in Jill/the queen. You don’t need to go all out in any kind of game design to make it exactly like something else. Making something that fits a BSDM subtext (and only a subtext, not the point of the game as a whole, which frankly would be not a game but something else entirely if James is anything to go by) is enough to satisfy the point and not drill it into your head like some crap Disney film moral or over the top song and dance number explaining the point of it all. I don’t think the game personally takes the designer/player BSDM route too much, since the game is frankly a lot easier then many mario platformers. Maybe that is the jab, that it is a lot easier then most. Frankly, I’m not in the mood to care any more.

  44. randomnine says:

    As a point – if this was a hard game then it’d simply be saying that there’s an element of sadism in making an extremely hard or punishing game, and likewise masochism in playing one.

    There’s nothing insightful or new about that statement.

    The juxtaposition of S&M subtext and easy game suggests that players and designers of all games work a bit like this, and that’s what I find interesting.

  45. James Edwards says:

    Well, it isn’t subtext, is it? Batman and Robin have homosexual subtext until the very second Robin gets a hummer behind the Batmobile – everything after that is full blown, overt.

    There’s a difference between boredom, sadism and masochism in gaming. For example, playing Shadow The Hedgehog requires masochism and produces boredom, but there’s no overt sadistic intent, bless. Likewise Eugene Jarvis designed Robotron to be hard but also to be an awesome, rewarding experience. You don’t suffer to play Robotron.

    One of the real problems with getting S&M into games beyond an aesthetic choice (Killer 7, Thrill Kill, Dungeon Master) is that the reasons you’d fancy a videogame and the reasons you’d fancy a shag are completely different, and what’s enjoyable while you’re getting one up the jacksie isn’t enjoyable while you’re playing Street Fighter II (unless you like to give nipple twisters when you win a match, which just isn’t sporting). You’re going to fuck for erotic excitement and you’re going to game to engage your brain on some level. Even the most intellectual fucking will involve that distinct frission.

    (Games_designed_for_wanking_to are a little bit distinct, of course, but I’m not sure I’d care to factor in the Battle Raper fanbase into any discussion, ever)

    At the end of the day games and fucking both involve performance, timing and points of release, but there’s different glands involved, unless you jerk off to anime people or unless you’ve got a fetish for Gamecubes. Saying “games are kind of like [my very important and totally unique and amazingly interesting sexual fetish LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME]” isn’t really interesting or accurate, and a badly paced game is a badly paced game. This is a unique form that relies on mechanical integrity: if you just want to make a statement, go to the police.

  46. soulja says:

    Ain’t no point to tha game, you jus run around jumpin on shit.

  47. Kieron Gillen says:

    James: Minor thing you’re missing, which I mention to try and prod your thinking in a different direction. I was talking primarily about Slave/Master relationships. You’re talking about S&M Sex.

    They’re not the same thing.

    KG

  48. Dominic White says:

    Daaang, so much hate for the game, the designer, the blogs that talk about it…

    It’s just a quick Mighty Bombjack clone (nobody ever play that on the NES?) wrapped in the theme of a sweet (am I the only one who went ‘Awww’ at the ending?… anyone?) yet very non-standard relationship – one that I gather is much like the one the developer is currently in.

    Of all the things on the internet that could bring out the Angry Internet Men, this really doesn’t seem fit to earn any of their ire. It’s just too damn cute, and pretty fun.

  49. daphny says:

    1) When you partake in BDSM you’re probably going to have an orgasm after the punishment.

    nope, i mean you COULD but orgasms dont really have to have anything to do with it

    2) BDSM sex involves touching a naked person, or being touched by a naked person.

    are you talking about BDSM or are you talking about sex?

  50. Andrew says:

    Dominic; I was going to comment that at some point, but I see my points defending the game at all are not getting across, but yes, I found it adorable to be honest, with a funny ending :)