Friday, 6 April 2012
Mighty Jill Off (Atari XE/XL)
Anna Anthropy is well known in indie gaming circles; to some, she is controversial - to others, genius. I admire her philosophy and work deeply. Anna brings to the table strong opinions about what gaming should be, can be, and ought to be - challenging developers to embrace games as experiences, as art, and as a mode of expression.
Her latest creation, dys4ia, has garnered much praise and press. Presenting a narrative in the form of classic gaming tropes and colourful pixel art, dys4ia tells Anthropy's story of beginning hormone therapy - in her words, an "it gets better" of sorts for other trans women. I played through dys4ia myself and quite enjoyed it, it was a heartfelt and compelling journey, giving a window-glimpse into a personal challenge many will never have to face, or don't fully understand. This game defines for many a part of who Anna Anthropy is: an out-of-the-box, open-minded indie dev challenging the limits of the medium.
Perhaps, then, the brutal platforming gameplay of Anthropy's 2008 masterwork, Mighty Jill Off, might surprise those who play it if dys4ia was their introduction to her world. Make no mistake - Anna also holds retro gaming dear to her heart, and it shows in what is possibly her best known title.
Mighty Jill Off is a platformer with a twist - an homage to the 1986 classic Mighty Bomb Jack with a brutal difficulty level. Fitting, this... the game incorporates a running BDSM theme. The titular character (whom you play as) is a submissive lesbian with a boot fetish, tasked to climb her dominant Queen's tower after behaving like, in the game's (Queen's) words, a "greedy slut." Her pre-mature boot-licking leads her straight to the bottom of said tower; tasked with climbing back up to the top, you lead Jill jumping through a series of challenging rooms.
While I played the original PC version of Mighty Jill Off some time ago, the focus here is on the 2011 demake of the game, coded by the morons of HAR for the Atari 800XL. (This version won 2nd place in the ABBUC software contest of 2011 and more information on the development of the game is available here.) While most of the BDSM scenes are lost due to the 64KB restrictions of the Atari, the gameplay is matched almost perfectly to the original, with a few subtle differences between the versions; for example, the jump-float technique seems more effective in the Atari demake.
Other than that, the original game mechanics transfer flawlessly, consisting of only three elements: walking left and right, jumping, and floating (the latter of which requires you to tap the fire button to float slowly down rather than plummeting to your demise.) As with other demonically difficult platformers I've dabbled in recently, any failure in Mighty Jill Off is likely due to one's bumbling misstep rather than the game engine. Fortunately, unlike our feline friends (who are limited to nine) Jill has unlimited lives, meaning that all you'll have to do is suck up being whisked away to a previous level checkpoint rather than being booted down (see what I did there?) to the bottom.
While challenging, this title by Auntie Pixelante (One of Anna's other aliases) is certainly very accessible, and the Atari demake gives it due praise and honor. Personally, I almost prefer the visual style of the redux; it seems a little darker, a little more brooding to me, something I find appropriate given that she's climbing a dark tower. Plus, the audio track is, in a word, awesome.
For anyone who calls themselves a indie gamer, Anthropy's titles are a must play, Mighty Jill Off included. The Atari demake is a wonderful way to experience the game, but don't forget to check out the original as well.
Download the original PC version of the game here (from the Mighty Jill Off website).
Download the Atari XE/XL version of the game here (from Fandal's website).
Run it using Atari800Win Plus 4.0 (freeware).