Sunday, 2 February 2014

Jolly Jail: The Unsurprisingly Weird Kickstarter

I've really enjoyed getting stuck into the world of videogame Kickstarter projects and looking over page after page of weird and wonderful ideas. What I've found most interesting however is not the successful projects or the projects that demand attention through some progressive new gameplay mechanic or retro-inspired visual style. I'm actually drawn to the sheer volume of embarrassing Kickstarter projects that have a wafer-thin premise, outrageous expectations or a woefully sloppy Kickstarter page.

The four games described in last weeks' Strategy Informer Kickstarter roundup article initially caught my attention with their premise -- as with the code logic teaching tool Algo-Bot and the East meets West TRPG Unsung Story: Tale of the Guardians -- or wither their aesthetics -- as with Olympia Rising and Rain World. But there was another game that I intended to include in the article that was, for better or for worse, left on my cutting room floor.

That game is Jolly Jail.

Jolly Jail is the brain child of American resident Oleg Zhukhovitskiy and his Russian developer nephew Mitya. As the crudely produced trailer describes, Oleg has lived near Alcatraz Island for some time and has, like many Americans, always been grossly interested in the survival tactics of inmates around the world. 

Jolly Jail is designed to be a full-on jail simulator that asks players to "Survive, Think, Fight, and Escape" from an Alcatraz-like prison of Oleg's devising.

Whether or not this sounds interesting depends on the personal tastes of the individual. But I think most Kickstarter perusers would agree that the project's Kickstarter page and trailer is sub-par. In fact, I would go as far to say that the Zhukhovitskiy's attempt at parting me from my pennies is downright repulsive.

Perhaps the reason I feel so strongly about Jolly Jail and other suspicious projects of its type is because of an experience I had with a game in the summer of last year. 

The Cold War Era landed on my digital doorstep during a period of furious article writing for geek culture orintated content farm and intern slave driver Geek Insider. Desperate to add variety to my repertoire of videogame review samples, I got in touch with The Cold War Era's developer, the Quebec-based Alina Digital, and secured a review copy with a timed activation code of three days.

The Cold War Era provided what remains to be the most mundane couple of hours I've ever spent playing a videogame (and that says nothing of its offensively archaic DRM).

It's not necessary for me to detail why exactly I found The Cold War Era to be such a limp attempt at making a PC strategy game. For the curious amoung you, feel free to read my review of The Cold War Era over at Geek Insider -- just make sure your computer has the necessary system requirement to deal with the site's barrage of advertising.

I remember that during the entire process of contacting Alina Digital, playing The Cold War Era, and then reviewing it, I got the horrible feeling that the whole thing was a sham. How could it be that they're charging $20 for such a rudimentary strategy game? Why is an indie outfit using such harsh DRM on a game that has practically no exposure to potential buyers? Why is the game of such poor quality even though its official site claims to have an entire team of experienced game developers working on it?

Whether or not The Cold War Era is worth buying is up to the individual. However, The Cold War Era already exists, but Jolly Jail doesn't. In fact, Jolly Jail needs $10,000 of what are effectively donations for it to be developed in the first place.

In all honesty, I'm not surprised that Jolly Jail has already received over $200 in funding by 16 backers, yet with only one, brief comment on the game's Kickstarter page. I'm not surprised because it only adds to the project's indescribable weirdness. Needless to say, I find the whole thing absolutely fascinating.


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