It has been observed that playing video games, especially those made in the 8-bit era, is a very mild form of masochism. For better or worse, old-school games in particular tended to punish you for the slightest mistake, or, in the case of the bad ones, just because they felt like it. This would continue until you probably spiked a controller into the ground in rage and turned off the game (As I did more than once when playing Ninja Gaiden as a youngster). And yet, the best games that had this design template would always make you come back for more punishment.
I bring this up in reference to today’s game, which makes the connection explicit. Released in 2008 by Anna Anthropy, Mighty Jill Off features a character named Jill who wears a rubber suit and a cape. She very badly wants to please her “Queen”, but the Queen is the demanding sort who makes Jill earn such simple pleasures as licking her boots (There’s a reason Jill’s warpzone in Super Meat Boy is called “The Bootlicker!”, and that Jill’s flavor text when you select her in that game is “Pervert”). The game starts with the Queen informing Jill of that fact (While calling her a “greedy slut”, it should be noted), and kicking her down to the bottom of a tower, which Jill must then climb up to prove her loyalty to her Queen.
The process of climbing the tower demonstrates the difference between “simple” and “easy”. Your controls are “move left”, “move right”, and “jump”, and that’s about it. There’s a twist, though. Your first press of the jump button will make you jump high in the air. The second press will cancel your jump, sending you back toward the ground. Subsequent presses while you’re still in the air are used to make you glide left and right using that snazzy rubber cape of Jill’s.
To make it back to your queen, you’ll need to dodge several types of obstacles. Besides just making jumps, you’ll have to contend with fire, spikes on both the ceiling and floor, and deadly skulls that will sometimes turn into spiders and begin to crawl toward you when you get close. The tower itself contains multiple checkpoints, typically marked off by a change in the colors of the background.
It sounds like a limited amount of variety, particularly when you consider that fire and floor spikes are functionally the same. But the obstacles come together in almost every conceivable combination, creating an experience that is much more than the sum of its parts, and lasts longer than you would expect without becoming old, given its simplicity.
As mentioned earlier, “simple” isn’t “easy”. The game itself is quite a challenge, requiring a high degree of precision, and in some cases, using your smarts to puzzle out how to make it past some of the obstacles. While the checkpoints are frequent, getting past some of the obstacles is still tricky, and can sometimes get frustrating. In that sense, it carries on the video-games-as-masochism metaphor I discussed at the start of this entry.
There are a couple other frustrating things about the game. The first is that, while it’s possible (Likely, in fact) I’m just an idiot, there didn’t seem to be a way to take the game out of fullscreen mode–the normal combinations (Alt-Enter, F4, F12) didn’t do anything. This brings me to my second complaint. My laptop is a couple years old, but in my humble opinion, it should be able to handle a Game Maker game without issue. Yet Mighty Jill Off would sometimes slow down to a crawl, which probably made the game a bit easier than it should have been. While I did finish the game with these conditions, I do wish I could’ve played it at full speed all the time, which is a testament to how fun it actually is.
Clearing the tower does get you an ending, which without spoiling anything, fits the theme of the game well. But because this is the Jill Off Harder Edition, the game includes a second tower to get through, if you can clear the first in under 12 minutes. This second tower is even more difficult, and requires more thought. The checkpoints are more frequent, though, and the tower itself is not as long once you acquire a high level of skill (The readme for the game notes that Anna Anthropy can clear the first tower in under 9 minutes, and the second in under 8). For myself, it took me three tries to clear the first tower quickly enough to unlock the second (Roughly 18 minutes 30 seconds, then 13 minutes 30 seconds or so, and then I squeaked in under the 12-minute limit at 11 minutes 55 seconds), and once I succeeded, it took about 17 minutes to get through the second tower.
Aurally, I love the music when climbing the tower, as the instrumentation reminds me of Nockmaar Castle from Willow on NES. Graphically, the game is meant to evoke Mighty Bomb Jack (Jill herself is modeled after Jack, down to her mechanics), and it does a fine job in this regard.
Despite my computer’s issues with it, Mighty Jill Off – Jill Off Harder Edition is a fun, free, BDSM-themed game. Its gameplay is simple yet captivating, punishing you in such a way that you keep coming back, much like some of the best NES and SNES games. Give it a try–even if you don’t enjoy kink, you’ll probably enjoy the game.