Ah, Itch.io, you treasure trove of equal wonder and bafflement. If you’re a fan of the experimental, whimsical, and downright bizarre, you’ve probably already stumbled upon and gone astray within this platform, which has made its mark as the champion of all things indie – from the most obscure curio to the next gaming sensation. I’m a big fan of Itch.io and indie games but I haven’t had a proper go at writing about the more left-field ones and I’m hoping to rectify that now. As much as Itch.io is a trove of goodies, it can also be a bit of a trawl with the sheer amount of stuff published – so I’ve done the looking for you! In Itch.io Indies, I’ll be going into some undiscovered gems I’ve personally liked and believe could do with having a light shined on them. I hope you find something new to enjoy as well!
Jam and the Mystery of the Mysteriously Spooky Mansion
Played on… PC (Itch.io)
Developed by… Res
Published by… Res
Is a… reverse whodunnit point n’ click adventure
Good to play… for a short spoo~py afternoon
Costs… $2.00 (or more if you wish) – purchased in Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality
I found JMMSM (because there’s no way I’m typing that monstrosity out again) when I was combing through (despairing about) the many intriguing games I received in the ridiculously generous Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. I was in the mood for a lighthearted adventure, preferably with a few twists and teases for the brain, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the amount of horseplay this game throws into the mix. Playable in roughly 30 minutes according to the official description, if this sounds like your jam, read on!
So, what’s it about?
The game starts with a twist and a very nice one. It’s basically a reverse whodunnit where Jam, our gender ambiguous, self-proclaimed detective prodigy, has prematurely bagged the criminal (handily named ‘Badmann’) but has yet to ascertain the crime. From that sentence alone, you should be able to tell the sort of tone JMMSM is knocking around with. The humour is very tongue in cheek. You’ll be picking up a literal red herring and Jam always has some quip in store as you discover what ‘uncanny stuff’ is going on in the mansion. Fitting smugly into the school of precocious kid detectives, Jam is just as happy to swing a frying pan to knock out a suspect than use their brain and I found them rather endearing like a derpy dog that runs after the mere whiff of a squirrel. I personally had a lot of fun clicking on things to see what randomness ensued but whether the dialogue is gaffe or giggle-inducing is up to how much you can tolerate a kid that takes things way too seriously in a game that really doesn’t take itself seriously.
But, how does it play?
The gameplay is typical point and click affair. You’ll explore the mansion’s eight different rooms to find evidence, gather stuff to solve puzzles, and thus find more evidence. Your objective is to collect and combine the right two pieces of evidence to confront Jam’s arch nemesis – and, yes, you can confront Badmann with a meagre two pieces (my first attempt featured a fish and a suspicious note stating IRON SNAIL AUTHORIZATION). Jam’s brilliance will illuminate a crime, any crime, by virtue of great leaps of conjecture. The different endings are determined by the set of evidence you combine and there are sixteen in total, one of which is secret and requires a different workaround. I appreciated how the game automatically allows you to try another combination after showing one ending, so theoretically you can gather all the evidence and swiftly combine them in one go.
Well, what’s the finish like?
Despite the game’s light tone, the music features a sort of throbbing chiptune. This isn’t a great description but it sounded a bit like an oldschool Legend of Zelda dungeon crossed with a clinky jail setting. I thought it fit well but there’s only one looping track so it grated after a while and I turned it down. Where the game stands out, however, is its lovably crude art style, which complements the game’s irreverent tone and writing well. The limited colour palette also works well in this regard and sports a stark, mostly monochromatic aesthetic punctuated by Jam’s jammy colour, Badmann’s insipid green, and practical yellow outlines whenever your pointer touches upon something to interact with.
If you’re looking for a deep mystery, this is not the game to satisfy that craving since Jam’s ridiculous ponderings are really the meat of JMMSM. There isn’t really much of a ‘mystery’ to solve here as the (demonic) writing is pretty much on the wall. With no linear plot as such, the mansion feels more like a sandbox of clues – most of which – while funny – don’t further or contribute to the actual mystery. Once you’ve gotten the crucial bits of evidence, it was already evident what happened so the climax felt a little abrupt and lackluster. Nevertheless, I’d argue that this game is pleasant for its simplicity and revels in its own spoopyiness. Expect Frog Detective rather than a solemn sleuther and you’ll find some mysteries are more fun unsolved.
Need more? Try…
- The Haunted Island, a Frog Detective Game for another silly detective whose powers of deduction are secondary to making pasta.
- Fancy a bit more sleuthing without compromising terrible puns? Try the wonderfully weird Adventures of Bertram Fiddle 1 & 2.
- Ready to go all out bonkers? Chook & Sosig are your cat and (ghost) chicken.