Friday, April 3, 2015

Dreaming of Retro Gaming Revival via Homebrew: Polyko's Super Jelly Bean Quest in the Sketchbook of Illusion

This may very well be the longest Subterranean Art Jive title posted yet, but the blurb shall remain condensed for online readability for this wonderfully simple viddy-game.

But first, a small rant on video games and art. In the past few years, home brew video games have been popping up and gaining steam on almost every platform. Many of these games possess artistic flair and creativity that many big companies seem to avoid in their AAA video games, since they tend to recycle patterns and game-play that is popular. For example, when Street Fighter 2 came out in the early 90's, many fighting games followed suit. Still, even with this growth and imitation game there is still artistic sensibility with large and small companies. This may be obvious to some, but many mainstream games can be classified as art and this, I think, can be seen with the recent Smithsonian exhibit, The Art of Video Games (2012) --not to mention the many recent exhibited forms of gaming and game mechanics of mixed-media and glitch art. Additionally, like all art forms that tither on the realm of art and pure entertainment, some of the principles and opinions about what makes one of these pieces art can be considered art in one arena and not in another. Regardless of the intention and vocabulary used to suggest a video game is art, one must agree that much of what goes into the process of a game is art. Thus, even if the final product is pure pixelated entertainment, the design, the visual effects, concept and what may be the most defining factor here, the game play which may challenge a player to think about the real world and the digital world in ways they never really thought of before. For example the game Rez or LSD: Dream Emulator all come from an artistic sensibility.

On with Polyko's Super Jelly Bean Quest in the Sketchbook of Illusion by Hotpengu and ported by Senile Team. Polyko offers something different from a mere Mario clone. It is serine, meditative, and while it feels a bit like a tribute to the games of yore, it is original in its execution. This game is made by and for people who love classic platforming in surreal environments. Everything seems alive and interactive, similar to the old meta-games of the past or a Looney Toons episode, and much like its genre it focuses on jumping from one platform to the next to collect items, in this case jelly beans. One cannot die in this game, nor are there enemies to fight. The story follows an artist who falls into the pages of his sketchbook. The graphics are vintage, but well-done and will last for years to come, like Super Mario 3, Rayman or Astal. The game focuses purely on exploring this small yet complex and puzzling world, one level, collecting jelly beans, and playing for the sake of playing. It seems almost like a taste of nostalgia, and the taste is that of 31 flavors of jelly beans. It is a game made to inspire memories of the past or to encourage one to create a dream world of ones own. The game is imaginative, though short, and after playing I found my self wanting to draw.
"Mad Jelly Bean" a response by David Scheier
Senile Team is becoming one of the most well known homebrew developers out there, stretching from games playable on the Sega Dreamcast to computers and even more recent platforms, like Xbox 360, Playstation 2, etc. Senile Team is responsible for one of the most popular homebrews, Beats of Rage, an open source game inspired by the Streets of Rage franchise.

There are a number of ways to play this game, however I'll list one option that is the most fun, playing on your Sega Dream cast (if you have one) and freely downloading the game to a disk from the Senile Team's easy to navigate website: