It’s finally time to check out some of the games from Indie Game Making Contest 2018! With a large prize pool and the possibility of some games being taken on to be made into a big commercial game, 330+ entries have stepped up to the plate! There’s obviously no way for me to look at all the entries, so I’ll just be looking at a few that caught my eye. If you want some to check out other coverage on IGMC 2018 games, Indra LadyPotato is doing some videos (including one on my game) on the games; I warn that she’s a Harsh YouTube Critic but she gives credit where it’s due. So without further ado…
Jailbirds is by seaphoenix and it’s a game that reminds me of The Rock and the Rose, the second place winner in Judge’s Choice for IGMC 2017, in that it’s a simple simulation RPG. Hm? Oh, seaphoenix made both of them, I guess this kind of thing is in their wheelhouse.
You play as a boy named Hivan, who witnesses some rich asshole yelling at a dog for being in his way, threatening to arrest him. Hivan steps in to adopt the dog, but it turns out the town of Angora has a problem with animal “crime” in general. The Duke decides to put Hivan and his dog in charge of an animal prison (functionally a zoo but worse), where they’ll rot until they’re exiled – unless you’re able to reform them.
The game has you tending to the needs of the animals trapped in pens outside your home. You build up friendship with them so that they can confide in you, allowing you to figure out ways to reform them. Figure out what the animals like to eat to keep them from getting unhappy while trying to manage things on a meager salary on the grand quest of being The Good Jailor.
On the subject of the story, I’m not sure if this game is going for a message. At first, I thought that it was a story on how prisons are viewed, with how people view prisoners as animals, how some prisoners are locked up for petty offenses or did crimes for understandable reasons and how commercial interests affect laws. However, Jailbirds is also sincerely about rehabilitation, which people think prisons are all about when they absolutely are not and Jailbirds seems genuine about just being a game about funny animals going to jail rather than having a greater meaning.
Compared to the Rock and the Rose, Jailbirds is not as strict about meeting your goals in the allotted time, largely because it’s easy to figure out what the animals need, unlike that game, where you pretty much needed to know everyone’s schedules in advance to succeed. However, it actually runs into the opposite problem of being too easy. You’re told that there are consequences about mismanaging your prison, but you’d have to go out of your way to meet those consequences. It’s suggested that you take risks like feeding animals lower quality food or grouping them up together, but that’s only if you somehow miss getting the money needed. I think Jailbirds is too forgiving, which I think works against its favor as a prototype because if it means to be representative of a bigger, final project, it should showcase the gameplay risks better.
On a technical level, the game is made in RPG Maker MV, so I expected technical problems from the start, which is more the engine’s fault than the game’s. The game itself ran fine but I found that on booting the game a second time, the fonts glitch up. Thankfully this isn’t too much of a detriment, so even on a computer not optimized for the engine, you should have an okay time.
Like the Rock and the Rose, I found Jailbirds to be just okay. It did not wow me or challenge me, but it did what it set out to do alright. Maybe it set out to make a message and if it did, it kinda fumbles at that, but otherwise, it’s an a-okay game.