Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass

One day, Jimmy looked inside.

Jimmy is having a sweet dream. In his dream world, he lives a nice life in the clouds with his loving mother, an aloof yet caring father, his supportive uncle and a brother that kinda bullies him, but still loves him all the same. Just south is a nice town of animal people and a colony of bees and – dang it, Jimmy’s mother needs him to pick up some honey.

And it’s on this simple errand that a terrifying presence begins to make itself known. It watches Jimmy. It stalks Jimmy. It wants to destroy Jimmy and everything he holds dear. It is the Pulsating Mass.

Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is the first commercial game by Kasey Ozymy, who’s developed a number of freeware RPG Maker games under the handle Housekeeping. Outside of the RPG Maker sphere, he’s most well-known for The God of Crawling Eyes, a striking horror game. Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is a fully fledged turn-based RPG and is as long as a standard one.

I’m not kidding. I’ve been playing this game over the course of a month and I haven’t even seen everything the game has to offer. Besides the already lengthy main quest, there’s a whole bunch of optional content to do, with more opening up in the post-game. But let’s not talk about that for now. I actually have a whole lot to talk about, so I’m actually going to split this into sections.

Gameplay

Within his dream world, Jimmy is initially weak. However, he finds strength through his Imagination. After defeating certain enemies, he can empathize with them and take their form. In the overworld, the Slime can squeeze through bars and summon enemies to immediately starts fights, the Low-Level Goon can drag objects and shake NPCs to get special dialogue from them, etc. Within battle, each form has its own specific niche to make it stand out. The basic Slime form at the beginning is a tank that can poison enemies, the Goon is a jack-of-all-trades with a steal command, the Bear is an excellent physical attacker, blah blah. I honestly would have made a tier list, but there’s two forms that are massive spoilers.

That said, Bear is the best. This article is written by Attack Gang.

In this game, leveling up only increases stats for most characters – except for Jimmy. Jimmy can level up his forms so that he can unlock their skills and passive benefits as things that he can equip regardless of forms. This can open the way for a lot of useful combinations. You can get a guaranteed escape if you stuck the Goon’s Clean Getaway on yourself, you can get a guaranteed first move if you have the Bird’s Hyperactivity, etc. Any form of Jimmy can become a good medic on top of this, because all healing things heal on percentage. Point is, Jimmy’s got a lot going on.

In contrast, the other party members for the most part are shoved into a niche, only capable of using skills outside of their initial skillset through equips. Buck’s an attacking boy, Helga’s a healer, blah blah. There’s a few pieces of equipment in the game that could add some variance, like Andrew’s Encyclopedia Set that pretty much changes him from a mage to a straight attacker, but those are few and far between. With Jimmy, you’ll pretty much be reinforcing what the party needs.

And you’ll need to make the most of the game’s party building, because the game is genuinely pretty hard. Enemies hit hard, with devastating movesets demanding that you make the most of what you have to counter them. Even when the dedicated healer joins on, enemies and bosses will counter even that with a status effect that cancels out all healing. You’re going to make the most out of skills like even the simple stealing command, which focuses less on stealing items and more on weakening the enemy through such things like stealing a corner from a triangle enemy to make them pop out of existence for an easy kill or stealing the voice box from an alarm that will summon an enemy that’s impossible to kill.

Bosses, as you can expect, are also pretty hard; the creator lists Final Fantasy V as one of his inspirations, and it really shows in the bosses. A lot of the bosses are unique, so you need to get an understanding of their tells, movesets and gimmicks and adjust your party to get around it. In that video I posted, back when I was a fool and took this game less seriously, Punch Tanaka has a tell for when he reflects. That stuff will seem pretty quaint by the time when you’re several hours in and fighting a bunch of giant eyes that open and close on hit that will instantly kill you if they’re closed for two turns in a row.

The difficulty is enforced by the items. There’s not only a limit on how many healing items you can have, but the price of healing items also jumps with every new area. I read an interview with the developer and how items are treated subverts multiple problems I have with healing items. In Final Fantasy, the base potion quickly becomes useless, so Jimmy fixes that by making all healing based on percentage. It generally becomes easy in games to buy items in bulk to undermine difficulty or you’re pressured to horde valuable items, so the item limit and price hikes make even the basic healing items valuable while the general difficulty convinces you not to horde them.

For me, the difficulty didn’t drop until I got the final party and the airship. At that point, the only things that remained hard were some of the bonus dungeons and the final boss fight. Like good god, you’ll probably need to do all the bonus dungeons if you want a good shot at fighting the final boss, anyway. Unless you’re playing on easy mode, which is available from the start and is there for the sake of people just wanting to see the story and wants an easy ride.

Until that point, the game is hard, yet it isn’t insurmountable. Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is a game that really challenges you and it feels satisfying to get through.

So, what about that story?

Story

Besides the art style, the game’s writing shows its love for the MOTHER games. A lot of people remember the MOTHER games for quirkiness and humor, but Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass also remembers the dark edge and the sentimentality that really help ties those games together.

Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is a game about a family trying to stick together through a crisis. You spend much of the game traveling across the continents of Jimmy’s dream world to find members of Jimmy’s family as the Pulsating Mass stalks him all throughout. From the silly towns through the game’s sudden jumps in horror, Jimmy relies on his loving family to stick through the day.

Jimmy is a silent protagonist. I’ve seen a lot of discourse about silent protagonists recently, but I think he’s an example of a silent protagonist that works. There’s a lot about him that’s implied in the world, his empathy segments and the narration. He’s a bit of a troublemaker that holds love for his family, yet suffers from feelings of loneliness. He’s really good with numbers – to the point that one part of his dream world is haunted by demonic numbers – but he has trouble reading. The game initially comes off as a coming-of-age story, with his party members wanting him to urging him to be strong against the Pulsating Mass.

Jimmy’s other family members are mostly interesting. Buck is the big brother bully that’s hilariously blunt about what he thinks, but he’s got some depth that becomes very apparent in the late game. Helga is the loving mother that remains optimistic even when forced into a deathmatch against her son – which makes her abrupt drops in mood all the more serious. Andrew, to me, is the perfect representation of the game’s tone in that he spouts a lot of goofy technobabble and often has sickeningly sweet make-out sessions with Helga – when he isn’t grimly discussing the end of the world.

god shut the fuck up dude

The sorest point in the game lies with Lars. I do not like Lars. Initially, I saw him as a flawed guy in that he leeches off his family, but he genuinely cares about them and tries to be a good uncle. Like hey, I think he’s a pretty good tank character too. Then he suddenly rambled about his desires to marry an Asian woman and my opinion of him tanked.

Unfortunately came the place that’s kinda based off of Japan. While I’m a bit iffy on some stuff, the game’s dive into being a visual novel is actually pretty great. Except for Lars. Lars ends up meeting a girl named Hitomi, a magical girl that happens to be a guest party member for this area of the game. And they fall in love. Like besides indulging him in gross otaku yellow fever, you have to remember that he’s a grown-ass man and she’s a teenager.

The thing to remember though is that the whole game is Jimmy’s dream world and that everything in it is based on his imagination and what he perceives. The whole thing is him essentially granting his uncle wish fulfillment based on what he knows of him and he’s literally 8, so he probably doesn’t understand what yellow fever is or what pedophilia is. Still, this section of the game left a bad taste in my mouth, which is a shame, because the visual novel stuff during this section rules.

Jimmy and his crew aren’t the only characters traveling the world. Several recurring characters are found all over the place with their own character arcs. There’s Timothy Mouse, who’s off on his own coming-of-age journey alongside Jimmy. There’s the crew of adventurers lead by Captain Fish, who’s extremely incompetent and even his crewmates think he’s just getting by on luck. Most importantly, there’s the Petty Thugs led by Punch Tanaka, who are collectively the Pokemon anime’s Team Rocket, and every time I see them is just a delight. The world has a lot more going on with these characters around and I appreciate their presence. Except for Mr. Grouse, the embodiment of late-stage capitalism.

The story all comes together toward the end of the game, where you have the final party. You have to do this arbitrary quest where you have to go to newly accessible short dungeons to unlock the final one, and the ends of each dungeon changes what’s become a surreal horror into a tragedy.

Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is not a coming-of-age story.

All that stuff about Jimmy becoming strong? Vg’f npghnyyl orpnhfr Wvzzl vf qlvat.

Gur Chyfngvat Znff vf abg fbzr tenaq ryqevgpu perngher, ohg vf n zhaqnar pnapre gung’f fybjyl xvyyvat uvz, jvgu gur ynfg qhatrbaf fubjvat gur cnfg yrnqvat hc gb guvf cbvag naq gur rkcrevraprf ur pna urne sebz uvf orqfvqr. Nyy Wvzzl pna qb va uvf fgngr vf fgnl pbbcrq hc va orq, qernzvat bs birepbzvat guvf zbafgre, uvf yvirq rkcrevraprf pbzvat gbtrgure gb sbez gur qernz jbeyq ur unf serrqbz va.

Nf guvf eriryngvba orpbzrf pyrnere, n ybg bs Wvzzl’f jbeyq naq vgf punenpgref orpbzrf haqrefgnaqnoyr, jurgure rkcyvpvgyl fgngrq be vzcyvrq. Gur vzntvangvba sbezf? Wvzzl’f qrfverf gb or fbzrguvat ryfr naq gb or serr sebz uvf sngr. Gur qbt gung gur Chyfngvat Znff vavgvnyyl gnxrf gur sbez bs? N qbt gung nggnpxrq Wvzzl gung Ohpx arrqrq gb cebgrpg uvz sebz, orpnhfr Wvzzl jnf whfg abg fgebat rabhtu. Gur wbhearl bs Gvzbgul Zbhfr gung fhecevfvatyl raqf va gentrql? Vg cnenyyryf Wvzzl’f bja qrfverf gb or fgebat naq vaqrcraqrag, bayl sbe vg gb or sbepvoyl raqrq nf ur frrxf fbynpr va snzvyl.

Naq yvxr gur Zbhfr snzvyl, Wvzzl’f snzvyl qbrf abg unir n unccl raqvat.

Gur fghss guebhtubhg gur tnzr nobhg gur Chyfngvat Znff orvat na varivgnovyvgl vf gehr. Wvzzl pnaabg svtug bss gur pnapre. Nsgre gur svany obff, uvf jbeyq vf serr bs gur Chyfngvat Znff, ohg va gur erny jbeyq, abguvat unf punatrq. Ur pna tb vagb uvf pybfrg gb fgneg gur cbfg-tnzr naq pbagvahr uvf qernz, uvf vzzrqvngr oheqraf frg nfvqr. Be ur pna svaq gur fgeratgu gb tb bhgfvqr naq sbetvir uvzfrys sbe uvf frys-ungerq, npprcgvat uvf qrzvfr.

V’ir frra fbzr zvkrq ernpgvbaf ba guvf raqvat jura V jnf erfrnepuvat gur fvqr pbagrag V jnf hanoyr gb qb, naq V xvaqn haqrefgnaq jul, orpnhfr gur gehr raqvat vf n ovg noehcg. V qb jvfu gur raqvat frdhrapr jnf zber ybatre gb tvir n orggre frafr bs erfbyhgvba, ohg fbzr bs gur raqvat pbzcynvagf jrer nobhg vg orvat n qbjare.

Jvguva gur pbagrkg bs gur fgbel, V guvax vg’f na raqvat gung jbexf. Fbzrgvzrf, gurer’f guvatf gung lbh whfg pna’g jva. Fbzrgvzrf, nyy lbh pna qb va gurfr fvghngvbaf vf gb gel naq svaq crnpr bs zvaq. Wvzzl qvq uvf orfg. Naq fbzrgvzrf gung’f nyy gung znggref.

Nf V fnvq, Wvzzl naq gur Chyfngvat Znff vf n tnzr nobhg n snzvyl gelvat gb fgvpx gbtrgure guebhtu n pevfvf. Ohg zber fcrpvsvpnyyl, vg’f nobhg ubj pnapre pna nssrpg n snzvyl naq ubj vg pbhyq nssrpg n puvyq’f creprcgvbaf bs gurzfryirf naq gur crbcyr nebhaq gurz.

With all that said, Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is probably the best “all just a dream” thing I experienced. It all felt very purposeful within the context of the game and uh, I didn’t expect cry going into this game. It’s certainly one of those games where going back on a new playthrough gives new purpose to things you’ve already read.

Optional Stuff

As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a lot of optional content in the game. While there’s still horror aspects in Jimmy‘s main story, most of the game’s horror are locked off to these side areas where the game transitions into a surreal horror. These side dungeons end with some of the tougher fights in the game and of course, succeeding gives you some valuable prizes.

These dungeons don’t have direct relation to the main story. Ubjrire, gurve cerfrapr va gur tnzr vf haqrefgnaqnoyr nf vg’f vzcyvrq gung gurfr cynprf ner n erfhyg bs Wvzzl jngpuvat ubeebe zbivrf jvgu Ohpx. Though, one of the dungeons is required if you want to see a side character’s arc to the end, and it ends up being a real dark shock.

The most noteworthy piece of optional content, at least in my playthrough, has to be the Dark Dungeon. The Dark Dungeon is Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass‘s Pit of 100 Trials, but with a unique twist. Instead of navigating a dungeon, you navigate a game board where you roll a die to move around. You fight enemies if you land on their space and there’s spaces where you earn points to cash out for prizes. The challenge is that every floor forces you to stick in one of Jimmy’s forms, which will force you out of your comfort zone if you’ve been focusing too much on certain forms. And will be a swift kick to you if you get stuck with Jimmy’s default state and didn’t stick him with any good skills.

Besides being an interesting way of doing a bonus dungeon, it’s also a pretty good way to grind because dying will just lose you whatever points you’ve accumulated in a run. It’s also handy if you’ve been neglecting to level up certain forms because you’ve been prioritizing other ones. I really recommend checking it out, especially to pick up the VIP Pass (which is an unlimited use way to escape dungeons, which is real valuable when grinding). However, if you actually expect to get a whole bunch of equipment from Dark Dungeon runs, well, expect to be there for a while.

Bs pbhefr, vs lbh’er frrvat rirelguvat gur tnzr unf gb bssre, gur erny punyyratr vf gur Urneg Qhatrba. Gur Urneg Qhatrba vf n ovt cbfg-tnzr qhatrba jurer lbhe cnegl znxr-hc vf sbeprq naq lbh snpr rarzvrf naq obffrf jvgu hctenqrq fgngf; abgnoyl, arj rarzl sbezngvbaf ner vagebqhprq, juvpu orpbzrf n ceboyrz orpnhfr gurer’f arj rarzl flaretvrf gb or jnel bs. Gurer’f bar svany onggyr ng gur raq, ohg orfvqrf n srryvat bs pehfuvat qrfcnve, gurer’f ab erny erjneq. Lbh xabj, vg’f bar bs gubfr oenttvat evtugf guvatf.

Art and Stuff

The art of Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is generally pretty great. The graphics alone show that a whole lot of craft was put into the game, as almost every new area you run into has some new assets. The very few times environmental tiles and sprites are reused is within different contexts where they still make sense to use, like how an area based on a horror movie Jimmy saw sharing art with the creepy spider side dungeon.

The battle sprites are also mostly nice. I particularly like how all the encounters in Everchip are more blockier to fit in with the area’s theming. I’m more mixed on the monsters from the nightmare side dungeons, though. Some of them really work, but in other cases (like those worm things in the third screenshot), it kinda feels like it’s trying too hard. I mean, I guess it works thematically because this is the imagination world of a child, but ehhhhhh.

And the soundtrack! The game’s soundtrack has a wide variety to enjoy, showcasing genres to fit the various moods and settings of Jimmy’s dreamscape. Jimmy’s empathy scenes and the aftermaths of the bonus boss fights are accompanied with The Noble Sea, a reflective yet appropriately melancholic song. A Slurry of Malformed Words plays throughout a grungy looking subway, all anxious and gross. And who can forget Knuckle Sandwiches and Lady Fingers, the greaser cool guy music whenever Punch Tanaka shows up on the scene? There’s a whopping 88 songs on the soundtrack, so it’s hard not to find something you’d like.

The soundtrack also has one of my favorite things to see in RPGs: multiple battle themes. To help further tie each continent’s identity together, each continent has its own battle theme. Like Homeflower, the first continent, is appropriately Jimmy’s home continent and is the most outwardly friendly one. Going along with the record scratch reward screen transition that follows Jimmy everywhere, the first battle theme, Motion Sickness, uses those elements frequently throughout. Everchip, going along with the retro game theming, has the chiptune Battle in a Fire Tornado – along with a unique chiptune version of the boss theme that plays for the more nightmarish bosses (posted directly in the article). Of course, for the darker bonus dungeons, the game throws those battle themes aside to just let the dungeon’s ambiance or noise play to maintain the atmosphere.

All in all, a really solid audio-visual package that ties the moods of Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass together.

Closing

Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is one of those games that deserves more love. It’s a game that not only shows the creator’s love for the genre, but for the RPG Maker sub-culture. Unfortunately, it really looks like the game doesn’t get much love outside of that sub-culture.

A few RPG Maker games that actually are RPGs have broken a bit into the mainstream. One of those games is LISA: The Painful RPG, and while I do still like that game a bunch, the creator’s attitude toward the genre leaves a lot to be desired. That is a game born out of contempt for the genre, with the creator believing that the genre inherently sucks and aimed to make something subversive.

Kasey Ozymy’s Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass feels like LISA‘s antithesis. It’s interesting and good not because it’s subversive, but because it embraces the genre. The creator took his favorite JRPGs and melded them together to create something wonderful to tell a story as heartwarming as it is heartwrenching.

There’s a bit of a grind and there’s that one section of the game that really bothers me. Despite that, Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass is an enjoyable fully-fledged RPG that fans of the genre will love.

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