It is difficult for me to write Jables’s Adventure like so and not like Jables’ Adventure, but I’ll simply have to get over my internal dilemma to edit every videogame title to my specificity. I didn’t make the game, Squiddershins did, and despite that weird use of an apostrophe s instead of just an apostrophe, I’m delighted by this little action platformer. The developer describes it as a “casual platformer,” but if my experience with the game’s first boss, an angry woodsman with a chainsaw called Jacques Lumber, has anything to say, it is that this far from a casual experience.
The short of it is this: released in 2010, Jables’s Adventure is a freeware game created by Jason Boyer, with assistance from Ryan Pietz on dialogue and plot items and music by Kevin “Frantic Panda” Carville. You might be tired of this description, but it’s apt–it’s Metroidvania in both look and play, moving a lot like a less-linear Cave Story, and brimming with a surreal sense of humor. Just ask the mushrooms if you don’t believe me. The story’s simple at first, then turns nonsensical, starring a reluctant boy named Jables who one day wakes up…with a squid on his head. He then sets out into the world to do heroic things with a little goading from the talking cephalopod. Why? Well, that’s just what heroes do. You have to be a hero.
It’s a platformer. You jump, move left to right, and, after acquiring these items, shoot your wind-gun at bad critters and infinitely boost in the air with a jetpack. The world is open to explore, though there is a critical path to follow to both obtain these items and deal with the bombastic boss battles. I will continue to cry foul over having to play action platformers on the keyboard, but I didn’t even try to see if there’s gamepad support, so maybe I’m to blame. I kind of doubt it. Thankfully, the amount of precision needed in Jables’s Adventure is miles away from something like Super Meat Boy, but there were a few spots that gave me trouble where playing with a controller might have helped.
One of the first villagers you come across is a young man you can high five. I did this in quick succession, adding my own drum-beat to the already bouncy and catchy soundtrack that plays when you’re exploring the outside, thinking it was nothing more than a fun interaction you can take part in. Turns out, slapping five with this fellow is also how the game saves your progress via checkpoints, and there is no denying that this is Jables’s Adventure‘s defining and greatest feature. Plus, it comes in real handy at the end of the game hint hint wink wink big smile.
Perhaps because this is my first time with a game from Squiddershins or that I don’t have a fondness for things like Adventure Time and Strawberry Shortcake that some of the more random moments just felt like…random moments. Other random moments, like learning facts about fruit or when you make friends with a cactus or discovering that band in the clouds, hit me right in the heart and made the adventure all the more exciting. There’s imagination here and childlike glee, seemingly unlimited, shoved into the mold of a somewhat difficult action platformer that doesn’t have any kind of map to follow. I enjoyed strolling around, meeting new characters, but struggled in the tougher areas, like where you have to use the jetpack to get through a maze and not touch the ceiling or floor due to crystal spike traps.
Looking over the other games from Squiddershins, there’s a bunch I’m eager to try out as soon as possible. Specifically Excuse Me! and Tick Tock Isle. We’ll see how long as soon as possible turns out to be. I feel like I’m starting a pattern, where I discover a studio or bunch of independent developers that I like, only to play one game from their collection before another shiny studio or independent developer steps into the spotlight and demands I pay attention to them. It’s the darkest circle of life.