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Jacob Buczynski's Games

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Jacob Bucsynski, otherwise known as JinxTengu or Bizarre Wound Games, is responsible not only for Revenge of the Sunfish, but also a fairly sizable catalog of games and other projects, though Sunfish is his most extensive work so far. He discusses some of the motives and philosophies behind his works on his official website, and has been known to show up for an interview or two. One of Buczynski's most prominent influences was the Kubus Manifesto, which he says was written by game designer Kimberly Kubus and published on Kubus's website, although it seems to have been lost in the midst of numerous site crashes and redesigns. According to the official Revenge of the Sunfish site, "[t]he gist of the manifesto was about going against and/or breaking well established game design rules, exceeding/breaking player expectations, not respecting the player by designing games that [were] easy to follow, understand or even play. A theme of excess, and overkill. In essence breaking the rules that game players take for granted."

This explains why nearly every one of his games' aesthetics seem to be the accumulation of all that's despised, from the MS Paint graphics, to the ugly two-tone gradients and color filters, to the annoying sound effects. It's all about breaking the rules of what's considered normal, good or polished. The only problem with this is that without a detached, underlying reason for breaking these rules, it becomes nothing more than a cheap gimmick. While things like Microsoft Paint or MIDI files which are normally abhorred and seen as inferior can sometimes provide a wonderful kitsch effect, the majority of Buczynsi's games, as well as his other projects such as his artwork and animations and even the design of his website, are essentially the antikitsch. The true spirit of kitsch is about taking the things that are normally considered to be of poor quality and using them unironicaly to create good and meaningful works of art, while Buczynski just piles up everything we consider low-grade and spits it in our faces to inspire shock and morbid intrigue.

Buczynski blames Revenge of the Sunfish's awful MS Paint graphics on time pressure, but I don't buy it. Much of the graphics appear to have been outlined in MS Paint and then meticulously filled in with gradients, bumpmaps, tiled textures and color filters, which would have taken just as much time and effort as a straight-faced attempt at making the graphics somewhat decent. Beyond that, the same quality of graphics is consistent in nearly every one of his games (up to and including Revenge of the Sunfish 2) and indeed all of his other projects. It couldn't be more obvious that he intentionally makes his games ugly if he covered them all with JPEG artifacts!

Surprisingly enough, however, some of the goals behind Buczysnki game designs are actually quite noble pursuits. In an interview with Indie Statik, he said that his games were largely an attempt at recreating his dreams, and that the imagery and abruptness of dreams appealed to him. The concept of using video games to recreate the experience of dreaming is one that I've fanatically supported ever since I was first exposed to it through Yume Nikki. I have always loved dreams for their otherworldly air of mystery and the innocent, unguarded mindset they induce. The immersive nature of video games makes them the perfect medium to capture the essence of dreams, and it's a travesty that so few game designers have explored this concept! And to be honest, this is one thing he's accomplished. Revenge of the Sunfish is basically a giant nightmare, and the the rest of his games (with notable exceptions) are essentially a collection of little ones. Buczynski has also said that he hates repetition in games and with Revenge of the Sunfish, he sought to create a game that was truly non-linear, where each level was something new. Now, this is definitely a worthy pursuit and, if explored by more developers, could potentially lead to a whole revolution in game design! However, to say that he missed the mark on this one would be a massive understatement. Most Sunfish levels share the same basic mechanics with at least one other, several carry on for multiple screens, and almost all of them are thoroughly unimaginative.

Aside from Revenge of the Sunfish, Jacob Buczynski's portfolio mostly consists of a collection of garish MS paint artwork, a few hideous animations, and a cornucopia of games that could be described as bite-sized versions of Revenge of the Sunfish. In fact, if he put all of his little games together and made each one level in one giant game, he could easily pass it off as a Sunfish sequel and no one would bat an eyelash. In addition to being hideous kusoge, some of these games are ridiculously offensive, as well. For instance, the infamous keyboard scene in Revenge of the Sunfish is nothing compared to Adventures from the Crocodile Guy, which begins with Steve Irwin feeding human babies to crocodiles and ends with a parody of his tragic death. It's not the least bit surprising that Buczynski cites Norwegian game developer Kimberly Kubus as one of his greatest influences. I had never heard of Kubus until Buczynski referenced the Kubus Manifesto on his website, but after one visit to Kubus's site, you won't be surprised at all that this man inspired Jacob Buczynski. Kimberly Kubus is a Game Maker developer responsible for over a hundred games plus some other projects published on what is hands-down the #1 ugliest website of all time. He's essentially become the "he who must not be named" of the Game Maker community, and for good reason. Just about everything he's done is so hideous that it will make you want to stab our eyes out with a bottle of bleach and so offensive that you'll want to track him down and fly all the way to Norway just to punch him in the nose.

Oh, and Buczynski also wrote a story and published it on a webpage where the background image is so close to the text color that you can only read it by highlighting the text. Please dim the lights and put on some dramatic music. Without further ado, it's time for an excerpt from the book, Welcome to Thee Darpocalism.

Byergit stein decided this must stop. To stop it there was built a big thingy. Pressed the on button ey did but what happened next only some people could tell in the time it too. "kerpowarzakenzoww!!!!!" said the chunky robot when it scratched on. It resembles a colossus tornadoes half cat half man and that was just the beginning, or so we thought... if only we hadn't known what to feed the blaggard!!! "blangardo only wanted to fetch the head sac!" said the half cat man in defense of this handily bicycle safety inspector. But it was a trap! ZAP! Blangardow was neither here nor hither. After a while the on looking zowspowkt splikinzarque resorted to a sleepy potion. It fell asleep much to the astonishment wonder and admiration of balankard, brother of blangardo.

I'll let this speak for itself. And this is only a small snippet of the whole text.

Chef le Puke (Windows)

Pasta Master (Windows)

Adventures from the Crocodile Guy (Windows)

Chef le Puke (Windows)



Danger Sprout - Windows (2013)

More shocking than any of the games mentioned so far is the fact that in stark contrast to the ocean of hideous art and games on his website, some of Jacob Buczynski's creations are truly and unironically beautiful. As of the writing of this article, Buczynski has made two "lightshow" videos published on his YouTube channel entitled "Colorful Video Clip" and "Jellyfish" and a program called Colorscope, a phenomenal little "non-game" à la Elektroplankton.

But Buczynski's best and most promising work so far has been Danger Sprout, a surreal cinematic platformer with vector graphics inspired by early-80s arcade games. Much like Revenge of the Sunfish, no simple description of Danger Sprout could really do it justice. It's incredibly atmospheric in a very similar vein as Limbo, Another World and Heart of Darkness. The plot is so simple that there doesn't even appear to be one until the ending scene. The aesthetic is both light-hearted and dark at the same time, featuring many silent characters that seem to give off warm personalities just from their appearance and behavior. While the graphics are mesmerizing ingame, still screenshots don't do it justice at all, since the lines are meant to be seen shimmering and twisting around in full motion. The player character suffers the most from this phenomenon, as when he moves, he leaves purple trails behind him that don't look right at all in a still image.

Danger Sprout does a very good job of balancing puzzle-solving with pure action. The controls are very straightforward; your only available actions are to move left and right, jump, and shoot. But in spite of the simplicity of the control scheme, this game's unique environments provide some extremely rich and fulfilling puzzle-solving gameplay. A savegame feature is notably missing, although this is forgivable since the game is very short and if you do happen to close out of it mid-game, most levels are pretty easy to run through a second time once you've figured out the puzzles.

Danger Sprout, along with Colorscope and Buczynski's lightshow videos, shows genuine talent and an ocean of potential. But far beyond simply showing potential, Danger Sprout is a brilliant work of art in and of itself.

Quick Info:

Developer:

  • Bizarre Wound Games

Designer:

  • Jacob Buczynski

Genre:

Themes:




Conclusion

Jacob Buczynski is not entirely a bad game designer. He has a tendency to overuse shock and irony tactics, and seems to focus his efforts on breaking the established rules of game design, making games that are different for the sake of being different rather than creating games that are sincere and exist for a greater purpose than simply to stand out. But in spite of all that, he also has some truly noble and heartfelt goals, which he seems to be getting closer to accomplishing. He has proven that he's capable of creating not only a good game, but a great one, and could one day even create a masterwork that shapes future generations and changes the gaming world as we know it. Is Revenge of the Sunfish a good game? Not by a longshot, and the same can be said of nearly every one of Buczynski's games. Yet I hope that they become a source of inspiration for generations of game designers, and the same goes tenfold for whatever Jacob Buczynski has in store for us beyond the horizon.


Related Articles


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Revenge of the Sunfish
Revenge of the Sunfish 2

Page 2:
Other Monstrosities
Danger Sprout

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index