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Review for Bumpland 
 PostMon Feb 12, 2018 8:09 pm
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This is a review of Bumpland.

Bumpland (or is it Bump Land?) is an RPG released in 2017 by TheMan (aka Tom M). It's a promising game with quite a few rough edges that could use a bit of polish.

The job of the player is to guide the protagonist on a vision-quest through the nigh-monochromatic wastelands of the Second Pillar of his tri-pillared cubic homeworld. (You get all that? Good.)

Upstairs in the second pillar the protagonist encounters the King and Queen, who are surrounded by a number of televisions displaying only static (the TV in the lower left-hand corner seems to be missing its animation). Downstairs is sewer-like dungeon where a pink-faced creature has been imprisoned on an elevated platform. When the protagonist frees the creature, it expands and attempts to kill the protagonist with its tentacles. To escape, the protagonist can jump from the platform into a region of the waste known as Bumpland (Bump Land?) - a white rocky wasteland filled with spiky elemental hazards, talking rock-like creatures, “Punkerns” that dispense items, and pickle-monsters that drop mostly useless “daggars” (sic).

The game includes some jokey tutorial texts, but most are unhelpful. Instructions about movement do not appear until long after movement has been required of the player. Portals are only explained after the player has used several of them. The explanation of how to adjust audio volume occurs many noisy scenes into the game. The jokey vibe carries on throughout the game, including suggestive names for attacks and consumables.

The game’s aesthetic is appealing – charmingly pixilated homebrew goodness with a mostly black-and-white palette; however the white intro text is a bit hard to read against this mostly-white background. The soundtrack is also very good, especially when it favors blippy synthesizers and contextual ambience. A few pieces of music feel out of place, and (while satisfying musically when divorced from context) I’m not sure the funky organ at the beginning of the game is complimentary to the rest of the sights and sounds in the game (I quite like the birdsong and guitar though).

Early in my adventure, I encountered a map with no obvious exit. Ultimately I found my way out by walking around and eventually stepping on an unmarked tile that transported me to another location (this is not how exploration works). On the next screen, I discovered that some rocks are pushable while others or not. I immediately pushed a rock directly into the only path out of the area – trapping me on this screen.

As I backtracked to the screen’s entrance, I battled numerous pickle-monsters that gradually drained my Hit Points down to nearly zero – forcing me to use the only healing item I had found thusfar (which refilled less than half of my HP). Most enemies can be killed in one hit (unfortunately nullifying the temptation to experiment with spells or projectiles); the real risk here is the significant damage they can cause if the player fails to succeed in this, which is compounded by the scarcity of healing items. I’m fond of risk in RPGs so I applaud the danger in Bumpland (Bump Land?); however this threat can be quite anxiety-inducing in the early game as save points are virtually non-existent until the the city of Aeonwald. After a while, I began to treat traversal as a non-renewable resource (a la Nethack). Weapons have unique statistical advantages and disadvantages, which follow no rhyme or reason I can discern. This might actually create some choice for character customization, but I’d have to analyze the numbers to be sure.

Upon re-entering the block puzzle screen, the puzzles were fortunately reset. The first was easy to solve once I understood it for what it was. However solving the second block puzzle entailed stepping onto a tile type that had previously been established as impassible, whereas the generic ground tile immediately adjacent to the block itself was – in contradiction to precedent - inexplicably untraversable.

After working my way through the troublesome block puzzle screen, I entered a tunnel where I met a lumpy creature named Reynard who joined my party when I returned his missing family heirloom, found on the previous screen. Proceeding to the next room, I found Reynard’s teeth. Attempting to equip them, I discovered that Reynard already had statistically identical teeth so the new ones were a useless duplicate.

Fortunately after traversing the small dungeon, I came to the city of Aeonwald where there was another save point with a healing item located nearby (praise!). In Aeonwald, ghosts exist where people once were. There’s still a bar left open in town though, albeit one with Tardis-like interior dimensions and plenty of pickle-monsters to sap away my precious HP. The bartender can sell precious MP-refilling Will Jars however, as well as empty beer bottles that can be hurled as projectiles. I was disappointed when, after travelling to the end of this absurdly long room and receiving “Plaque Removal Paste” as my reward, I was unable to remove the plaque from beneath the painting in the same room. Perhaps this is my adventure-gamer mindset leading me to look for puns and puzzles where none exist.

In the northeast of Aeonwald is Aeon Mine and its rickety elevator - a great touch, executed well with jangling chain sound effects (although, how do enemies keep finding me in this elevator?). At the bottom of the shaft is a proper shop where healing items can be purchased (rejoice!). Travel by mine-cart leads into the salt mine where lies the tomb of the mine’s founder Samuel Aeon, whose mummified corpse must be defeated for Reasons. Further explorations of the mine leads to a force field that blocks traversal, as well as portal to a buoy in the middle of the water southwest of Aeonwald (which also blocks traversal), and a third path blocked by a spider whose attacks result in instant death (but who also does not actually move from the player’s path when defeated, again blocking traversal).

A flying boat can be found on the southern coast of Aeonwald, which can also be used to access the buoy-portal back to the mines. Traversal over water leads to a random encounter about once every 1-3 tiles, making boating a risky proposition. This is however the only way to encounter the game’s most charming antagonist – a harmless sea monster named Phil.

At this point in the game, I got stuck – unable to delve any deeper into the salt mine, get past the silverware impeding progress to the northwest, or locate any seeds for the ghostly farmer’s side-quest; nor could I find any clues among the jokey recurring “hints.” When a game’s setting and/or plot depart radically from the bounds of realism (or at least established genre tropes), the less a player is able to rely on their prior experiences (in games or real life) to help them reason through the problems the game presents. It is in this regard that Bumpland (Bump Land?) is the most disappointing. I enjoyed exploring the game’s surreal world, until it just suddenly stopped letting me. When I stopped playing, both of my characters were at level 10, and I possessed nine “daggars.”

The game’s strange aesthetics, setting, and plot are intriguing. If tidied up and revised a bit, it could potentially become one of the more interesting JRPGs in the OHRRPGCE library. Give us updates!
...spake The Lord Thy God.
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