My journey through Summerbatch has been a bumpy one thus far. While PISS had an interesting story and Barely Floating had a couple of noteworthy puzzles, neither one offered the full package that I expect in an adventure game, leaving me moaning for nearly two full reviews. But now, looking back, I think I might have judged them too harshly. Jailbreak has reminded me what it means to be truly and utterly awful, and neither Barely Floating nor Piss even approach it. Jailbreak is a stealth game that lasts only about an hour, but it is an hour of unbearable misery. It’s like watching a cat be tortured, and after playing through the game I’m honestly having difficultly remembering what joy means. I think it involved something with jelly…no, no that can’t be. Wait…I think it’s a place? A person? I don’t…I don’t remember…WHAT DID YOU DO TO ME JAILBREAK?
This is one of those games I can’t even imagine the developers playing and going, “Yes, this isn’t a total abomination.” Someone who worked on this game had to have known how bad it was. If a doctor messed up this badly, they’d be arrested. Hell, if a janitor messed up this badly they’d be arrested, because an error equal in magnitude to this game would require them to poison someone with their detergent. I don’t have a single good thing to say about Jailbreak. I don’t have a single bad thing to say about it. Everything I want to say begins with an expletive and is followed by a string of angry nonsense words, because the English language doesn’t have any real words that properly convey the amount of hatred I have for this game. Everything about it is so amazingly, fantastically bad that the only possible explanation for its existence is that a big game company heard of Sumemrbatch, and fearing that it was the future of game distribution, posed as an indie developer and tried their best to sink it by packaging Jailbreak with it.
Well, I guess there is one thing I like. The instruction manual is phenomenal. I don’t mean phenomenal in the traditional sense, however. It is more like an ironic Paul Franzen, “hey get over here and guess what learning disabilities this guy suffers from” kind of phenomenal. You know, that special place where something is so awful it becomes fantastic, or “fantastibad” as it’s known around here. Check out this honest to goodness, in no way altered story summary given by the game itself.
All right, I have some questions. First and foremost, who taught the illiterate guy to code? The person who wrote this is either seven or has never spoken English before ever. In fact, the person who wrote this has to be seven AND not speak English, because being just one of those things isn’t enough to explain this. If you type this into Word, the paperclip pops up and says, “It looks like you’re having a stroke. Would you like me to call an ambulance?” The phrase “this time things get much more worsed by its own” sounds like something a toddler might say if he was threatening someone, and it’s so spectacularly stupid I feel like it should have its own show on E!
Oh man, the next section is somehow worse. How did this paragraph possibly happen? They say if you gave a room full of monkeys typewriters and an infinite amount of time, they’d eventually reproduce the works of Shakespeare. This above paragraph is the work of one monkey on a typewriter given only an afternoon, and he immediately threw it away and started again because even as a monkey he knew he could do better. It is so poorly written, I don’t even know what the hell they are trying to say at parts. Like, what the hell is an educational nursing home, and why did they have Shaun captive? Nursing homes are where we force our old people, and we don’t educate them on anything except for how to deal with the fact that their families abandoned them. We also learn that Shaun is a criminal thug who was hired by a “burglargang to keep cave and cover there asses.” This is the most depressing thing yet, because “keep cave” is apparently British slang for guarding something, which means whoever wrote this actually speaks English and this was the very best he or she could do.
Man, he does sound tricky and clever. Any guy running a syndicate of burglars who names his organization “burglarsyndicate” is clearly a criminal mastermind. Wait, why does this guy look so familiar?
Oh, right, of course. So Charlie Sheen has taken a break from trapping hookers in his closets and is running a super secret syndicate of burglars, and he and the prison warden and police chief have slumber parties where they play light as a feather, stiff as a board and talk about boys. But what about the actual gameplay? What does the manual tell us about the gameplay?
I’m about to blow your mind: That whole paragraph up there is only two sentences. That is twenty thoughts strung together with an endless supply of commas and heroin. This guy abuses commas like Charlie Sheen abuses hookers, and protective services came to his door and repossessed his comma key after this paragraph came to light. Apparently he thought that you could just keep rambling about whatever you wanted if you threw a comma in there, a thought which makes no sense to literate people, and dogs are fun to pet, who took my sandwich, clown farts are weird, and woop there goes the geese.
I suppose that’s enough time spent on the manual. Now for the horrible task of actually dissecting the game. When you start, some random guy on the street corner lets you know the cops are out looking for you. Your character is surprised because he hasn’t committed any crimes recently, and apparently the statute of limitations in the City of Thieves is like five hours because otherwise he should know that cops usually take interest even in crimes that took place in the past. I think I know why the City of Thieves has such a rampant crime problem. Regardless, you take the logical approach of contacting the authorities and turning yourself in so you can fight the charges and…nah, I’m just kidding. You punch a couple of cops in the back of the head. Unfortunately, the trail of cop blood you leave in your wake makes you easy to follow, and a squadron of cop cars converge and you get thrown in jail.
I could forgive the laughably bad story if the game were actually any good, but the gameplay manages to somehow makes the whole experience even worse. The focus of the game is on sneaky stealth and avoiding detection, similar to what was done with much success in the Assassin’s Creed series. Although comparing this game to the Assassin’s Creed series is like comparing Roseanne Barr to Kate Upton or Gilbert Gottfried to Channing Tatum, depending on your hottie of choice. The gameplay is actually closer in execution to Metal Gear Solid, and the end result is closer in quality to Sneak King. You need to sneak up on guards and incapacitate them, and you’re given two separate movement styles in which to do so. The first is sneak mode, where you get up on your tippy toes and walk like you’re trying to stop yourself from pooping your pants. While in sneak mode, your movement is essentially undetectable by the guards unless you get up right behind them and put your tongue in their ear. The second is moron mode, where you clop around like a retarded horse, and everyone in the damn room hears you and walks over to laugh at you. You don’t seem to move any faster and it doesn’t come with any benefits that I could pick up on, so there is no reason for moron mode even existing other than the developers had no idea what they were doing.
Short of accidentally putting your character in moron mode, losing in Jailbreak is nearly impossible. The AI is so incredibly, unbelievably bad that it is impossible to get any sort of enjoyment out of Jailbreak, even if you like this genre. There is absolutely no challenge and no reward for planning out a comprehensive attack route because the AI is so simplistic that any strategy beyond waiting until the guard slowly turns their back is complete overkill. Jailbreak uses every single imaginable flaw that could exist in stealth games and uses them as its selling points. First, the game has the obnoxious cone of sight that the genre gave up on years ago, and you must avoid a little red no-no zone that barely covers the ground immediately in front of the guard because anything outside of arms reach isn’t worth chasing.
Luckily, he can’t see you because you’re SO FAR AWAY.
As long as you aren’t directly in that red no-no cone, your guy is totally safe. Approximately half of the guards stand in one spot and slowly rotate while the other half walk back and forth in a straight line. There is not a single interesting design choice in the entire game, and the area layouts are all so simple and dull. And, on top of that, the AI is so awful and terribly programmed that even if you do get caught nothing really happens. For example, if one guard catches you knocking out another guard, but then you scamper off screen, he completely forgets you were ever there.
“And you’re not supposed to be bleeding from the neck, either! Did you even read the guidelines?”
Instead, they move over to the body of their unconscious co-worker and scold him for falling asleep on the job, like this is something that happens all the time. Then they stand there, refusing to turn around and loudly stating, “Jeez, I hope nobody sneaks up behind me and knocks me out right now, because all my co-workers are complete idiots and will assume I’m just taking a nap!” Even if you are particularly dumb and walk into the red no-no cone, the guard will chase you for approximately ten seconds before getting bored and concluding that you must have ran away. This isn’t even really stealth, because that would require me to actually sneak around. This is confusing moronic police officers who think that, once you hide behind a truck, you cease to exist. There is no danger from an enemy that can be outsmarted by a game of peak-a-boo.
And, if you wander into the red no-no zone and then refuse to run away, you take part in an atrociously designed fighting game that is even worse than the stealth. You can punch or block or turn the game off, and I beg you to do the latter. The fight is essentially Rock-’em Sock-’em Robots, without the satisfaction of knocking off the other guy’s head. It is basically a minigame of “do you care enough to keep tapping punch,” and the answer is an emphatic no. Also, if you enter into a fight your computer will assume you entered a time warp and try to make sure it is Y2K compliant, because the animation is so ugly that it can’t possibly exist outside 1996.
Is this a fight or a competitive square-dancing minigame?
I could go on about all the ways this game completely ruined Summerbatch for me (THANKS A LOT, PAUL), but honestly this review is already longer than the game itself. The whole experience lasts less than an hour, but there aren’t enough ideas here for even that. There is one single concept, but it is botched so badly that I can’t imagine anybody anywhere wanting to play this or watch it or be in the same room as it. This is less fun than Superman 64 and Sneak King and wisdom teeth removal. Jailbreak is an insult to indie-game developers everywhere, and the fact that the money I spent on it went evenly between a game like PISS and this mess makes me genuinely sad. Avoid this game at all costs, as something this bad has to be harmful to your computer.