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Escape from Area Fitty-Two is the sequel to a pair of great original graphic adventure games on YTV.com (YTV is like the Nickelodeon of Canada). The first two games, A Dark and Stormy Night and Miracle in the 34th Dimension, were featured Hallowe’en and Christmas games, respectively. They were created by Toronto-area game design phenom Michael Lalonde, whose work you’ll see in a lot of kids’ games made here in the city. Michael is also the creator of Orneryboy, which is a bit like Garfield, if Garfield were a multi-tentacled Lovecraftian demi-god in a zombie-filled world imagined by the love child of Edgar Allen Poe and the creator of the Care Bears. i like to call it “pop occulture”. (Content warning: Orneryboy is for older readers. Ask your parents first, kids.)
So working from characters created by Michael, a concept by Michael, and an aesthetic i lifted from Michael’s first two games, i went for broke and created the biggest Jinx adventure yet. (Michael would be spinning in his grave right now, but despite an occasionally pallid complexion, he’s very much alive. :) Audience expectations were very high, and given the nearly ten year release date gap since the second game in the series, we were very worried that the game would never be made. But last year, YTV pulled through, commissioning the second sequel and making a lot of fans and new players very happy.
Jinx 3 features three playable characters that you can switch between on the fly, a waypoint system for greater freedom of movement, and a bunch more puzzles and cutscenes than you found in the first two games. i would really like to have added voice-over, because Jinx 3 is pretty text-heavy. Maybe YTV will commission a Special Edition?
Here’s a fan-made walkthrough of the first half of the game from teh uTubez, if you want to watch someone else play it:
Note: The choppiness in the video is due to the fan’s screen capture software. The actual game plays smoothly. The writer character’s disappearing head is due to the YTV site embedding the game at a different aspect ratio, which causes animation glitches.
Jinx 3 was the first game created with UGAGS, the Untold Graphic Adventure Game System, which is a code framework and set of tools we’re building to help us create these kinds of games more quickly and easily for ourselves and our clients.
Jinx Fans Only
Everyone else can stop reading right now, but if you’re a Jinx/Sitekick/YTV fan, you may be interested to know how this game ties together the mythology of a lot of the original content on YTV. Here’s a list of trivia:
WARNING: Here be spoilers!
- The game reveals where Dr. Frantic got the red vat of mysterious alien ooze that you see in his lab when you go back in time in the Friday/Sunday chapter of the Sitekick Saga … he STOLE it from Area Fitty-Two!
- The alien ooze comprises the black gelatinous ooze core of the Sitekick, offering a possible explanation as to how Sitekicks gained sentience (note: the current Sitekick redesign doesn’t allow you to open your robot to see the ooze core any longer, which is a shame)
- YTV released a casual downloadable game called They Came for the Ooze. It was a match-3 game featuring little aliens that look a bit like Sitekick. The game hinted that the aliens returned to Earth to reclaim their ooze, but it never explained how Dr. Frantic obtained the ooze in the first place. Now we know!
- Dr. Frantic gets the idea for the Sitekick from the design on the wall of the small room inside the hangar. The design was confiscated from the Gnat aliens, which may mean that the Gnat aliens originally designed the Sitekick.
- The metal plate on the back of Dr. Frantic’s head joins a new revelation: when Dr. Frantic walks through the X-Ray, he’s a robot!
Holy crap – it’s like the X Files up in here!
- Michael’s original concept for the game had Dr. Frantic losing his head, and Jinx had to rewire him to put him back together. The idea didn’t make it into this version, but it would be really neat to see it in a sequel.
- Michael made a time management Sitekick Factory, where one of Evil Santa’s E.L.F.s (Evil Loyal Followers) had to build Sitekicks. At the end of Jinx 3, Dr. Frantic offers the E.L.F. a job, which is a reference to Sitekick Factory.
- Between Jinx 2 and Jinx 3, Michael created an animated short where a UFO kidnaps Jinx while Jinx is camping. The UFO was a repurposed asset from Michael’s quickie game Nero the Hero. It was reused once more in the hangar in Jinx 3.
- At launch time, there was a Sitekick code in the small room inside the hangar. Get it while it’s still active!
- DID U KNOW? Jinx is never referred to with a gender-specific pronoun, which leaves it up to the player to see Jinx as either a boy or a girl
- There’s nothing under the sheet when Jinx walks through the X-Ray (another of Michael’s great ideas!)
- It’s tricky to catch, but when the E.L.F. walks through the X-Ray, he has a cupcake in his tummy. i threw that in there because i know Michael has a thing for cupcakes.
- Dr. Frantic gets his hovercar from the hangar, which he uses again in the Sitekick Saga – Wednesday chapter to battle the rampaging Monster Sitekick. One early idea was to have the characters all escape in their own hovercars.
- The inventory items are consistent and carry over from game to game.
YTV.com has a rich creative history packed with some fantastic original content. It would be great to see Corus, YTV’s parent company, exploit some of that IP worldwide. i think it would be a hit! Meantime, Jinx 3 was a fantastic project to work on – a real labour of love – and an itch i’ve been wanting to scratch for nearly ten years. i think it’s the funniest game i’ve ever written. Hope you enjoy it! (Now go let YTV know you want to see the much-rumoured sequel to Freaky Friday! :)