The Jack Claw Project
Those among us who picked up the latest Humble Bundle, or even the one before, may have noticed a little demo included with the package for something called Jack Claw. If you didn’t pick up the bundle, then I will give you a moment to go grab it here. Go on, I’ll wait. Alright, now that we are all good people who support Indie developers we can talk about this Jack Claw thing. I suppose it’s not really a demo so much as it’s a tech demo, or, as the bundle puts it, a prototype. You can finish the whole experience in five minutes or less if you wanted to, but that’s no reason to not be excited about it though. It’s an interesting look into a game that never got out of its infancy, and you playing with its core mechanic in a sandbox.
The demo opens with a peek into the aesthetic the developers were going for, a kind of comic book inspired look similar to the Max Payne style of word panels and voice over narration. It even looks like a golden age comic at times, with old model cars in an art deco styled city. The streets are lit by plenty of neon signs and old fashioned street lamps, and the walls decorated with advertisements and propaganda for this violence free utopia. With the massive chains and retro futuristic police force it has a nice alternate history vibe going for it that I want to see more of. As well as destroy more of.
All of these pretty set pieces are here to be broken, and that is what this demo is all about. The massive mechanical claw arm of the protagonist being wielded to smash cars through walls and fling hapless enforces through windows. The environments all crumble and break as you fling cars, dumpsters, and smashed neon signs through them. It’s about as satisfying as you may recall bringing Lego cities to the ground with action figures as a kid was. Which is to say, very satisfying. Enemies go flying as you ram things into them, walls crumble and rebar is exposed and bent, and your luxurious mullet flutters in the dusty debris.
Following the game’s advice, I played with a 360 controller; the right stick was exclusively for controlling the arm while the left moved Jack’s Mullet, and by proxy, Jack. Having an entire thumbstick just for whipping around my massive Doctor Octopus style arm is a real blast. Holding the right bumper will cause the claw to latch onto whatever you pass it over, allowing you to smash it into everything in sight. Once you tire of bashing a car into some chump and bringing a wall down on him, you can hold the right trigger and aim for some more fools down the street, hurling the car with a release of the trigger.
It’s a simple good time, just like taking an imaginary super hero through that Lego city, and the demo certainly works in letting you see just how much fun that could be. The emphasis on comic panels at the start and the propaganda on the walls are an echo of a full game that could have featured an engaging story as well. I’m not talking anything too crazy, an Orwellian police state and a prototype weapon on the right man at the right time to save the people would have been fine by me. Perhaps some more variety would have be introduced. Some physics puzzles or some vertical gameplay by using the arm to climb and grapple, just some more variety to keep it interesting.
Maybe we can see all that in a community made release of the project. In a twist not normally seen when a game dies in the prototype phases, Frozenbyte didn’t just toss everything and move on entirely. They made the source code open to the community and made a forum for the open development of the game by their fans. They have topics on the desired final project, task lists for programmers and designers, and goals to accomplish. If it works it would be something to behold, normally fans gather to fix a broken, but ultimately finished game. Here though, they are building the game entirely themselves using only the prototype I just played. All five minutes of it.
I love the idea of community development, and this is an ideal experiment to see how it all works. They have a foundation to build on with an engine and a core mechanic, but everything else is up to them. The story, the gameplay, and every other mechanic outside of picking stuff up and tossing it. I can’t imagine how people from around the world working with passion and through forums can come to consensus on ideas, my friends and I can barely choose what movies to watch in the same room. Needless to say, it will be a challenge for all of the people involved, but it’s something I can’t wait to see.
To the community working on this project, I salute you and eagerly wait to see what you all put together. If you didn’t know about this project until now, why not check out the forums and see what they are up to. If you have some game design talents, then perhaps this is a project you can sink yourself into. The Humble Bundles are always a great way to support indie devs and get some great games to play at great values, and hopefully this one will also bring some more attention to the Jack Claw Project and community developed games in general.