Game Jam Winner Spotlight: Mr. Top Hat Doesn’t Give A Damn!

from the gaming-like-it's-1926 dept

We’re now past the halfway point in our series of posts about the winners of the fourth annual public domain game jam, Gaming Like It’s 1926. So far, we’ve looked at The Wall Across The River, The Obstruction Method, and Dreaming The Cave. Today, the spotlight falls on the winner of Best Visuals: Mr. Top Hat Doesn’t Give A Damn! by Josh from Dirtbug Games.

There were quite a few entries this year that did ambitious things with their visuals — always a bold challenge to undertake in a 30-day game jam. That’s just not enough time to make something graphically polished, but it’s plenty of time to do something graphically creative, and that’s just what Josh from Dirtbug Games did with Mr. Top Hat Doesn’t Give A Damn! The game mines what is increasingly one of the richest veins of visual assets and inspiration that can be found amidst the material entering the public domain right now: American animation. This art form, burgeoning as it was in the 1920s, had an unmistakable style and irresistible charm, and was most potent when used for comedy. And this is a very comedic game.

You take control of the titular Mr. Top Hat, and must navigate a series of set-piece “challenges” (which are not really challenging, since that’s not the point) built with footage from 1926 cartoons, all under the guidance of an omnipresent AI-generated narrator voice with a cheeky and charming accent. The controls are janky, the art is far from pristine, and the game as a whole is unfinished (ending after the first three sections) — but the style? The style is rock solid, a wonderful celebration of the works it draws from.

As the player guides Mr. Top Hat through each stage, the narrator chimes in with comical encouragement, instructions, and commentary. The actual gameplay is minimal, which frees up the player’s attention to spend their time in each screen taking in all the visual elements and listening to the endless string of jokes.

The game has a surprise or two up its sleeve, too. Just when you think you’ve got an idea of what each scene will be like and how the pieces of 1926 animation will be used, it throws a curveball at you — but the less said, the better. It’s a short game and the best way to enjoy it is to just go play it without knowing where it’s going to go.

From start to finish, Mr. Top Hat Doesn’t Give A Damn! is fun to look at and funny to play, and when you hit the current cutoff point of this unfinished game, you’re sure to wish there was another scene. Josh plans to continue development, and we hope this much-deserved win for Best Visuals offers some encouragement so we all get to find out what Mr. Top Hat is going to do next.

Congratulations to Josh from Dirtbug Games for the win! You can get everything you need to play Mr. Top Hat Doesn’t Give A Damn! from its page on Itch, plus don’t forget to check out the other winners as well as the many great entries that didn’t quite make the cut! We’ll be back next week with another winner spotlight.

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