Jengo: where SA music, art and global gaming culture collides

Jengo game artwork, by Louis Du Pisani

Johannesburg, South Africa: we can’t help but notice the high ratio of metalheads doubling up as gamers in South Africa. It’s possible that this is a global phenomenon too. We don’t really know. However, another observation is that we’re not only playing games in this country; we’re involved in making them too! In 2016 we spoke about the Broforce phenomenon, featuring members of power metal band Strident.

Today, Jengo is the next blip to pulse on our radar screen. After three years of laying down the groundwork, Jengo is now up in the Fig Backstage to take another bold step towards ultimate realization. We spoke with Louis Du Pisani, co-creator and art director for the visually scintillating point-and-click extravaganza.

Jengo, the visual extension of a musical storyteller, if you get the drift?

Of course, many of our readers know Louis already; as frontman for metal band The Drift, as well as creator of the former TV show MK Ondergrond. What is clear is that the man is a relentlessly creative powerhouse and likes to bring us nice things to enjoy.

How did it end up into a point-and-click adventure game? Louis shares with us in the context of a fellow musician and aural storyteller:

“I’d like to think that most people who create album experiences are storytellers. The Drift albums were molded around a story and songs were treated like sonic executions of story beats. What is exciting about Jengo is that we’re adding a more detailed visual and interactive layer to the story telling.” ~ Louis Du Pisani

And so it is that the multiverse portrayed in projects such as The Drift, MK Ondergrond and whatever other crazy ideas formulate inside a creative mind begins to converge. The result is a colourful realm known as ‘The Pixelverse’ and a town setting called ‘Old Meta’. The central character is Jeff, a veteran gamer in search of a new challenge, or rather, “the ultimate game”; which makes this something to which many of us can relate. It gets bizarre from there. If you don’t believe us, watch the video from the game creators at Robot Wizard below.

links between Metal and Jengo

Our primary interest, of course, has less to do with games and more to do with music, art and the people who create it. Though it appears to be more and more the same thing these days.

It’s been fascinating, to say the least, to see the list of credits. The aural delivery for Jengo includes not only input from Louis himself, but from such esteemed names in local metal circles as: Jared Gunston (from the band Chromium, and audio engineer/producer for many SA metal releases); Chris van der Walt (Boargazm, The Black Cat Bones and multiple other musical projects); Riaan Bothma (Underbelly), and; Stefan Stabic (The Drift and Gadabout). The musical aspects of the project is not limited to these artists only, as the brief requires rather a departure from metal. Though we remain intrigued with the soundscape as it is shaping up.

Artworks extracted from Jengo.
Artworks extracted from Jengo.

Visual correlations

On the visual front, we noticed a somewhat familiar stylistic approach with Jengo‘s creative direction. The Drift‘s artwork is never too far from mind.

“There is a massive subconscious crossover between Jengo and The Drift; especially when it comes to exploring a larger narrative. Jengo’s first chapter is set in a desert environment which almost always lends itself to a more psychedelic undertone. At this point songs like ‘A Shadow Dream’ were born which explored more open soundscapes. The biggest effects was on the artwork between both projects.” ~ Louis Du Pisani

The Drift‘s visual sensibility was certainly detached from the heavy metal stereotypes of darkness and carnage. The band took a clear approach to broadening horizons rather than simply revisiting the tried and tested.

“Instead of being oppressive it became more open minded, probably in line with how many people likely felt when they first discovered the occult. Liberated. Jengo takes a few jabs at the male ego; and that line of thinking became prevalent in the latter day Drift marketing material. There are tons of Drift easter eggs in the Jengo artwork.” ~ Louis Du Pisani

Many a South African metalhead will recognize the images below. And now an opportunity presents itself. We all can have our names (at the very least) immortalized as backers for the continued development of Jengo. Robot Wizard set out to raise 400 backers at a nominal contribution each, which effectively buys you the game upon completion. For more generous contributors, the stakes are raised high; even to the extent of being created as a character in the game itself! See the full story.

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