Angry Jew, the Ninjew that creates pogrom-awareness in a fun way
Christianity and Judaism were descendants of the same religious current, yet for most of the medieval (and modern) history whenever bad circumstances occurred (say the plague, or simpler things such a bad harvesting season) the Jews were persecuted.
Why? Well, taking the example of the Russian Empire, someone had to be blamed for everything that happened and the Czars liked their heads on their shoulders, thus encouraged and promoted antisemitism. This way they could easily divert the population’s wrath from their own incompetent management towards the Jews.
It was also very easy for them to do so, “God is angry for his son was killed and is sending us the plague” was enough and whenever that didn’t work other rumors were spread (i.e. the Jews assassinated the Czar). Point is, whenever a large group was fervently Christian the smaller group was prosecuted. During the 19th century in Imperial Russia (actually current Ukraine territory, who knows for how long), between 1881 and 1884 to be more precise, there were well over 200 pogroms.
Pogroms were violent riots with a single purpose, massacring an ethnic/religious group, particularly aimed at Jews. During these pogroms tens of thousands Jews were killed by peasants and Cossacks (militarized peasants) – some on one side had the added benefit of relieving them from debt (if Jews lent money to them for harvests), others were just politically indoctrinated to do so (you can read this book for an overview if you’re interested in the subject). Some say that events like these should be forgotten, but I say that they should be taught and remembered, decreasing this way the chances of repeating history (hear that Russia?).
LightHouse is an Israeli indie studio that tries to do just that, teach us a bit about these shameful history events in a fun way. After a year of work they released a fun game called “Angry Jew” where the main character turns back in time to fight against the Cossacks (only them, for political fairness) and collect as many holy books as possible.
What pleasantly surprised me the most is how well the game integrates Jewish motifs, from design to music everything just fits perfectly and even when your character dies you still have a smile in the corner of your mouth as he goes out in style. You can see me punching Cossacks in the video below:
“Angry Jew” is a 2D infinite runner (Temple Run invented this) and the main protagonist, Mendel (an Orthodox Jew – sic!), has to collect as many holy books and challah breads as possible to get a higher score. All while jumping, sliding or dodging obstacles in his way and punching Cossacks. The game is structured in two modes, level-based and endless, in total hours of fun. There are 30 levels and in each the difficulty progresses as you are introduced to new actions. At first you only have to jump over obstacles, but you’ll get introduced to sliding under those that permit it and punching your enemies. Controls are conveniently placed in the lower left/right corners and are easy to use once you get into the pace.
The fun comes not only from the cartoon-ish look of the characters and environment, but also from subtle jokes (such as Mendel starting a speech on how the Jews were persecuted for 4000 years and suddenly interrupted by the Rabbi), Cossacks that dance happily on your grave and words of wisdom from the Rabbi “Many complain of their looks, but none of their brains”.
“Angry Jew” received in 2013 a special achievement at the annual Israeli game contest and if that doesn’t convince you its features will:
- Beautiful graphics. The scenery takes place in 19th century Imperial Russia and the graphics show the commitment to details. Even when you collect a holy book there’s a smooth effect, almost angelic, not to mention the way Mendel moves (dozens of sprites for it only). This is the biggest selling point of “Angry Jew”, well-designed graphics with Jewish motifs.
- Matching soundtrack. The soundtrack matches the graphics in instilling that Jewish cartoon atmosphere. There’s not much you can generally say about a soundtrack, except that it fits the theme of the game perfectly and sounds very good.
- Arcade and endless mode. You can play the game in two modes: Level-by-level vs Endless. The default level mode lets you play 30 different stages each increasing in difficulty and introducing new actions/enemies. That’s not all, if through some angelic miracle manage to finish all the levels, you can play in endless mode where death is the final destination. This mode is locked and requires 2000 in-app holy books, but those can be easily gathered by playing the level mode (or purchase them for $0.99, well worth the money)
- Powerups. Aside the holy books and challah bread you collect through the levels, you’ll also get some special power-ups such as the angel of books and magnets which will summon a chubby angel and help you by collecting automatically the books. There’s also the hand of God that helps you advance faster…
- Easy controls. Mendel runs automatically and only hard obstacles stop it. You avoid those by jumping over them or sliding under. These movement controls are right at your left hand thumb, on the opposite side being the punch action that helps you send Cossacks in Hell. A little practice and you get to master these controls faster than saying “Oy Gevalt!”
- Words of wisdom. Rabbi guides you with advices throughout the game and is by your tombstone in the end. But you can also read additional words of wisdom from him in a separate section of the game easily reachable from the dashboard. If you like those so much you can order Cafepress imprinted materials and humor others while helping the developers.
- Social integration. “Angry Jew” unobtrusively offers Facebook integration (i.e. won’t post anything without your acceptance) and lets you share your misery with your friends. You also get to have your name shown on a leaderboard if your score was good enough.
“Angry Jew” is available for free on Google Play and it was created by three handsome Jews (their words not mine) who tried their best to make this game as fun as possible. And it is fun, one of the reasons I highly recommend it. Besides being a game, “Angry Jew” is also a tool for presenting a dark side of events in the Jewish history in a humorous approach. While currently there’s only one world available in the level based mode (19th century Russia), they have 2 other worlds planned as well, the trigger for their development being the popularity of the game. Give it a try and help our Ninjew set history right.
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