As the name implies, the Seven Day Roguelike Challenge (7DRL) is a game jam that challenges developers to craft a game in the roguelike genre within 168 hours. 7DRL has been around officially since 2005 and unofficially for a decade which makes it essentially a game jam institution in comparison to all of the newcomers that have come and gone in recent years.
The 2013 7DRL Challenge just wrapped up this weekend, and after digging through the entries, I've assembled a list of 10 games that are my favorite of the bunch. I'm not following the official 7DRL evaluation metrics here. I'm also not penalizing games for not strictly sticking with an established definition of a roguelike, a subject of much heated debate amongst some, because I'd rather not muddy the waters here with mention of Berlin Interpretation or other competing definitions. These are simply 10 games that came out of the 2013 7DRL challenge that stuck out from the bunch as being fun, polished, and/or interesting when I was browsing through the completed entries.
Quadropus Rampage boasts a crazy amount of polish for something produced within the span of seven days. Its slick visuals and fun action RPG style gameplay just seem like they shouldn't be achievable by mere mortals within such a short time frame, and yet somehow the guys at Butterscotch Shenanigans managed to pull it off. Also, a note to Gearbox, it might not be a bad idea to get these guys working on the random weapon name generator for Borderlands 3.
As soon as I hit EliteRL's 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired title screen, I was interested. Then, I hit its space sim gameplay inspired by the C64 classic Elite, and I was totally in. The game also manages to paint some pretty good-looking space vistas in ASCII, which in my opinion is deserving of bonus points in a roguelike challenge.
In a lot of ways, this is the most traditional roguelike in this lineup that I've selected, but the slick presentation and adept handling of turn-based traps really made it stand out. There's just something about slipping between pistons without getting crushed that feels extremely satisfying.
Sunk Coast is a game from Jonathan Whiting, a member of the Sportsfriends crew of developers, which challenges the player to take on the role of a dirt poor undersea diver that has decided that the only way to put food on his family's table is to take his last cylinder of air and retrieve some gold doubloons 200 fathoms under the ocean. The game's visuals do a lot with a little, thanks mainly to a well selected color scheme, and the gameplay seems balanced and surprisingly fun. I haven't managed to make it to 200 fathoms yet, but I can definitely see myself loading this game up occasionally to give it a shot.
The tweets from the creator of So Many Jagged Shards make it sound like he considers this a depressing failure, but I have news for him, this game is one of the the best of this year's 7DRL pack. The graphical filters and effects, distinct visual style, and free-flowing gameplay make this game really stand out in a field mostly comprised of rigid pixel-art and ASCII grid-based games.
Double Rogue does something that I haven't seen many other places by combining puzzle games with the roguelike genre. It's a free game you can play in your browser, so I'll spare you what would probably be a poor description of the gameplay and just recommend that you go play it.
24killers is an attempt at merging roguelikes and muder-mystery theatre, where you ask questions of a crowd of 24 creatures in an attempt to identify the one that wants to murder you before you get close enough to let him stick a knife in your back. If you've ever played the classic kid's board game "Guess Who?", then you've got a pretty good sense of what the gameplay is like.
Kali's Ladder is a game that I give a lot of credit to just for feeling very feature complete and polished. It also has some good looking and well animated pixel art, along with relaxed low-stakes roguelike gameplay that makes it a really good way to burn a little time.
A lot of the tropes of the survival-horror and roguelike genres seem so parallel that I'm always surprised that there aren't far more games that attempt to do both. Inside Out is an entry that does a pretty good job of merging the two and also brings along some "non-Euclidean" geometry that seems to be all the rage with a lot of indie developers these days.
This game comes by way of Proteus developer Ed Key, and in a lot of ways, it totally makes sense that this is the sort of game he would make. Both this game and Proteus are largely about being dropped into an unknown world and exploring. The chief distinction is that in the case of this game, if you make a poor decision, you die.
Other Games Worth a Mention
If you get through the 10 games mentioned above, here are some more that you might enjoy taking a look at. If you want to dive into the full list of entries, you can find that at this link.
- BRS-081 - This is a game from the creator of McPixel that requires a printer to play. Nothing else I really need to say about it. That first sentence communicates the proper level of crazy.
- Khu-Phu-Ka - A roguelike platformer for up to four players. Castle Crashers-esque art style.
- 86856527 - It looks cool, and if I understood how to play this game, it probably would've been on the list above.
- Borstal - High concept game about surviving as a 13 year old kid alone on island trying to find your father.
- Chicken and Thyme - Essentially the roguelike equivalent of the movie Primer, but somehow the time travel in this game actually makes less sense.
- Untitled Terry Cavanagh Game - He unfortunately hasn't released a build to the public, but he has posted a few videos.
- segfault - A game that I made that I'm slipping into the middle of this list so I'm not accused of doing this entire post just to self-promote.
- Versus Time - An interesting attempt at a multiplayer roguelike.
- Dungeon X: Flesh Wounds - Fairly polished game about running booze as red-riding hood and her pet wolf.
- Han YOLO and the Mysterious Planet - Second best title among this year's entries.
- SkullDorado - The BEST title among this year's entries.
- Attack the Geth - A roguelike set in the Mass Effect universe.
- Caverns of Shrug - Maybe a bit more dual-stick shooter than roguelike, but still quite solid.
- Rogue's Eye - A pretty good first person dungeon crawl.
- STARSHIP REX - Apparently there are some GB staff members in some of these stasis pods.