By Chaser324 6 Comments
This past weekend marked the 26th official running of the long-standing Ludum Dare game jam competition. For those unfamiliar with the event, it's a 48 hour solo competition that challenges game developers to create a game centered around a core theme that is selected through a series of community votes. A few years ago, in order to encourage more participants, a "relaxed" 72 hour jam that allowed for team entries started running in parallel with the traditional solo competition. If you ask me, producing a solid game even in 72-hours with a team is still pretty damn stressful, but it does certainly seem to have served it's purpose of drawing in a larger crowd with a wider range of skill levels.
This time out the community selected theme was "Minimailism", and in spite of some initial moans and groans about the selection, the turnout was massive! With a bit over 2300 entries (~1600 in the 48 hour compo and ~700 in the 72 hour jam), the community has a hell of a lot of game playing to pack in over a three week period in order to give all of the entries a fair assessment.
Over the past few days, I've started digging through some of the games, and what I've brought here is a sampling of some of the games that have stood out to me. This is by no means a definitive list of everything worth playing though. With so many games to try out, a single person can really only give so many of them a fair look. That's why I strongly encourage you to go take a look at the full list in addition to what I've called out below. Do a bit of digging, try out some random games, and give some encouraging and constructive feedback to some people. Making a game in 48 hours isn't easy, and everyone that managed to complete something deserves some major props, so go give them some.
The following list is in no particular order, and I'm sure that there are plenty of awesome games that I missed, so feel free to tell me about them.
Highlights of What I've Played That I Have Time to Write About
While Notch may have elected to not actually submit this game he made last weekend to the Ludum Dare competition, it certainly deserves to be listed alongside them. Drop is something of a minimalist action game tribute to Mavis Beacon. As someone that genuinely has a fondness for some of those old "learn to type" edutainment titles, it's always interesting to see that extended to something resembling more of an actual game. While it certainly isn't as outlandish as Typing of the Dead, this game is definitely worth a look.
Hail to the king, baby. Yup, the father of Duke Nukem decided to drop an LD entry. The Road really embraces the minimalism theme by keeping things simple: go as far right as you can without hitting a spike. It sounds simple, but it's deceptively challenging. Luckily, as a consolation for dying over and over again, you get a humorous randomly selected message about the obstacle in your life that ended it. Maybe it'll be "laughing too hard at a Louis CK joke" or maybe "waiting too long for Firefly to come back". Regardless, I had a pretty enjoyable time throwing myself against spikes for a while, and it's satisfying to see that somewhere buried deep inside of George Broussard, he still knows how to make good games.
Lumiere is by far the most visually and technically impressive game that I've seen coming out of this LD crop. The game sets the player free to explore a procedurally generated sprawling mass of metal, glass, and light adrift in space. It's a downright beautiful vista to float through, and it's something of a showpiece for what can be done in a very short timespan with the Unity engine. The one knock against it would be that its touted "no enemies, no puzzles, no obstacles" certainly fits with the theme of "minimalism", but it makes for an experience that's pretty slim on gameplay.
The developer of this game describes it as combining "Katamari Damacy and Crazy Taxi" which is a pretty accurate comparison. The Sentient Cube puts you in control of the eponymous polygon and challenges you to roll up other objects in an increasingly larger mound and get your ball of junk into a goal within a time limit. The physics based gameplay and the camera control can at times spiral out of control to a point where it goes from entertaining to hair-pulling frustration, but I still managed to reach the ending without failing a level.
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While initially this game seems like simply a maze crawl collectathon, things get pretty interesting after you pass over a check point and hear the laughter of an evil Russian hacker echoing through your speakers. While the look and feel of this game certainly embrace the minimalism of old-school Adventure, the extra atmosphere that the voice-over brings certainly makes this something a bit grander.
This game feels like a place where Bit.Trip hero Commander Video would feel right at home. Players rotate a set of paddles around an orb in the center of the screen to deflect color-coded blocks (and potatoes...don't ask...). It captures that simple satisfaction of classic block-bounding gameplay of things like Breakout and Warlords with a slightly modern feeling twist. A banging track in the background also helps to keep pulling you back in for just one more round.
(Follow the) Line by Chman
It doesn't get much more minimalist than this. All you have to do is just press one button to make a line turn so that it stays on a predefined path...and yet, somehow something so simple is a massive challenge. In much the same way that games like Super Meat Boy have you trying over and over again to make one jump, this game will have you trying over and over again to just make that one turn. While it could use a little work to make the controls more responsive, overall this is a very polished experience.
What's more minimalist that Rock, Paper, Scissors? This game puts you in the middle of a Ninja Gaiden title sequence style duel between two ninjas where you each must simply select rocku/papperu/scizoru and attack when signalled. While you can play this solo, it really shines as a multiplayer game. Since each player can see which option the other player has selected, there's very much a mind game element of deciding whether or not to throw in a last milisecond change or just shoot for having the fastest response to the signal which could save you if your opponent picked a stronger option. Slick and stylized visuals also help this game really standout.
Cube Cube Cube by rezoner
Hey, remember Tetrishpere? Well, this game isn't actually all that much like it (maybe a little), but I just wanted to know if people remember Tetrisphere. On the subject of the game we're actually looking at here, Cube Cube Cube, it's a match three puzzle game where you rotate a circle to stack blocks of different colors. It's a competent and fun little puzzle game with some pretty graphics, but the real highlight here is the soundtrack. With every 100 points you get, another layer is added to the music which really keeps propelling the game forward as the speed also ratchets up and the block stacking becomes more frenzied.
One of my favorite indie gaming experiences so far this year has been Even Cowgirls Bleed, a quick but very cleverly written and delivered visual novel experience authored by Christine Love. Broke Down managed to scratch a similar itch by delivering a well-written and shockingly non-traditional story (emphasis on shocking, this is some highly NSFW reading material here) with an interesting visual novel format. If you're still looking for more fun with branching stories, also give Nod a quick look.
Toom by Mike Kasprzak and Derek Laufman
Out of the LD games that I've seen, this single room point-and-click adventure is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing, with a beautiful art style that seems to pull both from Lucasarts classics and modern art house hit Sworcery. Some of the leaps in logic in the item combinations didn't really make sense to me, but overall it was a pleasant experience.
Gods Will Be Watching by GreyShock
Gods Will Be Watching puts you in charge of a small crew that have become stranded on a distant planet. In order to survive, you have to manage your food, medicine, and sanity in order to repair your radio and survive 40 days until you can be rescued. Like Toom, this game also offers single screen point-and-click adventure style action in a visually appealing package. However, what I think makes this a better overall gameplay experience is that the stakes are higher and there's much more logic in the way you approach how you manage your crew and supplies. The juggling act of making sure everything gets done that needs to get done makes this feel a bit like a puzzle or sim management game. Highly recommended!
Looking like something straight out of Llamasoft, SPACE TEST 48 is a unique and genuinely fun action game with some major acid-trip visuals. The mechanics are simple yet refined and challenging. For the sake of not ruining the game's invitation that "YOU FIGURE OUT RULES, IS PART OF SPACE TEST", I won't go into details about how the game works, but just know that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of making my way through the nine levels of the space test.
If you have any issues with asthma or hypertension, maybe you shouldn't play this game. I have a pretty healthy heart and set of lungs and this game still made me feel like I was going to hyperventalate or have a heart attack. In this game you take control of a little blue scribble trying to stay away from a mass of black scribbles that is constantly increasing in size. As that black scribble increases in size, it's gravitational pull also becomes stronger making it increasingly more difficult to stay away from it. It's a stressful gameplay experience that is perfectly underscored and heightened with an impressive set of audio and visual stressers. This game really expertly demonstrates that even with very minimal sound and graphics, you can evoke a very real physical and emotional response from a player.
Games That Are Very Good But Can Be Difficult to Play If You're Color Blind
A Few Other Games I Tried Out That Are Worth a Look
- Undercolor Agents by farmergnome
- Pixl by Javier Cepa
- # by Kitch
- Budget Squad by deepnight
- Bashland by McFunkypants
- Huoheian by folmerkelly
- Dream Fishing by Sophie Houlden
- The Forgetful Little Square by Idovoodoo
- Highway 00101 by George Katsaros
- Persist by AdventureIslands
- Battery by onzephyr
- XYZ by ataxkt
- Justice by nintendoeats
- People by BenW
- Flipcrusher by Royal Railway
- First, You Take a Potato by Chris Stallman and Kevin Zuhn