To cap off the month with a more long-form post without draining my energy much further, I’m making this post a roundup of thoughts on little free games, and interesting writing I stumbled upon from other game designers and critics.

Ludum Dare 38

Let me tell you a bit about my favorite entries from this month’s Ludum Dare, starting with a few PICO-8 carts.

U-Turn

U-Turn

Benjamin Soulé is a prolific developer of well-polished, inventive carts. His latest, U-Turn, is a cute and addictive arcade platformer that feels heavily inspired by Mario games. The thing I find really notable from a design perspective is how its mechanics are introduced piece by piece in random order, and combine in surprising ways to make emergent, varied gameplay. Give it a shot! Game designers might want to compare your observations with mine afterwards:

  • Surprisingly the rusty falling platforms will also fall down if you simply run beneath them. This is good for a shock or two, and causes there to be no single easy way avoid them (especially ones rockets and empty bottles start peppering the sky!)
  • Rusty platforms combined with razor disks combine to create some deadly obstacles.
  • Reimagining Mario’s Lakitu as an “Angry Drunkard” throwing bottles out of the sky is just plain hilarious.
  • The little warning that appears in the bottom of the screen when you pick up a flag, notifying about the new threat, is easily ignored if the player becomes arrogant and moves too quickly. A careful player will pay attention to it and plan ahead before turning around and rushing to the other side of the island!

Restless in a small world

Restless in a small world

By codeartistic.ninja and fennesz. I love the way they interpreted the LD theme—“A Small World”—by making you play a ghost whose spirit is tethered to the village he lived in, and if you try to leave you just wrap around to the other side.

It’s a short story revealed by listening in on the conversations of the town’s inhabitants as they react to your death and continue living. Full of bizarre, grotesque humor, and a couple of beautifully written existential moments, it was just my cup of tea.

Six Degrees of Separation Between Me and the Party

By Axoona. It’s a point-and-click about 2 kids trying to sneak into a party utilizing the 6 degrees of separation theory—which is a really funny idea when you think about it. If we’re all really that closely connected, why shouldn’t anyone be able to find a way into whatever place they want to?

It’s not perfect. Things can drag along, especially when you have to read through all the dialogue from the beginning when you want to start over for a different ending. But what strikes me as notable enough to include it here is the energy. I don’t think I’ve played any point-and-clicks with such a bouncy rhythm and a sense of just… rolling? vibing? towards their goal. (Frenetic! That’s the word I’m looking for.) The choice of music is obviously a great contributor to that feeling (though it sounds like the author used pre-existing music, not an original track).

There’s also this hilarious character-developing moment in it:

Let's look outside

It's so boring here

That’s not all, folks

I’m realizing I’ve spent quite a long time making this post, and still have quite a bit left to write! So I’m making this a two-parter. See you next week.

One last note

With April being the last month in my first year of college, life got really stressful and intense, and I didn’t meet my goal of writing 3 new pieces a month. I want to say sorry to my patrons, but I realized at this point they’re all family members anyway, who understand and would support me no matter what. And almost every post I’ve written in the last year starts with an apology! How stale of me. This Twitter thread started by Al Wyvern, helped me come to terms with being less consistent than I’d like to be during tough times:

So in the future I won’t apologize. I’ll just get back to doing good work as soon as I can!


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