Gaming for Grown Ups
26th April 2012 13:00:00
Posted by Edd Harwood

Just Browsing: Ludum Dare 23 - Ten Recommendations

Game developers. Bah. They have it easy. Sitting around on their plush leather chairs, spinning into infinity, saying ‘weeeeeeee’ over and over. Give them a can of caviar, 48 hours and the theme ‘Tiny World’, and they can spew out wonderful games with barely a sweat of the brow. It cannot be that hard, surely?

Now, reviewing all 1402* games created for Ludum Dare 23 (a now very popular worldwide game jam), in a little over 48 hours - that takes skill, courage and dedication. Reviewers should be crowned kings of the world for suffering through all these intense experiences and living to see the light at the end of that monstrous gaming tunnel.

Fortunately for all the relatively sane people out there, you do not have to live through this manic whirlwind marathon. Simply follow the instructions below and you can receive a small concentrated dose of the Ludum dare experience at no cost to your mind or soul. Hoorah!

6 Degrees of Sabotage - dukope - 48 Hour Compo Entry
Amazingly this was the very first entry I happened to happen upon. Wonderfully presented with meticulously drawn pixel caricatures, this entry ends up being a colourful mix of chinese whispers and logic followed by a good ol’ fashioned shoot-out at the end. It may lack any form of repetition once the basic premise is understood, but the concept is clever and will entertain for at least a few moments of your otherwise dull existence. In my honest opinion the butcher is always guilty. Just look at him!
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Nina Nueve - Jonathan Whiting - 48 Hour Compo Entry
Observant readers - yes just you - will recognise Jonathan’s name from the previous LD entry Craequ. Nina Nueve sees the puzzle factor toned down slightly and the action switch turned up to 7. You must guide your small blue boy (why is he blue, why?) through a series of interconnected levels, avoiding enemies and unlocking the way forward. There are some genuinely clever and unique problems to overcome, but I won’t spoil it by talking about them. Perhaps Jonathan’s own description sums it up best: “ A bit like a Zelda game trapped in a 9x9 box.” Go play.
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ANtopia - pgil - 48 Hour Compo Entry
Continuing on the Zelda theme I include ANtopia though I’m not really sure I can say this is particularly spectacular or even interesting. You are an ant and you must go around a very tiny world and save the dying ant queen. ANtopia makes it onto this list purely on its brilliant ending, which you must suffer through the game to experience. I laughed so hard it made me dribble.
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Predicament - orangepascal - 48 Hour Compo Entry
Adventure games seem to making a small resurgence in the modern world. This is something I am grateful for as there is still a lot of fun to be had puzzling through such games. Predicament is a beautifully created, one scene escape, adventure - all the more impressive seeing as it was created in HTML5 / Javascript. The puzzles may seem rather tricky and often the solution is confusing and the controls awkward, but in the end the setting is so wonderful that it is easy to forgive while simply stumbling forward towards the humorous climax.
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Aether - Danik - 48 Hour Compo Entry
Often a Ludum Dare entry will throw out an idea that is so clever, but blindingly simple that you wonder how it has not been thought of before. Mix a little of missile command with a platform game, throw in some retro pixel graphics and you end up with Aether - a surprisingly entertaining experience. Admittedly the game’s implementation is rather simple and it needs a rather large coat of polish and a host of other improvements (remember 48 hours is not very long, and developers need, but not necessarily deserve, sleep), but if you skip over this then you might find a rather enjoyable ride.
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Fracuum - TylerGlaiel - 48 Hour Compo Entry
Often in amongst the piles of hobbyist developers you may stumble across professionals who simply want to sit down and take a break from their hideous lives of making computer games - by making more computer games. Fracuum is one such example made by the creator of Closure on PS3, a wonderful moody indie adventure. In Fracuum you play as a simple dot, venturing through the spiraling ever smaller worlds, avoiding bullets and monsters, collecting gems, and trying to find the finish line. It is a simple premise but it is very deviously created as sometimes you have to retreat to proceed and working out your way around the ever shrinking maze can warp the mind.
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Planet 161 - saint11 - 48 Hour Compo Entry
Planet 161 is polished to a wonderful gleaming shine that you may just catch your reflection in it. This is a loving and beautifully presented throwback to retro platforming days, with a clever puzzle element thrown in for good measure. Trapped on a tiny planet of several interconnected chambers, you must guide your wayward astronaut to the safety of his ship. Aiding him in this quest are guns that are bizarrely but conveniently littering the environment, each with a unique ability which will help him escape. While the puzzles probably will not tax the mind too severely, the ride is still thoroughly enjoyable.
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microchip - DiscoFish - 48 Hour Compo Entry
The wonderful Xbox Arcade game Fez is already filtering down its legacy into the indie world and you can see how it has clearly inspired microchip. There may be no pangrams or maniacally designed puzzles, but microchip gets that wonderful broken pixel graphic just right. All you do is run around the world collecting microchips and fixing the game, using a rather novel jumping mechanic, but somehow just witnessing this crazy crashing world is brilliant.
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Planet Life - Sos - 48 Hour Compo Entry
You work, shop, eat, sleep. You work, shop, eat, sleep. You work, shop, eat, sleep. Then you die. Very stylishly presented, but overall rather pointless. That is life. Fortunately for all those who actually enjoy life there is now Planet life, a dry humoured parody of reality. Enjoy.
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Memento XII - deepnight - 48 Hour Compo Entry
Best ‘til last, and all that. Deepnight keeps pumping out exceptional games every time he puts fingers to keyboard (see Last Breath, A tale of life,death and a looser or Appy 1000mg) . Having developed a unique graphical style that is charming and often stunningly beautiful, he combines this with game mechanics that bend the molds of the genres he mimics. Memento XII is a short, bittersweet, adventure game that grabs you with its emotional tendrils and ends up being rather effecting. I was left with a small tear in my eye as the end withered away. It is no conspiracy that deepnight keeps taking away all the prizes at Ludum Dare, every release is exceptional, and with Momento XII he just keeps on pushing the bar ever higher. Sigh.
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*Full disclosure: The reviewer may not have played every single game. Firstly he admits to only playing games that run in a browser. Secondly, by game 241 his mind had started to rot and everything he wrote was complete gibberish. We had to put him on a beer drip and calm him down before sitting him down at the typewriter again.
“…all games and no sun makes Edd a crazy boy...”
“…all games and no sun makes Edd a crazy boy...”
“…all games and no sun makes Edd a crazy boy...”
“…all games and no sun makes Edd a crazy boy...”