They Are All Alone: Ludum Dare Picks

By Adam Smith on December 19th, 2011 at 3:59 pm.

Lots of free games! I haven’t played everything entered into the latest Ludum Dare because I do not have all the time in the world, but I did want to try out some of the other entries after Alec looked at Minicraft. No doubt I’ve missed the one game that everyone will be talking about 24 hours from now, the one that forms the basis for Valve’s next major franchise and blows the minds of everyone who plays it. I probably skipped past it because it was called ‘Alone’, which is the theme this time around and therefore the title of 78% of entries. For those who don’t know, these are games designed around the set theme and created in 48 hours. Here are some of them.

Every time Ludum Dare comes around I am reminded that I’ve been alive for thirty years and haven’t made a single game. To be fair, I’ve never tried, except for a board game called Dungeon Runners that I worked on during maths lessons at school, using graph paper to plot insanely detailed maps filled with traps and, inexplicably, motorbikes. I didn’t even particularly like motorbikes but along with mind-murdering complexity they were one thing that prevented Dungeon Runners from being a mash-up of Blood Bowl and Hero Quest.

People are now aware that a dog is for life and not just for Christmas, yes? Increpare’s entry, the harmlessly titled Puppy Shelter, takes a head-scratching yet unoriginal puzzle format and then asks you to look after some puppies in need of a home. Awwwwwww. Wait ’til you finish a level and have to tidy the board in preparation for the next one. Playable online here.

And just in case that’s not enough dead dogs for you, check out the exquisitely animated star of Last Breath, another browser-based game. This is the best platformer I’ve found in the competition. It has a very stylish look and bucketloads of sadness, along with spikes, which are my most hated enemy.

Craequ, by Jonathan Whiting, is another puzzler, this time of the atmospheric and abstract variety. The music is looping away in the background as I write this, taunting me because it took me so long to work out what I was supposed to be doing. There are sliding blocks to manipulate and gateways to open. Quite how the two relate to each other is best figured out for yourself. Once again, it can be played directly through your browser. Thanks to the ever-observant Indiegames for bringing that one to my attention.

Now for a downloadable game. Enola was built in the UDK and is just over 100 megabytes in size. It could well take longer to download than to play, being a short bout of exploration in an unnerving forest. But I like unnerving forests and even though there is very little to Enola, the visuals work beautifully, with gorgeous use of lighting, and the ease with which it leads a ‘lost’ character without using arrows and signposts is highly effective. It’s something that games with much grander ambitions often struggle with and I admire Enola’s compactness for the cleverness of that bit of design alone. Ha ha!

We Are Alone is a tiny download with graphics that remind me of Ski Free. I haven’t been eaten by a yeti yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s one waiting in a cave somewhere. This is a game in which I was being chased and chewed on by a wolf when I found a plaque reading ‘There are no wolves on this mountain. Don’t believe your eyes’. Quite.

It’s a marvelous and sadistic game, plonking several characters into a randomly generated snowy landscape and asking them to find their way to safety. The catch is, they aren’t in a group, all starting at different points, and they’re controlled sequentially until there are no survivors left. They slowly die of exposure even if they’re not being eaten and after one has died, the next may find his/her footprints, blood and belongings. That way, they collaborate without ever meeting. Very good stuff. Download it here.

yes, it's from Crime Zone, which wasn't actually in the competition. But what of it? Just go and play Crime Zone, right now!

It’s actually against several laws and my personal code of honour to leave out the entry from thecatamites, even if he does describe it himself as “like crime zone except dumber and more reprehensible i guess and also it sucks and i hate it”. He’s right, of course. It’s not as good as Crime Zone but then few things are. Go and play that first if you haven’t already. Then come back and play Drill Killer because it’s funnier than anything on the telly right now, and that’s true whenever you read this.

So go on. What have I missed?

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38 Comments »

  1. matthias_zarzecki says:

    Alone is such a wonderful intelligent theme, and many of the games do have a rather serious “mood” and tackle important subjects/death.

    5 DAYS, i.e., which people cry out is both “mean” and “brilliant” (no spoilers, but it involves a lot of death)
    http://www.kongregate.com/games/IcarusTyler/5-days

    Too bad you can’t look at all 700+ games, it takes loads of time to go through them all.

    -Matthew

    • Adam Smith says:

      Aye, it’s a shame I don’t have hordes of elves to play through them all and report back to me. I’ll keep looking though, particularly at any recommendations.

    • increpare says:

      The poster forgot to add a disclaimer, so let me : it’s his game.

    • matthias_zarzecki says:

      I thought it was kinda obvious. Perhaps disclaimer would’ve been useful.

    • OtakuD says:

      Seems like a good game tho the running is a bit slow and the items too far away from each other to repeat each day, gets a bit monotonous… Also you only need food every 3 days to survive, water on the other hand…

    • matthias_zarzecki says:

      The challenge is in trying to keep the cat alive.

    • qwiggalo says:

      I don’t think challenge is the word.

  2. Jahkaivah says:

    The puppies game reminded me of that political puzzler about kettling.

    EDIT: Ah yes, it’s by the same guy.

  3. mengley says:

    Can I just draw your attention to Unfinished World made by myself, and Lonely Island made by a colleauge.

    His came out more moody than mine… but what can I say? He is a goth.

  4. mrwonko says:

    The best one I’ve played so far (which are only 7 or so games, mind) is the adventure Sleepwalker, because I liked the humour.

    The platformer The Rescue was the moodiest so far, but I’ll continue looking and judging and will probably find more good games. (Yes, I finished a game myself and am thus allowed to judge, but it’s just a simple platformer with a distinct lack of art which should score solid 1s in most categories.)

  5. increpare says:

    I haven’t played too many games from LD yet, but Craequ, by Jonathan Whiting, tickled all of my game design braincells

    http://jonathanwhiting.com/ld/22/

    edit : oh wait, it was linked, just no screenshot :P

  6. Mike says:

    Thanks for doing this, Adam! Really interesting. Last Breath is superb.

  7. inertia says:

    I did Ludum Dare this weekend, making my first ever game. It was a highly enjoyable learning experience, even if the game I made was so bad and half-baked I’m never going to mention it ever again. I highly recommend taking up the LD48 challenge, even if you’ve little or no experience in programming. Grab a copy of Game Maker or something similar, have a little play around with it, read the manual, look at some tutorials, and when the next competition rolls around, enter. You won’t regret it, I promise.

  8. nin says:

    This was my first LD.
    It was a fun experience even if my game isn’t really fun and is a bit hard. I like limited-time competitions because they force you to finish a game even if it’s no exactly great.
    Basically you are a lighthouse keeper and you have a minute to collect enough fuel for the lighthouse to work at night.

    If anyone wants to try it, here it is: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-22/?action=preview&uid=7596

    There’s a twist…you are actually Jesus and can walk on water!
    Heh, I didn’t have enough time to add those collision detection and decided to finish other stuff first.

  9. hellojed says:

    I also made a game: Dead Party http://www.kongregate.com/games/hellojed/dead-party

    Not the best game in the world, but I’m pretty proud I managed to make it in 48 hours.

  10. wgemigh says:

    This was also my first LD and it went a lot better than I thought it would. I didn’t expect my game to end up so ‘arty’ but I think that’s what happens when you have limited time and skills (especially visual).

    You can see But You Wake Alone along with a link to play the Flash here: http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-22/?action=rate&uid=8239

  11. thecatamites says:

    Drill Killer is bad and i piss on it but my pal Dicko made a neat game in a semisimilar graphic style http://dl.dropbox.com/u/18787702/Survive%20The%20Desert.swf . It’s like Blood Quest mixed with Bonkey Trek and those are both good games to be like..!

  12. Hoaxfish says:

    Slightly surprised/bemused that Minicraft got it’s own coverage simply because it’s “something Notch did”.

    Though maybe it’s just because I’m disappointed with the state of Minecraft, and don’t think every little thing Notch does is entirely newsworthy. Especially compared with other entries into Ludum Dare.

  13. McFunkypants says:

    I warmly encourage you to try my game, GREEBLE, a pixel-perfect HTML5 platformer with scanlines, a KITTEN, and a TRAMPOLINE PARTY at the end.

    http://www.mcfunkypants.com/LD22/

    • Biscuitry says:

      Okay, I may be showing my (lack of) age here, but what’s the big thing with “scanlines”? As far as I can tell, it’s just fading out every other line of pixels. Why would you want to do this?

    • qwiggalo says:

      Gaemboy I guess? I used to play it, but don’t want to see scanlines anymore.

    • jamesgecko says:

      It runs really slowly whenever you’re not near the edge of the level. Might be your parallax scrolling?

      Firefox 8.0, Windows 7 64-bit, Intel GMA X3100, Core 2 Duo

  14. menderslan says:

    I want to call this game to your collective attentions:

    http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-22/?action=rate&uid=4460

    It’s quite good. A really simple premise, but the presentation is simply amazing. BONUS POINTS: This is not my own game, it’s the game of someone who posted in the ludum dare irc.

  15. AJLange says:

    Thank you for the picks! Lots of game news sites are covering that Notch made a game, but it feels like they’re ignoring the fact that there’s tons of good stuff out there from others as well.

    I think it would take days to sort through them all so appreciate your recommending some.

  16. Biscuitry says:

    Ludum Dare is huge these days. How on earth do you go about judging something this vast?

  17. Dark Acre Jack says:

    You don’t know me, but I made one too.

    Play it here.

    And if you’re like me, you just rate the ones that high-quality web-journalism sites like RPS pick up or somehow set my Twitter “indie dev” list on fire.

  18. magnolia_fan says:

    Woho! My game is on the picks (Enola) !!! Ludum dare was a very cool experience, having to come up with something in such a short time frame. Too bad I lost around 24 hours and my game ended up being too short!!! :(

  19. CptFresh says:

    Hopefully you will look at more games when the judging gets further along. Hopefully, though, some people can check out my zombie arcade shooter with leveling and a randomly generated city :)

    http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-22/?action=preview&uid=8769

  20. deepnight says:

    Thank you so much for giving my game a shot :) This LD was definitely great and exciting. Can’t wait for the next one!

  21. TaintedFork says:

    If you’re interested, I made a puzzle game for Ludum Dare, called Separation Anxiety.

    http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-22/?action=preview&uid=7300

    I would appreciate it if you checked it out, and I hope you like it!

  22. liqourish says:

    I’ll gladly continue this thread of self-promotion and post my game:

    here.

    However, it has the problem of being multiplayer only, so you’ll need to find a couple or more friend to play with you if you want to give it a go.

  23. tamat says:

    I want attention too! my entry (although I made it with my girlfriend so work was split): http://www.tamats.com/flash/ludumdare/final/

  24. binary_girl says:

    i thought it was a great experience… loved chatting to like minded people and great communitiy..heres my entry if u want to test your mind.. u may as well close your eyes as they will be of no help to you ;p

    BLIND
    http://www.ludumdare.com/compo/ludum-dare-22/?action=rate&uid=8824

  25. Kamikaze_Tutor says:

    Me and 5 other friends made “alone I art” for the 72 hour Jam:

    Hope you have fun!