By Ben Barrett on August 20th, 2013 at 5:00 pm.
Were you just thinking “gee whizz, there sure aren’t very many games out at the moment, I want something to play”? Were you perhaps, wondering this out loud? Maybe screaming it to the heavens? WELL CONGRATULATIONS, CITIZEN, your prayers have been answered by the gamejam god. The descriptively named 7 Day FPS came to an end last week, and has produced a heaving, sweating pile for you to pick through. All 161 finished titles can be accessed on the official website along with ideas and concepts for a further 117 that didn’t make it all the way. I’ve picked out a few highlights below.
But first, here’s the great keynote speech(es) delivered by various indie veterens, including the brilliant Arcane Kids:
If that didn’t get you excited for some video games, I don’t know what will.
Notch brought his signature originality to the gamejam, elegantly inventing the brand new concept of shooting zombies in first-person. With, uh, guns. Alright, so it’s not gonna shake up your expectations of what FPSs are and what they can do, but it has some interesting things going for it. There are three types of creature in the world: zombies, soldiers and civilians. Each gives something different to the player – points, ammo and health respectively. They also interact and fight dynamically, zombies slowly converting the population while soldiers attempt to wipe them out. Fun enough to play, but would probably be more fun to observe with an aerial camera.
This is the perfect example of everything good about gamejams and, sadly, everything wrong too. It’s a genius idea, in both how it plays and the message it’s attempting to give off. Freely admitting to be influenced by the likes of Spec Ops: The Line, To Shooter makes you think about the actual nature of the heinous acts often committed in games. Each enemy defeated becomes a ghost that follows you around, attempting post-mortem harm. Meanwhile each bullet fired can be fatally returned to you by portals in the air. This on top of pursuit by opposing soldiers and bombardment from above makes survival a veritable dance.
Or it would, if the player character wasn’t seemingly invulnerable, removing any real challenge. Equally I find the anti-war message to be a good one and worth exploring in games further, but it’s clumsily heavy-handed here, hampered by poor voice over and worse dialogue. It’s certainly something you should play once, or at least check out an almost full playthrough here, but in its current state it’s just not very impressive.
Thankfully you can’t prove that I’m mostly mentioning this because of the amazing name. Left click fires disks with a button-pushing power, but the kicker is that they can also be ridden to cross gaps and get around obstacles. It’s awkward to get over the initial learning curve of firing and then mounting the disks before they get away from you, but it’s highly enjoyable. Surprisingly original too: once having played it the idea of firing a transportation mechanism is obvious and this is a good prototype for what could be the world’s next Portal or Gravity Gun. Those Tumblrs have ask boxes, Valve, just saying.
Now this one I love because it’s GORGEOUS. Just look at it’s roguelike, voxely features. The enemies are adorable, after your blood as they waddle around the infinitely generated environment. There are incredible animation work for a game made in such short time. I experimented with knocking items over and there’s full physics in effect, a lit candelabra tumbling to the ground and subtly altering the lighting of the pixel artwork. There’s a host of development videos available on the official website as well as downloads for an Oculus Rift enabled copy of the game that I can only assume is akin to staring into the face of God. If you have a play of any one of the games listed here, ensure that it is this one.
This is very free form, with the snake-like constructions of blocks that form enemies being mostly passive and lacking in ways to harm the player, it becomes a journey. Each differently coloured panel is a path that leads to many more routes. Every so often you’ll come across a massive open area with curious floating debris or other miscellany. It’s calming and serene while still maintaining the vague genre definition that guides the jam. Even combat was pleasing, the tones given off by “bullet” impacts light and satisfying. Very good for a stress-free lunch break.
Though desperately in need of a flashy title (I’m thinking CASCII of Duty), this is visually a cool take on the standard die-once-and-it’s-over idea. It is quite literally what the first-person view of an ASCII Roguelike might be, terrifyingly huge letters looming out of the darkness to get you. It’s devilishly humourous too, with randomly generated names for monsters throwing up such gems as “Empty Box” (the toughest thing I’ve met so far) and “Golden Mother-In-Law.” While very light mechanically, the walk around and pick stuff up basics are good. Won’t entertain for long, but is skillfully made and another I’d be very interested to see turned into a full game. Suggestions for a better name on a postcard to the comments section, if you please.
It’s weird that just about every first person puzzle platformer gets branded with the “kinda like Portal” label, even when the similarities are genre-based alone. However, the look, and nature of the tasks at hand in Doppelgunner certainly evoke the meme-mommy herself. Rather than directly transporting yourself across chasms with inter-dimensional technology, however, your one and only armament fires a clone of yourself. This can then be switched to and controlled, spawning clones of its own or stepping on switches to activate mechanisms.
There’s no frustration, with the controls easily handling the maximum of four player perspectives. It’s got that mind-bending insecurity about it though, where I’m always unsure whether the game is broken or I’m just the dumbest man alive. A little lengthier than some of the other offerings here, multiple puzzles taking decent amounts of time to solve.
In his pitch for the game, Enrique makes an interesting point regarding single-player experiences: they can be mostly solved using trial and error. Simply trying things until they work rather than intelligently analysing a situation or employing a skill will, more often than not, lead to a solution. His attempt to ‘solve’ this problem is a game where you must plan your route through a facility that is collapsing, avoiding various dead ends to reach the exit in time. Each level also has an optional secondary objective that provides some background on the situation. If you fail, you’re reset to the start of the game.
The solution comes in that each level is such a labyrinthine mess of doors and corridors that simply guessing which direction to take would be pointless. He admits that given a large enough period of time, yes, trial and error could be used to navigate the game. To me, it’s removed as far as is logically sound and technically possible. The horror narrative and originality of route planning combine to keep this just interesting enough to be worth your time and the challenge does begin to ramp up as you progress.
One or two of the submissions to the jam do seem to have forgotten the “shooter” part of FPS, but I’m letting it slide for a number of reasons here. First, it’s great. As a cylindrical fellow you must dodge traps and navigate levels by flopping up walls or flipping (do you see what they’ve done here?) gravity entirely. Second, it has beautiful, calming music and lovely 90s 3D-cartoon-style graphics that thwart irritation expertly. You could also probably make an argument that firing yourself across the various arenas fulfills the final part of the acronym. This is probably the game I played that most felt like something I’d be willing to pay for in its current form and props to the solo developer on managing to bang it out so quickly. Favourite minor feature of the day: after finishing a level there’s an overview camera that shows a replay of your ponderous route.
We’ve had quite a few Portal-esques, but Beyond is the sort of thing where I had to tab out to make sure I wasn’t actually playing Antichamber. It does genius things with perception that bring the indie puzzler to mind, and is wonderfully quiet and subtle about its puzzles to boot. The direction of progress is completely optional, with the main hub acting as a level selector, allowing the game to be completed in any order. This takes the form of a gallery full of paintings into which the player is drawn, then deposited in a level that matches the colours and layout of the artwork. As each is completed its gallery representation changes from a 2D texture to a 3D model, a great touch. Perhaps a little slow and ponderous, but if you’re a fan of seeing what games and graphics can do to bend your mind, definitely give it a look.
This is just a mere taste of the 278 games that were created and developed last week by huge numbers of talented individuals. Have a look at the list yourself and let us know if you spot any hidden gems.