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They Are All Alone: Ludum Dare Picks

Solitary pursuits

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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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Adam Smith

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