Fuck This Jam was a pretty brilliant idea. Conceived by Vlambeer’s Rami Ismail and Panoramical creator Fernando Ramallo, it challenged developers to design games in their most-despised genres. “Through utter ignorance for conventions and hate for the established rules of a genre,” said the jam’s mission statement, “beautiful things will happen.” And they did! I mean, Dear Esteban had a sky whale. But I took a casual, decidedly less narrated stroll through FTJ’s submission section today and came across a few more standouts. Admittedly, there are plenty of other amazing entries that I fully plan on giving more attention to, but for now, here are a few that made me laugh, cry, and stab in the most fascinating of fashions.
“I hate ‘games’ in the non-games genre for their ugliness. More often, their visuals make me take the game’s ethics less serious and cause a huge distraction to me and my ability to reflect on what the game is really about.”
52 made me feel physically ill. It will probably have a similar effect on you. The entire “game” part of it simply consists of timed key presses, but wow. Saying anything else at all will spoil it. Just see it through to the end. The bitter, bitter end.
“You’re adventuring in a dungeon and have been fatally poisoned and the only thing left to do is kill as many goblin-orcs as you can before you die in this deplorable goblin-orc murder simulator.”
If you’re playing these things in order, you’re probably pancake-flat beneath a boulder of your own self-loathing right now. It’s neat that a game can do that, but probably not very good for you. So here: have some laughter. Fuck This Dungeon is a fast-paced, extremely silly thing that lampoons dungeon-crawlers by pairing them with preposterous amounts of punching. There is, however, a bit of finesse to it. You can slow the poison’s advance by punching “convenient potions of Slow Poison” out of enemies’ surprisingly dainty fingers, so you have to strike a careful (but not too careful) balance between walloping/stabbing and potion-gulping. Sure, it’s a goofy timewaster, but it’s also quite an inventive one.
“Crystal Crashers is a match-one game. You click a tile and it disappears. You get coins for that. You can buy upgrades for coins. But all upgrades do is give you more coins.”
Crystal Crashers delights in laughing both with you and at you – which isn’t particularly surprising when you consider that it was co-created by McPixel‘s Sos Sosowski. He and Dames Making Games founder/It’s Not Okay Cupid creator Zoe Quinn one-upped the diabolical simplicity of match-three games by subtracting two and adding a billion fake microtransactions. The end result? It’s a trap! From the barrage of unskippable, dubstep-barfing opening screens to the “game” itself, everything’s just an easily blown over prop set to disguise a bunch of ads. It’s not particularly fun, but it’s not really supposed to be. Crystal Crashers is a parody first and a game second. It’ll make you laugh, though, which is something I’ve heard people enjoy.
“This 7D (backwards compatible to 2D) world simulation depicts six different key events in the history of Terra (‘Earth’), a low-tech civilization that self-destructed several aeons ago. Based on the relatively few biological and cultural artifacts, a team of multi-AI minds was able to recreate a stunningly accurate depiction of this ancient civilization.”
PTTC:AATSAC is downright bizarre. I’m not entirely sure what creators Damien Di Fede, Johannes Grenzfurthner, Eric Wenske, and Heather Kelley are hating on with it (so-called “realistic” games, maybe?), but it’s beyond surreal. Allegedly, you’re playing through a host of major events in human history, but the advanced civilization that’s come across the bones of ours has pieced them together all wrong. Unsurprisingly, it’s very silly. I was sold when it very matter-of-factly explained to me that humans were strange vacuum cleaner creatures with cube-firing guns for hands. Using my mighty digital digits, I then went on to exterminate an evil race of pink pinata… things, because that’s definitely what happened during, say, Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. Granted, PTTC:AATSAC has some serious issues. The healing mechanic is (maybe purposefully) tedious, and it’s pretty easy for enemies to obnoxiously get the drop on you. As with Crystal Crashers, it’s more amusing than it is an example of sound game design.
And really, I suppose that’s my biggest issue with the Fuck This Jam entries I’ve played so far: they’re funny, but not necessarily fun. I’ve come across a few that show promise (for instance, Rami Ismail’s own Fastness and typing-based tower defender T.Y.P.O. both stand out), but by and large, I haven’t gotten the chance to try many that have pursued Ismail and Ramallo’s goal of reshaping genre conventions into uniquely great re-realizations. I fully plan on continuing to dig through the submissions, though. There are, um, quite a few of them. But, in the meantime, have you stumbled across any standouts? If so, tell the world! Or, you know, fellow RPS readers. Let’s discuss interesting videogames.