Live Free, Play Hard: The Incredible Ludum Dare 26 Edition

THIS WEEK: Scifi survival sim. Dark Souls but with friendly ghosts. You threw 100 candies on the ground…? (;_;)

Global game jam Ludum Dare 26 is over, with a staggering 2347 games. For a sense of scale, last time we had 1327.

The theme was Minimalism. The results are amazing.

As always, this is a tiny selection from a sea of brilliance. I strongly encourage people to look around for themselves, and we’ll be posting many more on freeindiegames in the weeks to come.


Gods Will Be Watching by Deconstructeam

Deconstructeam’s last Ludum Dare game was an intriguing interrogation sim with a compelling blend of story and mechanics. Sadly it was a little rushed and didn’t quite come together.

Gods Will be Watching is the realization of that potential, a scifi-survival narrative strategy game that spends 40 days contemplating a single shot: a group of survivors camped on the shore of a purple lake. The scenery evokes both the bleakness of winter and the uncertainty of an alien planet, frost-swept aspens under a two-moon sky.

Survive 40 days while staying warm, fed, safe from predators, free of infection, repairing the radio, and keeping everyone sane. No big deal.

You have 5 actions a day. Each character has at least 2 skills, along with Kill. The ability to shoot any of your team is ominously present throughout the long freezing wait, and it wasn’t for several playthroughs that I finally grasped why.

Killing gives you a lot of meat. The robot turns into ammunition.

The death spiral is perfect. For example, if the Doctor dies, no medicine can be made. If no one can be cured, they’ll die from the Medusa virus (which pops up every now and then to infect a random character). The chilling implication, of course, is that their toxic meat will have to be burnt and they won’t be available as a food source later.

That’s the kind of sexy mechanic that really gets me going.

The lovely art doubles as a resource display. Everyday concerns like food or fire are reflected in dwindling flames, in cuts of meat hanging from a stick.

The character assets do an excellent job of conveying their personalities, especially when they get stressed. The soldier stares paranoidly into the wilderness with his gun held high, the psychiatrist rocks back and forth shaking, but the doctor is subtle–he just taps his foot, betraying little emotion–somehow more worrisome than all the rest.

It’s really hard. 40 days is a long time and you need to understand every nuance to have a chance. But I can’t stop playing.


-Keep everyone’s mood above 0, preferably much higher

-The robot can scan everyone’s mood (in order of soldier/doctor/engineer/psychiatrist)

-Don’t forget to set the fire or stock rations (1 ration per person per day)

-Have enough bullets to fight off wild animals or you’ll lose instantly (5-7 seems the average amount, at least from my playthroughs)

-Talking adds 1 mood

-Group therapy increases each person’s mood by a random amount (and is extremely useful)

Candy Box! by aniwey

The ASCII spawn of Progress Quest and Frog Fractions, some will say. I know the grim reality.

So you start out with a candy. Maybe you eat the candy. Perhaps you drop the candy. All perfectly acceptable actions, if you have total ignorance of candypitalism.

You discover lollipops. They’re delicious, yes, they’re made of sugar, yes, that’s obvious ape thinking. The taste of the candy is immaterial. The only constant in this equation is power.

The question you should be asking is: What can you get for a lollipop?

I was like you once. What a fool I was to purchase 1 lollipop for 60 candies when in truth, I could grow a hundred on my own…per second.

Welcome to the sugary heart of darkness.


App Escape by Leon Arnott

Trapped inside your phone, running through a deadly ecosystem of apps all ponderously indifferent to your existence. Like all Leon’s past Ludum Dare games, they reward reflex, cunning, and strategy. Only a true gamer stands a chance. The rest–will be vAPPorized…


Mondrian’s Frogger by doobdargent

Frogger but with Mondrian’s minimalist geometric paintings instead of cars. Way to get some culture, frog! Good job, frog! Time to die, frog!


Rainwalkers by Nuprahtor

Nuprahtor’s last multiplayer experiment was a floating island full of mysterious phone booths. This is a lonely city of night. The story is that certain people meet after dark, in the rain, and they’re called rainwalkers.

You can’t see the other rainwalkers but you can draw runes on the ground. “I’m here”, “Hello”, “Rain”, “Farewell”. Good things to say to fellow ghosts.

I didn’t find anyone. Maybe it doesn’t work, maybe it just needs more people logged in at a time. Either way, the kind of atmospheric experiment we need in online games.


Everyone Together by Dan Lin

You start as a little rock. You can touch other rocks. If you do, they become part of your mass. You need to be touching all the blue spaces at the same time to advance.

This has a good feel, like herding a bunch of pebbles. They turn gold when you touch them. The pingling sound they make helps too. Solutions feel messy, not exacting.

TOOM by Mike Kasprzak and Derek Laufman

TOOM opens with a metal room on stilts in a mysterious forest. It offers no explanation, just invites you to explore your surroundings. In true adventure game style, that may involve combining objects with scenery until something clicks.



 Somsnosa by Mason Lindroth

Wander through Mason’s distinctive melted landscapes and gorgeous perspectives. In the words of the author: “This is a sort of extended doodle with occasional battles and secret magic.”


Stargazers by Cake&Code

Connect the dots but with constellations. Immaculate presentation, from the imperious gestures of the star child princess, to the timer of the moon’s waxing shadow.

Broke Down by saguaro

Stylish fuckstorm of violence done up in Twine–orange and white text fragments–casinos, hotel rooms, carnivals–total death trip.

Each page has a + sign. You press the + sign to make the text more verbose. Press – to dial it down, a prose microscope.


A Thing About Nothingness by Pierrec and Sy

Pretty point n click adventure about a Cynic who travels around in a barrel. His teacher hands him a rock and sends him on a quest for true wisdom or whatever. I guess we all have our “rolls” to play in life…Ha Ha Ha Kkkkcchh–

You have one item the whole game (starting with the rock), and it’s up to you whether you keep or use it in each scene. Each choice branches the story, and there are “9+1” endings.


Dream Fishing by Sophie Houlden

Fishing game with a smart control scheme (uses the right mouse button for movement instead of WASD). Makes you realize how most controls use too many buttons (reminded of how Christine Love’s Even Cowgirls Bleed and other games get away with no buttons or clicking whatsoever)

To catch a fish, cast at the ripples, reel it in, and open your heart to the possibilities of dream fishing.



Tendril by Greg Power

Abstract snake charming. Get the snake from one square to another, crafting a song with your free-drawn path.

Obstacles are gradually introduced, shaping the hypnotic music. Threading a tight space is a rapid flurry of notes compared to the languid ease of open space.

Four Scepters by Benjamin

Four Scepters boils the dungeon crawl down to arrow keys. Each room is a choice, another node in a maze of locked doors, monsters, shopkeepers, and treasure. There are multiple ways to win, depending on how you plan your route/pick your classes, and it feels like the game permits a wide variance?

There are four classes. When one dies, you pick another. If they all die, you lose.

The warrior can use shields. The wizard can use scrolls. The assassin strikes first and starts with an extra coin. The thief can activate stealth once (as long as they’re in a hidden room), then steal a treasure or unlock a door.

Should I permanently kill the skeleton in the second room with the wizard’s undead blasting scroll (otherwise the skeleton will regenerate and be a problem for later heroes), or do I unlock the door in the first room instead? This is a game that has you crunching strategies in your head with each failure, theorizing over new paths, improving with every run.

Milton by ZYXer

Each level has two phases: set torches, then run through the maze in the dark, guided only by the torches you placed. Meanwhile the clock is ticking.

Every level shares the same pool of torches, so you need to think long-term and make sure the 50 torch supply lasts all game.

What this means is that Milton lets you set your own challenge.

Good at memorization? Don’t use as many torches.

I’m imagining a sequence in an action adventure game where you climb a mountain and there are two paths. One is a leisurely path up the curving mountainside, sparse flowers waving in the high winds. The other is a bunch of floating rocks or some shit that lets you bypass a chasm.

You don’t get a tangible reward for taking the tougher route. No achievement pops up to wink at you with a mindless pop culture reference. You don’t find 500 gold in a chest that someone left on the central rock. Your Rock Jumper meter doesn’t go up.

You feel good because you challenged yourself and that’s enough. It will always be enough.


Dragon Drop by Tom 7

Like playing Solitaire on an old PC, but goes a bit deeper than that. If you start to smile really wide, you’ll know you’ve found it.


World of Minimalism by VDZ

Online world where everyone can draw anywhere they want.

Starts in a city-like area, but as you progress outwards, reality begins to crumble…


10 Second Language by Loren Bednar

10 seconds of typing-generated imagery set to soothing chimes. A pleasure to understand which characters create which shapes–recipes of letter, number, and punctuation.


Drug Hunt by kill0u, Gnux, LeoL

Bad trip minigames with the flawless rhythm of a great music video. The trick is hitting space at the climax of each animation–when the jaws shut, when the tides rise, when the monster attacks.


LOOP by vandriver

The best familiar to an evil sorcerer simulator I’ve ever played. You’re a crow. He’s a sorcerer. He wants you to steal things from the forest. Pretty classic dynamic.

Lovely, wordless story conveyed through the passage of time and the tasks you’re set to.

Flying around is a lot of fun because LOOP gives you bird verbs to play with–it lets you do what a bird does, like caw and perch and fly.

Soaring through trees sends up flurries of leaves. Perching has a satisfying snap of talon to scenery. Cawing is–every game should have a button that just makes fun sounds.


  1. LTK says:

    HOLY CRAP that’s a lot of games. Will do my best to check them all out.

    I’ve already had a lot of fun with one of these games, but I still haven’t killed that bastard dragon.

    • tumbleworld says:

      The dragon is tough, but he’s not Chuck Norris.

      • BTAxis says:

        Using items to prolong the fight helps.

        • The Random One says:

          Blargh, even using an Invulnerability Potion and an Earthquake Scroll I can hardly deal 1/4 of its full health to damage before it kills me.

          • VDZ says:

            The trick is in the fact that, contrary to its description, the Teleport Scroll does not teleport you back to the start of the quest, but rather the start of the SCREEN – and all damage to enemies is kept, unlike the other teleportation items which reset the entire quest.

          • Tacroy says:

            Combine that with the Seed recipe, and you got yourself a stew going.

    • randomkeyhits says:

      The best bit for me so far is the secret cow level

      Surprised Blizzard lawyers didn’t make him change it to aardvarks or something

  2. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    Looking strong! Thanks porpz

  3. Porpentine says:

    candy box! isnt ludum dare but i HAD to include it

    • Shookster says:

      It was definitely a good call. There have been more important and maybe even better free games, but I can’t think of a game of any kind that’s made me feel that much sheer enjoyment and sense of discovery in a long long time.

    • The Random One says:

      RPS had an article on it on Tuesday, I think, and I just knew that if you didn’t include it in this week’s LFPH the universe would have started to fall apart.

  4. Tretiak says:

    I liked “This is not a minimalist game”: link to

  5. S Jay says:

    I just think that this edition’s theme was pretty weak. By definition, a game made in 48 hours will be somewhat minimalistic.

  6. kyynis says:

    World of Minimalism is a thing of beauty. My favourite hangout spot is the everchanging maze.

    • Harlander says:

      It’s useful data for my research to determine the rate at which the probability of someone drawing a penis in a collaborative drawing environment approaches 1

      • kyynis says:

        Yeah :( It was fine this morning! Hopefully trolls will never wander too far from spawning spot.

      • VDZ says:

        Actually, the world was surprisingly penis-free before it got featured here: link to (warning: 2944×3584 PNG)

  7. amateurviking says:

    I am genuinely concerned at how deep Candy Box has stuck it’s claws into me. I’ve had the browser window open for 2 days straight. Still need moar lollipops. Also: fucking dragon.

    • Donjo says:

      oh jesus god no….. I have exams at the end of the week. Why can’t I stop playing? WHY GOD??? WWWHHHHYYYY??????

  8. jalf says:

    So, I didn’t get around to doing anything before the deadline, but I just whipped together my take on the theme.

    Perhaps not the strongest gameplay, but I had fun making it, and that’s what matters, after all. :)

    • Low Life says:

      Some ideas for future development:
      – Add achivements (at least for playing and winning)
      – Change the button from “win” to “Attempt to win”
      – Add chance to not win
      – Increase the chance of failure after each win
      – Monetization: Sell one-time use boosters to increase the chance to win

      • jalf says:

        Thanks for the suggestions! I think those ideas could add a lot of depth to the game, but I fear it would compromise the creative vision behind the game.

        I did consider making it possible to lose the game, but that seems like such an old-school thing. Despite the appeal it has to hardcore gamers, the fact that so many modern games don’t allow the player to lose at all clearly indicates that it’s not an essential feature, and therefore has no place in a minimalist game.

        I might try to incorporate some of your ideas into the sequel, however.


        • The Random One says:

          The end-game content is horrible. You should consider having the ‘continue playing’ button remain after you win.

          • jalf says:

            Awwww… I bet you hated the ME3 ending too. Some people just don’t appreciate a conclusion.

  9. vivlo says:

    If you want to cheat at candy box! to give you a big big pool of life and beat all those scums cause you’re an impatient evil lazy guy like me, i strongly advise that you don’t do like me and beat yourself first. Or the fight against yourself will last forever and make you loose the advantage of cheating which is quite ironical innit.

  10. Voice of Majority says:

    From the looks of it “Gods will be watching” is taking place by a Finnish lakeside during winter instead of an alien planet. We never shoot robots, though.

  11. DrScuttles says:

    Beat Dragon Drop and wondered if I was missing something. Turns out I was. Pretty nice, that. Still not sure I’ve entirely sussed it.
    There’s so many other games to play though. Good grief.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It very quickly wore out my patience by running incredibly slowly.

      I honestly don’t know how they achived that, but props for gross inefficiency.

      • dE says:

        If you write that, it hasn’t yet clicked for you. There’s a very good reason why it is that clunky.

      • identifierad says:

        What browser are you running? From what I’ve heard it runs like shit in firefox. Try a webkit-based browser – it ran buttery smooth for me in Chrome, and Safari is reported to work well too.

  12. Noodlemonk says:

    This looks excellent – cheers, Porpentine!

  13. Muzman says:

    I just noticed the pimp guy in Papers Please is called Ludum Dari.
    I always let him in too. His papers are fine! What can I do?!?

    • Kaira- says:

      Make a connection between his papers and the paper left by girl. Question him. Detain. Glory to Arstotzka.

      • Muzman says:

        and in prison he will make a new game every 48 hours!
        (cheers. I was sure I tried that but nothing happened. Probably did it wrong. Seemed terribly outside my brief as a bland functionary. But that’s kind of the point, really. Plus no one has any rights at the border, like, for real).

  14. guygodbois00 says:

    Four Scepters is an excellent idea for the board game treatment.

  15. Feferuco says:

    May I suggest Spec Ops: The Twine, done by some dude I know. Spoilers for Spec Ops
    link to

  16. Lanfranc says:

    Toom was rather interesting. Just a normal day in the life of a man living in a house on stilts.

  17. CakeCatastrophe says:

    Would it be deeply immoral to plug my own game here?

    link to

    If you like the idea of Zelda-style exploration in a frozen wasteland, while being stalked by Lovecraftian horrors, you might not entirely hate it! I’d not waste my time with those other, better looking games though, they’re probably rubbish. ;)

  18. The Random One says:

    So while looking for a hint as to what I had to do to get the +1 ending of A Thing About Nothingness I found out that Porpentine made a game as well

    link to for all her fans (It’s one of her finest IMO)

    • cowardly says:

      Yes it is! It’s great. I was distressed for the entire latter half of the game because I lost the phone, though ^^ Truly an excellent game, well worth playing.

  19. napoleon_in_rags says:

    Wow, ‘Gods Will Be Watching’ is tooooough.

    Don’t think I’ve made it passed ’20 days remaining’ yet.

  20. SecondDimension says:

    So I did this last time, plugged my own game, and it’s shameful. I guess that’s not going to stop me doing it again though? No, apparently not.
    We tried to use the theme a bit differently, we went for the classic tale of “art gallery automated restoration robots get stuck on minimalism mode, and are now inside impressionist landscapes turning things into cubes”

    link to

  21. JoeThomasSTL says:

    Please tell me I’m not the only person who either (A) has more than one browser open just for Candy Box purposes, or (B) is trying to figure out if he can mess with his computer’s clock to get candy faster. . .

    • cowardly says:

      I don’t know, but you can definitely use the browser’s console to edit the candies per second variables. On my second playthrough right now (really just to try out the other swords) and a quick Google search yielded the necessary information ^^

  22. BarbaraRedding27 says:

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  23. kill0u says:

    Wow, thanks for including Drug Hunt in this list \o/