All The Fun Of The Dare: Ludum Dare 28

The Ludum Dare jams are splendid occasions, bringing designers together in person and across the strands of this electronic web. Every event throws out at least a handful of games (I can reliably carry seven games in one hand) that are either brilliant proofs of concept or miniature masterpieces in their own right. Now that the voting results for the Ludum Dare 28 are in, I’ve been playing through the crop’s creamier portions. The league tables are sorted into categories – Overall, Innovation, Fun, Theme, Graphics, Audio, Humour and Mood – and I’ve included the winning entry in each. There is a well of free gaming goodness below.

A quick runthrough of the Ludum Dare rules first of all. Everything in each game was built in 48 hours unless the entry is in the second Jam portion of the results below, in which case it was created using the slightly looser guidelines introduced in 2010 to run alongside the original rules. Jam games have an extra 24 hours to play with, and can be created as part of a team, using assets from other projects if required.

Ludum Dare always has a theme and this time designers had to work around the phrase “You Only Get One”. It’s not the most direct instruction in the world – Cats and/or/in Hats would have been far simpler – but it has the advantage of inspiring some thinking that has never even seen a box.

On with the show.

Overall Winner – One Take by Sheepolution

You are a cameraman, responsible for framing thrilling, dramatic and violent scenes. Cowboys draw, cops raid and sinister figures lurk in alleys. The director shouts out instructions, and you pan and zoom around the set, capturing the required actors and actions.

It’s a lovely idea, although the edge of the frame doesn’t always seem to be recognised accurately and there are only three short scenes to work through.


Innovation – Blind by Shaun Lebron

An iris coagulated with colours, which warp and wheel around as the unseen character moves in response to the press of a button. Shaun Lebron’s game depicts “a blind girl who has been given a gift to see the world again, but only in 1 dimension.” It’s over in a few minutes but the impression will last far longer.

A beautifully intelligent solution to a problem most of us have probably never considered – how to convey the sense of a three dimensional space , and movement around it, using nothing but blocks of colour pinned to a pupil.


Fun – Last Chance Supermarket by Sebastian

A few of the entries have a festive vibe, although mostly with darker edges than a mascara models lashes. Last Chance Supermarket is probably my favourite game of Ludum Dare 28, which just goes to show that I value ‘fun’ above all things, including ‘theme’ and ‘innovation’. It’s the afternoon before Christmas and you’re dashing around a supermarket trying to fill your trolley with late gifts and decorations, to be ticked off a list at the right of the screen.

So furious is the pace that a collision with another shopper results in death and a rubbish Christmas for all. The controls have a weird elegance that I only noticed after a few attempts – shelves and other trolleys have a sort of slipstream that the desperate consumer can settle into. I wish there was a mode based on my trips to the shops, where all the trolleys have one wonky wheel and skittered about in random directions occasionally, causing embarrassment and muttered apologies as the shins of pensioners are accidentally assaulted.


Theme – Super Sneaky Sample Stealer by Nik Sudan

‘You only get one’, as in the theme of the challenge and as in those free samples that are handed out in supermarkets. Perhaps it’s unfortunate that I played this immediately after playing Last Chance Supermarket, which is the superior shopping simulator, but SSSS didn’t make me cackle in the same way.

It’s a stealth game. Sneak toward sample tables, grab a freebie and then move on to the next one. When you’ve pilfered them all, you have to grab a change of clothes without letting the mall cops biff you on the bonce. Solidly constructed but not particularly compelling.


Graphics – Doubt by rxi

This is in the ‘go for a walk while melancholy things happen’ genre and it’s easy to see why it was top of the pile as far as graphics go. Graphics, of course, are the easiest part of a game TO see. I enjoyed the spaghetti legs of the main character and the existence of the cat but I didn’t reach the end because either I am an idiot, incapable of solving a simple puzzle, or the game has a glitch.

Either is possible and it took a lot less than 48 hours to make me so chances are I’m rather incomplete.

Rating: CAT/10

Audio – Shifter by Atmospherium

A romantic story about soldiers and ice sculptures forms the backing track to this rhythmic arcade game. Pulses of music travel along lines in the four cardinal directions and as they arrive, the Shifter launches in a direction of the player’s choosing. Some options lead to annihilation, others lead to new paths and possible progress toward the story’s end.

When it arrives, that ending is abrupt but there’s both humour and tenderness in the telling. As befits the Audio Champion, Shifter not only uses music as a playful tool, it also sounds rather good.


Humour – Senile Santa, Cute Kids & Ruthless Rudolph by Pol

There’s very little to DO in SS, CK & RR but the joke works. I’ve spent more than 48 hours coming up with one really bad pun before now so I can respect the effort that’s gone in here and there are drawings as well.

If you play this game, you will see children killing one another. If you play this game properly, you will see a reindeer killing the children as well.

Rating: HO HO OH GOD NO/10

Mood – Monochrome by Apoorvaj

This is another ‘go for a walk while melancholy things happen’. To have two among the top rated games seems excessive but back in 2003 or thereabouts, EVERY indie game was about strolling around a depleted and metaphorical landscape while bawling into a hanky. Things have changed.

To be fair to both this and Doubt, they involve more than simply moving in one direction and waiting for a story to happen. Doubt has jumping and a bit of thinking, and Monochrome has some pointing and clicking. I wasn’t particularly drawn into the story, which doesn’t deviate from its chosen emotional course for even a second, but it’s a handsome thing.

Rating: A WINTER’S TALE/10

Now, here are the Jam games that came top of the voting in the same categories. Remember, these had an extra 24 hours of time and could be made my teams using ready-built assets.

Overall/Audio/Mood – Titan Souls by Claw

Nathan has already written about Titan Souls and he found it very pleasing.

A lilting piano melody beckons you into a world of giants with each come-hither note, and as A Videogame Character, it’s your job to slay them. The twist? In line with LD28′s theme of “you only get one,” you have just one arrow and one HP with which to bring down four titans. Also, you can dodge roll like a crazy person. I highly recommend it.

What he didn’t mention is that it was made, I believe, in Manchester. Perhaps it was constructed while I was having a drink or ten in the bar next door? I’ve always said alcohol helps my creative juices to flow but I didn’t realise they could seep through walls.


Innovation – Rude Bear Resurrection by Alex Rose

Oh my goodness. I believe Rude Bear Resurrection may have been made in Manchester as well. If not, certainly by a Mancunian, for I believe Alex Rose is the brother of indie gaming journalist extraordinaire Mike Rose. There must be something in the water up here. Just look at Shaun Ryder if you don’t believe me – the man has never ingested anything stronger than a cupful of the Manchester Ship Canal.

I didn’t understand what was happening at first but that’s because I didn’t realise I could walljump so I was stuck in the starting area. And then I realised RBR is quite brilliant – it has something of the multiplayer mechanics of Dark Souls, but applied in a thoroughly cooperative fashion. Clamber across corpses and climb towers of the same to reach your goal. And when you die, leave a message etched across your flesh to assist or waylay those who follow.


Fun – Clicken by brogrammers

The instructions:

You’ll have to reach the biggest chicken you can have – with the almighty CHICKEN MERGER

That sounds like an order. An imperative. Chickens must be embiggened. Unfortunately, I couldn’t click the chickens because the game wouldn’t run. That made me sad because it was the top rated game in the Jam’s Fun category and as we discovered above, I value fun above all else.


Rating: NANDO’S/10

Theme – Dude, You Only Get One! by Raicuparta

This is a series of jokes about games and the ‘you only get one’ theme and therefore I like it very much indeed. What I don’t like is being inadvertently reminded that Dude, Where’s My Car? exists. There’s a hint for any game developers reading – make me think about Ashton Kutcher and you’re going to lose some goodwill.

Fortunately, this game made up the lost ground by being splendidly daft.

Rating: DUDE/10

Graphics – Beaver’s Last Log by hadesfury

Thankfully, this isn’t a game about a semi-aquatic rodent having a fatal lavatory experience. Instead, it’s a beautiful point and click adventure that sadly suffers from a fair number of bugs. It’s very short so there’s no need to worry too much if something does go wrong – a couple of button pushes will have you back to the same spot.

The puzzles are no more than serviceable but it’s the graphics that earned the game a notice. I’d certainly play a full game in this style, provided the rest was up to scratch.


Humour – Cat Gentlemans Play: Insult Spinner 10 Cents by RobotLovesKitty

I don’t know if it’s the use of ‘Gentlemans’ in the title or the bow-armed pose of the feline duellists, but I liked RobotLovesKitty’s game before I’d even downloaded it. Split into three sections, it tells of an honourable combat between cats, which begins strangely and swiftly becomes stranger and, in the finale, embraces QWOP style limb-lugging to achieve strangerestness.

Suitable for two humans to play while using one keyboard, it’s a splendid objet d’art for the cabinet of curiosities that all true gentlethings keep somewhere on the E: drive.


And that’s the lot! Obviously, there were many more entries (2,064 in all!) and you are hereby instructed to use the comments below to share your discoveries/creations.


  1. Meat Circus says:

    Reads like a 7.

  2. AngelTear says:

    I approve of this new decimal rating system.

  3. mukuste says:

    I once, during my active game development days, participated in a Ludum Dare. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into, but the end result was one very feverish weekend and an actual, playable game. I was pretty amazed that I actually managed to make something finished, including graphics, music, gameplay, levels, all that stuff, in so short a time, and even more amazed that my creation actually placed in the top 5 in several categories.

    What was most intoxicating about it was the social aspect of it, posting incremental updates on the LD blog, getting encouraging remarks and feedback, and following other people’s creations going from nothing more than some concept art or an ugly in-development screenshot to more-or-less finished things.

    Anyway, for anyone dabbling in game development who has the option to free a weekend, I can only recommend giving it a shot.

    EDIT: I should point out that, as opposed to what the article seems to imply, you do NOT have to be physically present at some game jam to participate in one of those things. You can equally well do that from the comfort of your own bedroom. Well, maybe not equally well, but definitely more comfortably.

    • Ovno says:

      I have to say as someone whose participated in a couple of ludum dares the social aspect of it with all the posting and reading of progress reports and all of that, is pointless and just gets in the way of coding time, IMO

      Fortunately it is in no way a required or important part of taking part, its just there if you like that sort of thing, but perhaps that’s because I’m a social media luddite who thinks the world was a lot better off before we all forgot that we got on perfectly well without a third party mediating our social interactions…

      Either way the real point of my post is that the sound of all this social stuff puts you off doing a jam (ld in particular) don’t let it you can just ignore it entirely and get on with making your game, which is surely the point.

      • mukuste says:

        Wow. That sounds… incredibly negative. You can say it takes away from coding time, but no person can actually code 48h in a row without downtime. I would usually grab some tea and take a short break while browsing through what other people were up to. It’s quite reassuring to see that everyone is struggling in their own way, while also inspiring to see all the different approaches. Also, I’m not sure I would have had the motivation to finish the thing without some encouraging words from other people; the whole business is quite the emotional rollercoaster, and in some downs I was close to just giving up.

        I’m certainly not a “social media” person; I’m not even on Facebook. But in this case it’s quite different, you talk and share with likeminded people who are up to the same challenge as you are. I find it weird to consider that a pointless waste of time. It’s certainly not on the same level as spamming Facebook with your Farmville updates.

        Oh well. People are different, I guess. And I’m hardly the most outgoing person in general, but I loved that aspect.

      • mukuste says:

        Also, “the point” is just as much making new connections and interacting with others, not just making a game in 48h. If that were so, why would you even need all the other people to be doing it at the same time? That’s just a bizarre opinion.

        • Ovno says:

          I wouldn’t say negative, just not very sociable while I’m coding.

          Though strangely I am one of the more sociable devs at work…

          As far as spending 48hr coding, I can generally only put in 16-20hrs due to the restrictions of real life so that may be one reason why I consider all the post and reading to be a waste of valuable coding time and for breaks I generally go and sit with the missus for a bit.

          Personally for my first LD I was very daunted by the idea of having to put together progress reports, show my unfinished work and generally be sociable with people I didn’t know over the internet (clan/corp mates excluded), so much so that I almost didn’t take part, fortunately I did and just ignored all that stuff and really enjoyed it.

          Either way my post was more to let those out there who are put off by the idea of all this socialization know that it’s just an aside and not something to be worried about if it’s really not your cup of tea.

          As for the whole why do you need everyone else doing it question, that’s simple, if I just spent a weekend making a game, no one would care, however by doing a jam, once the game is done, others can play and rate my game, something I enjoy immensely especially for the comments, I just don’t want any of that while I’m busy making it in the first place.

  4. Gap Gen says:

    Worth mentioning this: link to (an AI designed a game for Ludum Dare)

    • LionsPhil says:

      Oh, it’s that thing. It didn’t design a game, it dressed one up with pattern-matched clothing:

      The rules are a variation of a pre-coded template

      What it automates is cynical Flash game studio development.

      Given the article, it didn’t even text-mine the topic very well.

      • Mike says:

        Haha. Hi again, Phil.

        Rule generation, like our past work on generating code to invent game mechanics, wasn’t moved into Unity in time for the Jam, as it’s quite a tall order as you can probably imagine. Instead, I focused on theme interpretation and justifying decisions (as well as the technical challenge of moving all my stuff into Unity). I’m pleased with a lot of it, but the theme was very hard to interpret at our current level of sophistication – which is not very high.

        Regarding pattern-matching: it’s doing a lot less than you think. It’s using a variety of web resources and linguistic tools to try and make the best stab it can at a theme. But at the end of the day, it can’t read. 2014 is the year I write my thesis and finish my PhD – we’re continuing the research at Goldsmiths. I hope you’ll continue to keep an eye on ANGELINA any myself in the future ;)

        • LionsPhil says:

          Oh, hi. I think I was a bit of an arsehole about this last time. Good luck with the thesis…it’s a grind.

          (What really winds me up badly about this is less what you’re doing yourself and more the sheer amount of reporting puff “AI” projects attract, to be honest, and I’m unfairly spreading that too wide.)

          • Gap Gen says:

            It’s worth pointing out that New Scientist can sometimes get ahead of itself, although when you’re publishing research it’s kinda hard not to publish some quite speculative stuff along with the more grounded publications. Hence their cover stories are either crazy cosmology papers or sensible cosmology papers dressed up as crazy (one was talking about a mysterious force that turned out to be magnetism once you read the article).

            I still think this is cool research (disclaimer: I know Mike), but sure, it can be hard for the media to convey the context of research in each specialist field. I’m sure Mike doesn’t make any claims for his own work that don’t hold up.

            Also, even if the game is very simplistic, it’s still darned creepy (possibly as it’s a bit unhinged; will be interesting to see what happens once it starts climbing down the uncanny valley).

          • Danley says:

            Whew. I had to read the article because I totally thought there was someone named Angelina that Mike and Phil had a mutual relationship with and were playing out a feud for on this thread.

            Unless, Angelina is a much smarter AI than the rest of us even know, and they are…

            . . . !

  5. solidsquid says:

    “and can be created as part of a time”

    Nice article though, good to see ludum dare getting coverage

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  7. Alexrose says:

    Thanks for the mention! Good choice of screenshot too – that was my favourite. Congrats to all the other winners too!

  8. Josh W says:

    I think you mean “kill ne meow”.