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.
Rating: WOULD GLADLY PAY FOR AND PLAY A FLESHED OUT VERSION/10
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.
Rating: SUGGESTIVE OF MIGHTY INTELLECTUAL POWERS/10
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.
Rating: SUPERMARKET SWEEP? SUPERMARKET SWEET MORE LIKE/10
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.
Rating: STEALTH SAMPLING IS NOT AS THRILLING AS SPEED SHOPPING/10
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.
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.
Rating: ICELANGELO’S DAVID/10
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.
Rating: SHADOW OF THE JAM/10
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.
Rating: PREPARE TO BENEFIT FROM THOSE WHO DIE/10
Fun – Clicken by brogrammers
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.
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.
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.
Rating: ALL KIDS LOVE LOG/10
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.