Abstract virtual pet meditation. Flappy Bird + Earthbound. Move the doll's legs to progress through the level.
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MazeClimber by Sasatakey
Trapped inside a vertical maze of blue stone and orange ladders as lava rises. Sometimes you have to drill through the walls to get to ladders. This is a very anxious game to play, you move so quickly and have to rapidly calculate optimal paths, but I appreciate that people are still making games to punish humanity for the crime of being alive and polluting this pristine planet.
885 is my high score.
Loris Pet Simulator by joffeorama
A very helpful informative guide to keeping a pet loris, the best pet in the entire world. This simulation charts the fascinating life of a loris from birth to death, with superb tips on how to keep your loris happy and well-fed. Their all-bark diet, how to comb its fur to prevent tangles, gah, so much I didn't know. Thanks joffeorama!
Ridiculous Glitching by Firepunchd
Flappy Bird + multiplayer + retro glitch hell, or, in the words of the jam it came from, "a hard, almost unplayable game". As the level progresses (aka you survive more than a few seconds) the game distorts, colors warping and dimensions shifting. The challenge is even knowing what you're looking at.
If this is too completely sadistically fucked for you, there's:
FlapBound by Cory Martin
Flappy Bird + Earthbound. Feels more forgiving at first than Flappy Bird, but mixes it up with objects you have to collect, like Erasers that destroy Pencils blocking your path, and Gifts that take you to new zones. Avoid "obstacles such as Neptune Valley Houses, Regular Houses, Iron Pencils and The Ground." I'm glad a videogame is finally taking a stance against the Ground, our worst enemy.
Mime-o-vision by nihilocrat, Geoffrey Cooper, Francis Sheridan Paré
This requires two shared monitors and another player, so I, like many, will not actually be able to play this as it was meant to be played. But the concept sounds fun, I love games where players have to communicate in less than optimal ways. No idea what it's actually like with two players but this is an IDEA-ORIENTED COLUMN
You have to cross obstacle courses that are mostly identical except each of you has special knowledge the other does not have. Cross a sky bridge where I can see some of it and you can see other parts. Gesture at your partner and hope they get the basic gist of "the corridor ahead is full of giant swinging metal balls that want to crush you".
HOMEunculus by Tina Kalinger, James Hulse, Elizabeth Finley, Emily Hulse, Kyle Chittenden, Rachel Leiker
Oh my god. What a perfectly creepy premise.
[spoilers??] I'm in the depths of some kind of structure full of mannequins. I have a little rag doll clutched in my hands, and when I move its limbs, the mannequins move as well. The mannequins aren't set-pieces, they are the puzzle itself, forcing you to interact with their eery forms. The doll is an excellent way to interact with them, because it's both thematic and has you standing back watching a room of mannequins move their limbs as one.
A bit clumsy to control, understandable as it was done for a game jam. With better controls and an expanded world, this would be even more engrossing.
changeType() by Nitrome
A vibrant platformer that lets you swap properties between objects. So I can turn the ground into gems, increasing my score, but I have to be careful not to fall off the level, or I can get across the spikes by turning them into platforms (then I jump onto a "platform" lol), or I turn the ground into enemies and bounce on their heads, surfing on their explosions. It's a very open mechanic that makes you feel like you're hacking the universe in ingenious ways.
Weird Bug by Jonah Ostroff
Weird Bug is a crate-pushing puzzle game that invites you into the source code of the game, to code your way (in the ever-accessible Puzzlescript) to victory. This means your solution is open-ended as the possibilities of the code itself. Do you brute force your way through (I made webs count as level exits) or do you fill in the blanks, creating the missing level assets?
Moon Rabbit by Mario von Rickenbach, Aaron Keeth
Feed the moon rabbit. This is a very simple, never-ending game, where the moon rabbit and his "infinite number of friends" snack forever on the generosity of your mouse-fingers. I almost shut it off after realizing the simplicity, after I felt I'd seen enough of the game.
Then I found my thoughts drifting. Thinking about my day. About the past. The future. The sound of lunar critters in the distance. The way the moon rabbit's eyes narrow blissfully as it savors its meal. It's kind of like meditating crossed with an abstract virtual pet. The simplicity permits the intrusion of my thoughts.
I'd just taken an aspirin. Was thinking of lying down. Better get more water. I get dehydrated very easily, and just the gap between falling asleep and waking up is enough to give me dehydration headaches. The state I live in is going through one of the worst droughts it has ever been through. We haven't had a drought this bad in more than 400 years. When I go walking by the lake, I can see the exposed ground where before there was nothing but rippling water and ducks.
Moon Rabbit was a nice break after the unspeakable trauma of playing through so many Videogame Death Simulators over the course of writing this column. Lava, my god...and skulls...there were probably skulls...they were at least implied...all games must have at least one skull, implied or otherwise (Videogame Act of 1997)...was it just a dream? No...still crushing robot heads and climbing ladders as lava stalks me from below...
Lines floating in a void. Games that don't take up very much space. Games you play before going to sleep, small ones that ask very little.