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Live Free Play Hard: LUDUM DARE 27 EDITION

space emotions

The Queen of Monsters has destroyed the crystal that stops humans from turning into monsters. Glitch art studio. Human piss bomb.

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Ludum Dare 27 is over! The theme was 10 Seconds. I really like this theme, because it’s like the last theme (“Minimalism”) except better.

It avoids the pitfall of hinting at a setting (like medieval times or space--I’m sure no game has ever been set in space before). It avoids anemic ambiguity (Change is a terrible theme because everything is change on some level). 10 seconds is mechanically provocative but can be applied to any setting and can go in so many directions.

So here’s some Ludum Dare games, a modest 15 out of 2213, all made in 48-72 hours (plus a few non-LD games). As always, browse around, check out coverage on here and other sites, because it's just the tip of the iceberg (in this metaphor, the iceberg is zillions of cool smart game designers).



10 Seconds in Hell by Amy Dentata

Trigger warning for domestic violence.

Your abuser is outside and he says he’s coming up. You have 10 seconds to respond.

Your room is full of junk. You can move the junk around. Objects are hidden under the junk. You can push it in front of things or away from things.

There are multiple endings.

In the post-mortem, Amy writes:

"Were it not for the 48-hour timer ticking away, I would have modeled the world thoroughly out of sheer adherence to convention, and the game would have suffered for it."

The abstract world works because “This is a game of ideas, not of lush scenery designed by an army of 3D artists for the player to admire.”

The synthesized voice was poignant for me, I still hear the voice in my mind when I write this, and making the abusive man in the parking lot into a lozenge with EVIL written on it is both funny and intense. The idea of looking at someone and just seeing pure evil--a living reminder of all the bad shit they ever did to you.

She makes a great point--pursuing photorealism has had the opposite effect, by measuring storytelling in technical accomplishments instead of things like hiring better writers and working on craft. Gone Home didn’t need to show a single person. 10 Seconds in Hell doesn't need human bodies or voices.


Certain Defeat by Leon Arnott

The Queen of Monsters has destroyed the crystal that stops humans from turning into monsters!

I love the controls. Smooth, responsive, you can tell they were made with meticulous attention to detail and hours of testing. Which is important, because the gameplay changes constantly, giving little time to adjust to the wide array of characters and scenes.

My favorite level is Dripwater Caverns, where you have to bounce gems into a hungry dragon’s mouth while dodging the periodic blasts of fire. After 10 seconds, you switch roles, becoming the dragon, and the gems you fed it turn into your funds for the next level: a frantic city-building minigame. Synergy across wildly different gameplay styles!

What else: endearing art, dynamic difficulty, and levels that branch significantly based on your choices.

PROBE TEAM by Andrew Shouldice

Brave probes exploring an abandoned space ruin. Each has 10 seconds of fuel.

When they run out of fuel, they come to a halt, brave explorers turned to space debris. This is interesting for several reasons: 1) They become obstacles for future probes. This was rarely a big problem for me but you’ll want to watch where you die, because bumping into a single one of your defunct comrades will lose vital seconds. 2) They mark the edge of past explorations and become a goal to surpass. 3) The ruin fills up with bodies, which is sad, because these probes are cute, with their big blinking eye and their adorable chirps and hoots. I got so attached to my little probes.

The gritty orange viewscreen enhances the lonely feeling of going through--whatever this place is. Glowing shapes of derelict machinery, a dead place.

Near the end of the game it gets a bit painstaking to reach certain areas, but in a way it added to the feeling of desperation which is a big part of space emotions for me--scarcity in a vast unfeeling zone unfit for life, knowing you’re fucked if you run out of air or fuel.

52 probes died to write this review. The ending was worth it. This felt like a holistically complete experience.

BECOME A GREAT ARTIST IN JUST 10 SECONDS by Andi McClure and Michael Brough

Esoteric glitch painting program where you want to make the left image look like the right image (although there is a free painting mode).

The twist is that the brushes are the keys on your keyboard, and they’re all very mysterious. Trying to approximate the other picture creates hundreds of unique artworks. I don't know if it's possible to achieve perfect symmetry, but trying to reach that point is a mesmerizing process of hyper-complex alien sculpting.


The Only One by JaJ

A haunting premise--forced to teleport to your wife’s grave over and over again until you can fix a malfunctioning ring. Maybe you can ask your friends for help.

The ending is over a bit quickly, given the mood built up by the rain and angel statues, but reinforces the theme--the ring is just the literal form of an emotional stuckedness. And the ten second restriction is pretty enjoyable--learning the lay of the graveyard and town and outskirts, planning out routes that fit inside the limit--an RPG conquered by glimpses.

Flooded Dungeons by Ripatti Software

Each floor of the dungeon floods in 10 seconds, so you have to think fast: What strategy does this randomly generated stone maze call for, what’s the optimal path for grabbing gold and power-ups and fighting enemies for XP.

You will have to leave things behind. Level architecture plays a big role in this. Sometimes it’s too crowded to do anything but run straight to the exit, sometimes you’ll grab tons of loot. I like the simple but meaningful choices I make on each floor.

I also like how when the dungeon floods, you have a few seconds before the water completely fills the room to make it to the exit. A little wiggle room to escape drowning.


Not the blue wire! by sol_hsa

Disarm a bomb by snipping the right wire. Tracing the blue wires with my cursor helps me figure it out, but this causes wires to jiggle as well--a pleasingly physical reaction that may frustrate your attempts.

The Windows version (with sound) is really the only way to play, because you get this satisfying ding with each correct click, and the music gets really stressful and frantic the closer you are to running out of time, just as it should for a game about defusing explosives.


Boyfriend Simulator: Feed My Boyfriend by leafo

Run around a crowded supermarket buying up ramen and soda! Feed it to your boyfriend! Who is a giant puking head! Swing food into his mouth with a baseball bat! Match the food symbols of his appetite or he'll puke!

In between feedings, upgrade you and your boyfriend with such stats as Laxatives, Fiber, and Rollerskates.

I lasted 17 rounds. I think Satisfaction (how much your boyf likes the food) is harder to maintain each round, meaning you need to keep up with food supplies and upgrade choices or you’ll fall hopelessly behind. I would have liked the pleasure of growing more powerful until the insatiable head-beast finally succumbed to my upgrades. Dang power fantasies.


Back for Seconds by RobotParking

Scatalogical chaos party hypertext sucking you into a noisy magenta filth vortex, irradiating your brain with crunchy language popping with imagery--toilets, iridescent rainbow noses, freaking ghostfolk, Filthmancers. Themes of infinite consumption via regurgitation and recycling, one hole the same as any other.

Can Your Pet by ambitiousk

Adorable pet management game. Feed, clean, and take your little chick for bicycle rides! Just like Tamagotchi!


Taquito Tower by Magdev

A tower of cube mazes filled with burritos and sassy enemies. Semi-turn based, so actions take place every second. After 10 seconds the floor crumbles and you fall to the next level, cubes tumbling around you.

I like the art: garish designs for the cubes, and the enemies look so friendly and cool I can barely believe they're murdering me.

Having at least 5 burritos makes your attacks more powerful, but eating them regains health. This is a clever conflation of health with attack power, in which you're balancing the need to beat increasingly tough enemies against the demands of your dwindling HP.


Ten Second Trip by netgrind

Manipulate a series of mouse-controlled visuals. At the end, your work blends together into a psychedelic party.

Z and X add more fun, plus you can control layers with 12345 and QWERTY.


PicTune by IcyLime

This feels like magic. You guess pictures by scanning a grid that plays back high and low notes. So a ":" would be a single burst of notes coming from the side, but scanning from the top or bottom you'd hear two plinks in rapid succession.

It starts with symbols (surprisingly easy) and progresses to representational images (hard!). There's something about converting sound into shapes that makes you feel like some kind of genius.


Pube by magicdweedoo

Find a toilet or you'll piss yourself! But pissing won't end your agony, because despite exploding horribly, you are reborn at the crossroads of this toilet-scape, with only the pubes in your pocket--hinting that the protagonist is forever cursed to haunt bathrooms as a spectre of piss.

Love the Scream-esque animations and melodramatic shrieks of horror when you bump into another person. Collect the loot (pubic hair) to escape the dungeon (public bathroom nightmare zone).


Party Time by JayProg

I don’t actually know if this can be won, I think I solved it but nothing happened (maybe I was a second too early?), but it’s a game where you smash through a door and mutter PARTYPARTYPARTY as you run around SUPER FAST  trying to solve everyone’s problems in 10 seconds.

-You don’t need to drop objects on people, just touch them while you're carrying the right object.
-Working out the correct route is just as important as figuring out the correct objects.

Power Struggle by TomSmizzle

A majority of the Ludum Dare games probably have a timer of some sort, but this is one of my favorites: the entire background is a battery losing power, each massive bar draining color from the environment as it depletes--you're running past the backdrop of your own upcoming demise.

This platformer plays like stylized dancing--the kind with crackling death lasers. The trick is moving to the beat. The movements required can be very precise (especially toward the end) but if you trust the beat, it won't let you down.

The ending is hilarious.

i hate the dark by angrygeometry

Walking home alone in the dark is fucking scary, especially when it’s in a lo-fi Silent Hillesque environment where the exits keep shifting and nothing is certain. A plane of seemingly endless alleys and parks--acontextual alleys, alleys unrelated to the purposes of alleys, alleys that grow like coral reefs or fungi.

The scribbly art works well for conveying the ambiguity of shadowpeople, the kind you meet in dark places but have trouble looking directly at.

The phone puzzle is bullshit though, the tape recorders don’t really convey the solution (as the author himself admits), so you can find it here in the post-mortem if you want.


Boson X by Mu and Heyo

A professor is running through zones, each representing a certain element--maybe he’s shrunk down and he has to run through them really fast to discover them? The scientific method is so thrilling.

Hit arrow keys to jump from platform to platform, and hold them down to jump. Your jumps are more like glides--you can reach super far platforms with enough faith.

Levels are randomly generated but have their own style: long open paths with plenty of speed boosters, claustrophobic, crumbling, etc, and they’re all summoned from the whirling void, platforms flying into place just in time for your feet to hit them.

A Cosmic Forest by Titouan Millet

A gorgeous dimension of gradients--blizzards of static, abstract forests of green, cubical wormthings wriggling through the air. You can hold down Shift to fly fast and click to shoot at things.

I haven’t found the ending but just moving around in this space is so magical--chasing mysterious sounds through canyons of color.

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