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

Maximalised Minimalism

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

Looking for more free games? Check out our round up of the best free PC games that you can download and play right now.

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.

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