Ludum Dare 23, get your Ludum Dare 23 here! I’ve gathered together eleven of my favourites from the recent 48 hour compo/jam, although that’s not to say I’ve played all 1,402 of the entries. The theme was 'Tiny World' and below you’ll find a musical, an existential microjaunt, a personbreeding simulation and a space cat trader, with other delights sprinkled about. There are also unconventional marks out of ten, based on number of graphics, similarity to Tetris and inclusion of comical readme file.
From NiallM, Dwindling Worlds has a story, many-textured, dark and deep. It’s like listening to radio transmissions from a dying futuretime, or the literally dreadful answering machine messages recorded as everything ends. It’s not just an adventure in audio though, those words are telling you what to do and maybe, just maybe, you and your mouse pointer can make a difference. I wouldn’t have thought so though; it’s hard to stop the onset of dwindling once it’s begun. Vast, shrinking, changeable circles of meaning/10.
Moonkid's Purgatorio has a very specific solution, which makes it a game with a very clear beginning and end, but it’s the in between that matters, this being purgatory and all. It’s mostly a case of being in between there, wandering from conversation to conversation, attempting to piece together the logic of concepts, words and memories that are not so much on the horizon as right up in your face, but out of focus nonetheless. Oddly affecting/10.
Polarity is a platform-puzzler that is rude enough to say, ‘no, you cannot have a jump button, you don’t deserve one.’ Then Jeremy Apthorp throws a right strop and takes away the ability to move under your own power as well. Instead, you’ll have to give yourself positive and negative charges in order to be propelled around the levels, avoiding spikes, as is now standard, and attempting to reach the exit. Clever and brain-exercising/10.
Tiny World: The Musical: The Game is a game, which is also a musical, based around the tiny world theme imposed on this 10th anniversary Ludum Dare. The interactivity takes the form of repelling or collecting what appear be meteorites or minerals, but emotional intelligence soon recognises that they are influences, good and bad, and that the tiny world in question is a relationship. That’s what the singing is about. It’s a game with duets about relationships, delivered in character. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of overlap in the vocals and the sound quality isn’t quite good enough to make out all the lyrics, so I’d like a karaoke style bouncing ball at the bottom of the screen, telling me what all the words are, because what I can hear sounds clever. And the lyrics change depending on how well you play! Created by Paul Sztajer and Angus O'Sullivan. Songs/10.
In Gulliver you are a spaceship flying through a spacebase and shooting spaceturrets. Actually, you might be a man in a spaceship that’s flying through a spacebase, or let’s just admit that you are a man/woman using a keyboard to pretend to be a man in a spaceship and so on and so forth. Point is, you’ve probably done something like this before. However, with a shrink/grow mechanic and a wonderful soundtrack, Gulliver is still worth a look Created by a man or lady described as DDRKirby(ISQ). Exploding spaceships/10.
You don’t know who or what you are in Microscopia and the entire point of the game is to find out. That makes it sound like an existential journey of some sort, or at least it does when I use the word ‘existential’ in an incredibly loose and lazy fashion, but Microscopia is nothing of the sort. Sartre would sneer at it. Camus wouldn’t care for it. Pasteur would probably find it fascinating though and so did I. This is Azurenimbus' first game ever and it's a good one. Squinting at the screen/10.
Orangepascal's Predicament is a point and click game without any pointing or clicking, taking place in a cave. Imagine if Spelunky was a short story instead of an epic, eternally writing itself. Imagine if the hero wasn’t a hero at all, but just some poor blighter who didn’t want to spelunk at all. It’s 127 Hours but less cramped and with distinctly less severance payoff. Dead bat/10.
Alien Archaeologist isn’t about carefully dusting down rooms and spending sixteen years sifting through the topsoil of a paddock on a distant planet. No sir, instead it takes its lead from the Tomb Raider, Uncharted and Indiana Jones school of archaeology, which involves destroying the entire surrounding area and the centuries of accumulated data contained therein, just to get to the shiny thing at the centre. Joseph Parker's archaeologist destroys entire planets, randomly generated no less, by flying around them and blasting them to bits, then swoops in and picks up whatever trinkets remain. It’s ace, with enemies that explode into smaller versions of themselves and I even discovered a planet made of intestines that expanded ever outward. I shot them to bits. Priceless xenotreasures/10.
Do you want to breed tiny people in a miniature world? Now you can and these aren’t Sea Monkeys, they’re the inhabitants of Tiny Civilization. Tell them where to live, who to make love to and they’ll take care of most of the rest, expanding their tribe across the known world. The core concept is something I’ve been interested in since first playing Civ – what if every civilisation was a neighbourhood, with distinguishable and distinguished individuals, their traits, skills and relationships driving progress and expansion? I'd like to see Suese expand this. Molyjams/10.
Tiny Town vs the Volcano could be a starring vehicle for Tom Hanks as a settlement a tad larger than a village, in which he biffs a volcano on the rim. Instead, Peter Backx has made a line drawing physics game in which magma is your best friend and your worst enemy. You have to collect to protect. Eruptions of hot sauce/10.
And this last is what I’m going to refer to as an action-strategy economic stimulus package. It’s obvious why, because you fly around from planet to planet in a ship that exudes rainbows, trading ghosts and sweets for filthy credits, avoiding monsters that may well actually be pirate ships or tax collectors, and attempting to become ultrarich. Tiny Trader is essentially a treatise, by one Damian Connolly, about offshore bank accounts. Eurozones/10.
Oh, and sod it, let's throw a few world-building games into a couple of paragraphs, eh? The theme being Tiny World, I've played a lot of this sort of thing. Here are my four favourites. Oh Boy, Oh Boy is gorgeous. Rotate a world, create life, avoid the annihilation of that same life. My Little Planetoid is as if someone did the civilisation part of Spore right. It also has stupidly impressive graphics given the timeframe it was built in.
Finally, This Precious Land is a toy in which tiles are positioned and a world evolves from their groupings. It makes me feel serene and slightly pleased with myself, which is probably like being a god. And Just Another Day At TWM Inc is Sim Earth except less complicated, less Gaiarific, easier to maintain and full of bears. If that's not reason enough for you to play it, you must be mad.
I have played so many games and all of the ones above have at least one point of interest or an entertaining core mechanic. Thanks to everyone who sent recommendations, whether their own creations or things they’d spotted along the way, and apologies for not being able to include everything.
As voting continues we’ll probably end up picking out a few more, particularly as it’s inevitable that I’ve missed some gems in the four hundred million (1,402) games submitted.