Well, I had an unexpected loss of time yesterday so instead of spreading this out into 3 parts, I will be covering all of the remaining 18 games in one post. I hope this format keeps everything separated enough and, despite the wall of text, maintains readability. I’m sure with a post this length, and with my focus constantly jumping back and forth between different games and writing, there are bound to be typos and/or broken links. Thanks for the patience.
Curious Concoctions – Windows
A relaxing extension of the recent trend of finding crafting ingredients and making potions in RPGs these days. While it is a simple mechanic I enjoyed the difference between stirring cold or over a fire as it adds just that little bit of nuance to make it feel more real. The movement of the player character started as an annoyance but quickly added to the charm. Having to finish the footstep before my character stops moving reminds me that I’m not playing a floating pot, but that there is a character holding and stirring it.
You Have 5 Minutes to Live – Windows, Browser
While the game is a bit of a mess for a player, this is a great game as far as it being Skittaraps’ first. Between the short development time, the great sprite work, and all of the systems that actually work this was a project that I’m sure yielded a ton of experience and learning in a small timeframe. As far as an entry game goes that is really all that matters. Focussing on the actual game though, the gameplay works and is well tuned. There is a risk/reward system where finding the keys and treasure might end up costing more time than they are worth and, in a game where you only have five minutes to play, time is an expensive resource. The worst aspect is the movement of the player character. The controls aren’t responsive with half of my key presses doing nothing. The protagonist also doesn’t always stop moving when I release the movement button. The unresponsive controls convert the game from a race against the clock to an infuriating battle against the movement systems.
Smell The Roses – Windows, Mac
Sun Blossoms Studios
Beautiful, stunning, relaxing. Smell The Roses is an experience that can’t be described with modern game language. It is akin to running through a hilly field with the wind blowing through you hair and your clothes whipping around you. It is like sitting on your porch watching rain clouds slowly roll in, the smell of rain permeating the air. Or staring at the stars while lying on the roof of a car, talking profoundly about the universe and humanity’s place with close friends.
Survive the Hoard – Windows
Take the traditional top down arena shooter formula but remove the guns and you have Survive the Hoard and that small switch provides a huge change to the formula. Instead of being adrenaline pumping action we are left with a game that provides the tension of a horror game. Only being able to place one bomb at a time forces the player to enter into a state of disempowerment. Those two seconds between bomb placements are filled with so much anxiety and it provides a great rollercoaster between being defenseless and strategic bomb placement. There are a few issues though. Once a bomb is placed the cursor turns into a clock but it doesn’t represent any specific time. It would be a great aid to the player if the timing of the clock would represent how long until the bomb detonates. The hitboxes seem to be a bit off, it feels like they are true boxes based on the dimensions of the sprites and not bound to the sprites. I also found an interesting bug where placing a bomb in the middle of the level while the player is in the middle of the level results in all of the zombies teleporting to the top left corner and they refuse to move until the bomb detonates. As I said earlier, the core concept is excellent and if the developer wanted to update the game it has great potential.
Find the terrorist – Windows, Mac, Linux
I was pretty reluctant to begin this one simply from the title alone. There is a lot of bigotry surrounding the idea of terrorists and I wasn’t looking forward to playing an insensitive game about terrorism. Fortunately, this game subverted all of my expectations. Playing like an impossible hidden item game, Find the terrorist asks the player to assassinate a terrorist. Villagers wander around the screen aimlessly and, when two collide, have a chance to build a house. The terrorist will blow up any house they come in contact with, which will result in a game over. Killing villagers will deduct points and will also eventually lead to a game over. The tension between waiting for enough houses to be built to allow for better guesses and waiting too long and losing is great and a key factor to why this game is enjoyable.
One Minute Larry – Windows
There isn’t much good I can say about this game. It has racist remarks, verbal and physical sexual assault, the depiction of an investigator murdering a suspect that just plead guilty, and the most middle fingers I have ever seen in a game. If that wasn’t bad enough the game doesn’t make any sense and never provides the player with any information that could help them make the correct dialogue choice, not that it matters because there isn’t any impending fail state. Sure you only have a minute to make them confess but the conversations don’t have enough branching options for the criminal to stall out the minute. I typically chose both wrong answers before defaulting to the correct one and the timer never dropped past thirty seconds.
Puppeteria – Windows
A simple platformer with a unique art style that seems to be a staple of nuuup. There is a noticeable lack of polish that gives not only provides personality to game but also buttresses the message provided at the end.
Super Power Dig – Windows, Mac, Linux
A fun throwback to the classic era of DOS games, Super Power Dig features graphics, UI, and gameplay that would be right at home 20 years ago. The destructibility of the terrain is well done and the controls and goal are simple to understand and accomplish. My only request would be a counter for the total amount of stars in the level and how many I currently have. Other than that, this is a well executed game with an obvious love for an older generation of video games.
Commute – Windows
A game about the mundane task of walking to the train station shouldn’t be that difficult but people are uncaring as you get shoved around in the crowds. Couple this with the frenzied drivers who stop their car for nothing and you have a dangerous game of Frogger with human lives. The choice to make the cars red, yellow, and green adds a nice touch and gives the player a visual cue when crossing the street is safe. There are some physics issues regarding the other walkers though. I was pushed inside of a wall too many times, of which there is no getting out, and I ran into a couple of occasions where my character would be pushed by another person but didn’t stop moving, almost as if on ice.
Let’s Win – Windows
An interesting experiment in lottery winnings, Let’s Win plays a bit like incremental games but with a twist: you are trying to find a winning lottery ticket. The winning ratio is based on university findings regarding the chances to win the real lottery. I opened some 30,000 tickets and never lost every one of them. According to the game description, the developer never saw a winning ticket in all the testing either. I’ve never played the lottery but with this safe experience to show me the chances I doubt I ever will. Ironically, if you choose not to play you get the message “You are a very lucky guy… Congratulations.”
Normal Games for Normal People – Browser
Just play it first and then come back and read what I have to say about it. A wonderful criticsm of how typical game systems and mechanics have warped player expectations of video games. The player is never in any danger yet between what we expect of games and what the narrator tells us we slaughter an entire defenseless alien race. It points out just how typical violence is in games and how simply giving the protagonist a weapon will create a game based around violence.
yrgckzzadsf – Windows, Mac
An interesting Metroidvania(we really need a better name for this kind of explorative level design) about a program, represented as a robot, in a Linux machine who is called upon after a hard drive wipe to recover files. Once you realize this you’ll already be anticipating the end of the journey, though it doesn’t make it less shocking to actually see. Each file that the robot finds also unlocks a new movement ability opening up other areas of the map. While the ability sound effects and background music created an unholy unison of sound, I feel it was a thematic decision. Possibly something having to do with the arrhythmic dissonance of hard drives spinning. Every bit of this game serves the theme and I wish more games would be built with this idea in mind.
MazeRunner – Windows, Mac, Linux
MazeRunner plays a bit like Pac-Man, in that the player must navigate a maze to collect everything whilst avoiding mobile enemies, but the maze isn’t continuous as many paths are walled in with dead ends. The player must use bombs to destroy the walls but they must be used strategically. Not only are they a limited resource but the enemies will alter their pathing, taking in consideration of new openings. This would typically pose a simple puzzle that can have elegant solutions but a timer forces the player to make decisions on the fly, sometimes making mistakes such as trapping themselves with an enemy or running out of bombs. It is a simple mechanic that works well with randomly generated mazes to create a quick game with high replayability.
Space Whale – Windows, Browser
I’m not too sure how I feel about this game and I feel like that is a good thing. It’s going to leave me thinking about it for a while. Here is what dev says “Very small diorama/drifter (game???/thing?!?!) made for the #5minjam, it depicts a dark thought a whale has about the alien species that uses it them as a tool for entertainment.” It is a beautiful landscape but it is more like a virtual diorama. On the other hand though, I really want to fly to the islands with the waterfall but the game doesn’t allow it. I guess that is a metaphor for the whale, always wanting to reach something beautiful but forever succumbing to the wants of its master.
Mafia Boss – Windows
Reminiscent of Dungeon Keeper with a small twist, Mafia Boss is about setting up traps, goons, and health kits in a dungeon where an AI controlled secret agent will be navigating his way to you. Instead of trying to kill him though, you want to make the kill yourself so you must make sure he kills all of the goons but doesn’t have enough health to kill you in the final room. In this sense, Mafia Boss plays a lot like The Incredible Machine, or other puzzle games in the same vein, where there might be several solutions but each individual solution will work every time as there are zero random aspects to the puzzle. I unfortunately didn’t make it past the second level and the lack of a level select will keep me from trying again later.
Let’s Effing Grind – Browser
As usual in any RPG, the heroes are not strong enough to defeat the evil boss person as soon they arrive. To get stronger, these heroes decide they need to grind some XP to get stronger. What ensues is the first time I have ever seen a training montage format used in a JRPG to represent the endless, repetitive activity of grinding. It is unique and such a natural fit that I’m a little surprised I’ve never seen this before. As much I hate grinding in RPGs, I would accept this as a compromise in any game.