If it wasn’t for Notch, I would have never even known about this crazy thing that recently took charge, known to indie game developers worldwide as the Ludum Dare. Basically, participants develop games from scratch in a single weekend–that’s 48 hours, okay–based on a theme suggested by community. This time around the theme is escape. Browsing through the 500+ finished entries is a bit daunting; some of them really do look great, and others…well, not so much. Unfortunately, a good chunk of them blur together.
The first submission I clicked on to check out was BATHOS by Johan Peitz, mostly because it looked like a SCUMM title, and those experiences always pull at my heartstrings. Seriously, there’s a Maniac Mansion vibe here. I’m super pleased to announce that the very first Ludum Dare title I’ve tried…is a winner! Well, in my book. I’m sure Notch’s entry is stellar too, but I haven’t attempted it yet, considering I barely understand Minecraft still, and I’ve been playing that for several weeks now. Anyways…
In BATHOS, the player wakes up in a supervised prison cell, naturally wanting to escape. The door is locked, but he quickly discovers many keys in his tiny, depressing cell room. Surely one of them will work on the door. And that’s it. Find the right key and get out of there. It sounds simple, but it took me about fifteen minutes on my lunch break to figure out, and the solution is delightful, obvious, turning this little indie bit of Flash wizardry into something truly charming. The graphics are clean and unobtrusive, and the game controls smoothly. There’s only so much our pixelated hero can do, but it all works. Picking up keys that don’t work and flinging them under your bed never felt so good.
One of the definitions for bathos is “an anticlimax,” and yes, Johan Peitz’s take on solitude, yearning, and escape most certainly is that. However, it might be the first time something so ludicrous has made me smile.
You can play BATHOS in your web browser by clicking this very sentence. Or, if you’re looking to download it for Windows/OSX/Linux, go here…just don’t read any of the comments below otherwise you’ll spoil a perfectly genuine gaming experience. And remember, this was created in under 48 hours. To me, that’s mighty impressive–and gives me hope that maybe one day I could make a videogame, too.