Examining the unconventional weapons of Ludum Dare 32

ludum dare unconventional weapons roundup

The theme around Ludum Dare 32 was “an unconventional weapon,” which I imagine resulted in numerous indie takes on situations like Red Faction: Guerrilla‘s ostrich hammer or using a purple dildo bat in Saint’s Row: The Third to take out enemies with precision and embarrassment. Or maybe it didn’t. With a theme, anything can be anything, and interpretation is the actual name of the game. What I’m trying to say is I’ve seen neither an ostrich or sexual device gripped in anyone’s hand…so far. Perhaps I wasn’t looking hard enough or maybe somebody needs to invent a new filter.

Anyways, below are a few entries from the latest Ludum Dare that I’ve dabbled in over the last few months and wanted to share with all of y’all. Why? Well, I think they are neat and have potential. Considering the high number of entries, upwards of 1,450, please do let me know of some other interesting ones to check out not on my list. Remember, I’m partial to strange names, point-and-click romps, and pixel platformers. Also: cats.

Blackbird

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Blackbird has a good look and some solid animation, but its mechanic, which is, by all definitions, unconventional makes it a rather hard thing to play. There’s only one level to experience, too. Basically, you move a hooded person around with the arrow keys and press X to have a bird dive bomb; if you time it just right and the bird dive bombs through a glowing orb, it’ll raise the platform that both it and the orb hit, which is basically whatever is directly below them. Since you can’t control the bird directly, it’s a mix of waiting and luck. Raise enough platforms up, and you can get the hooded man over to the level’s exit. Neat idea, but might be too punishing to be enjoyable.

Avenging My Gran, the Famed Botanist

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With such a quirky title, I had to check out this smarter-than-smart puzzle game about murdering the plants that murdered your grandma from Chris McMath. The idea is to pick up a stick, grab some fire, and burn a plant to ashes in each level. However, due to the geometry, length of stick, and your hero’s positioning, it’s not as simple as it sounds, and you’ll have to puzzle your way to victory. For those curious, I got stuck on Day 5. Avenging My Gran, the Famed Botanist is adorable, silly, and surprisingly challenging, with a simple, non-deterring aesthetic, though I do wish a different font was used, as it made reading some lines a struggle.

Spinnicus

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Similar to Blackbird, Spinnicus is more of a proof of concept than something fully realized made in the allotted timeline for Ludum Dare 32. Set in a Roman-inspired gladiator arena, your little dude wields a harpoon on a chain, and you can grab an enemy with this, spin them in circles, and toss them at other charging enemies to clear a path. That’s it. No score, no goal–just grabbing and tossing skeleton soldiers. Which is fun…for a time. Then you begin to wonder about what else one might do here, and then the harpoon glitches out, forcing you to bend the knee and die, and exit out.

Fathom

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Yes, yes. It’s a pixel platformer, but of course there’s an interesting hook in this one to help it stand above the others. In Fathom, you can slow down time and manipulate the bullets that these mounted turret guns are firing at you. If you wanted to, you could flip the bullets around, sending them right back to meet their makers, or you could brute force it along some other path to help destroy a generator keeping an electrified forcefield running. The zoom in and slow-motion really feels great, though it takes some practice to perfect. I’d say the possibilities are endless, but that’s really all you can do in this little jam session from Joe Williamson. That said, it’s still a ton of fun, and the potential is there for a grander adventure with even more insane mind-controlling abilities. Give it a go for yourself.

Badass Inc.

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I rolled my eyes a few times at Badass Inc., but it’s still quite enjoyable. Developer Sébastien Bénard says it is his homage to all things Blade Runner, Another World, and Flashback, and it’s clearly evident from the moment go. I’ve played a few of his other jam titles in the past, such as Last Breath and Proletarian Ninja X. In this one, you play as an assassin, and her boss wants her to take out the next target in a more unconventional manner. Think food poisoning or slipping in the tub over shooting. It’s a mix of combining items to solve puzzles and timed gunplay, though neither element is extremely deep. Another round of editing to fix typos wouldn’t hurt, but it’s stylish and easy to play, with a technokiller soundtrack that only a Replicant would ignore.

How I Escaped the Dungeon of Torment

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This is a cute one, with a lot of replayability. How I Escaped the Dungeon of Torment, which is really just the story of a young boy trapped in a small cabin, has you adding garden tools to the end of a hose and beating down a locked door with your unconventional weapon. Now, the loot you pick from is random, and our leading lad can only swing so many times before he gets tired and picks another tool to add to the hose. Depending on what you get and where you put it, your hose’s stats will differ; I personally tried to up speed and chance of critical hits, but it still took me a good number of in-game minutes to breathe fresh air once more.

Vacuum Hero

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Vacuum Hero is a puzzle action game where the nameless adventurer wields a vacuum cleaner…instead of the typical sword. Off he goes into a dark dungeon brimming with locked doors and slime monsters. With this device, he can suck up items and enemies and shoot them elsewhere to advance further. Right now, there’s little story, and the music gets tiresome far too early on, but the mechanics are fun though I wish you weren’t locked in to only four directions when moving and aiming. I could see becoming something much bigger down the road. Personally, I don’t enjoy vacuuming, but maybe I’ve been doing it wrong.

Ricochette

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I watched a lot of Xena: Warrior Princess as a young lad, always fascinated when Xena would toss her chakram and the camera would follow it on its deadly path as it sliced throats and bounced off walls. Here, in Ricochette, your goal is much the same, but this time you get a sneak peek of how your chakram will move around the top-down map via Peggle-like lines. Hitting an enemy allows the chakram to keep moving, allowing for combos. There’s only one level here, which is a big open space, and I managed to murder everyone without losing all my hearts. Some more animation, a plot, and trickier enemies could result in a fun–if necessarily short–game.

Well, I think that’s a good selection of appetizers for now. If you are hungry for more, by all means, hop over to the Ludum Dare site and try a few others out. Many can be played in your browser, too, and it seems like Ludum Dare 33 finished up recently and is now in the voting phase. Its theme was “You are the Monster,” and I do hope to dive into some of those ghastly creations real soon.

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