Category Archives: ludum dare 22

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #1 – Frostbite

Um…yeah, my bad. I kind of forgot that this was a mini-challenge I put upon myself back in March 2012 right after the winners for Ludum Dare 22 were announced. I played through the top nine entries fairly fast and meant to get to the overall crowd-pleaser right after, but other stuff came up and then that was that. It was gone from my mind, gone from existence. That is until I was scanning my long–well, relatively, I guess–list of games on Steam over the weekend and saw the title Frostbite, a flood of reminders hitting me all at once. Oh yeeaaaah. Oh riiiiiight. Remember thaaaaaat. Also, considering that the Ludum Date 24 contest is happening right around now, I should wrap all of this up.

Frostbite comes from a user named saint11. Here’s what he says of his creation:

A post apocalyptic soldier in a watchtower going mad on a nuclear winter, seeing things and with some serious memory problems.
A simple platformer, maybe a little too serious and pretentious 😀

The main deal about Frostbite is this: two meters to pay constant attention to. One is for your health/hunger, and the other is for how long you can survive the harsh cold. They deplete at an alarming rate, and can only be refilled by eating found rations and hovering near a burning trash can. You are you, a nameless soldier, armed with a gun and the ability to jump, as well as the power to see ghosts. Unfortunately, your wife went out into the cold some time ago, never to return, and you’re off to find her/make it to the city.

It’s very good. I played three times, each instance getting a wee bit farther. The first time, I died from hypothermia. The second time, a sentry bot shot me dead. The third time, I ran out of bullets and accidently fell into some frigid water. However, that was it. There’s no checkpoint system from what I can tell, and so even though each time I made it closer to the city, I still had to start back at the beginning, which isn’t ideal. You fall into a zombie-like patten that way, moving in a manner that is unnatural and free of fun. The platforming is fine, and the idea of a limited number of bullets, which you need to shoot walls open and stop enemy ghosts and bots, gives the game some bonus stress. Mainly, that hunger/cold mechanic is solid, and I could see this evolving into something much more.

All right. There’s your winner for Ludum Dare 22. Should I try to find the winners from 23 and give them some coverage or just skip on ahead to the newly finished 24 contest?

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #2 – Abandoned

In Abandoned, the number two game from Ludum Dare 22’s top fifty submissions, you come to your senses aboard a space station bereaved of life and social activity and realize you are nothing more than a clone. We are spoon-fed this realization with no further fluffing. A grapple beam is attached to your arm, and with it you can spin a room around, tilting it this way and that. Your goal is to reach the room’s exit via a door, and not to die. Death is given out graciously by static laser beams. Completing each room gets you one step closer to unraveling a number of questions about who you are and what went wrong, though it is a painstakingly slow reveal.

I played for about ten minutes before giving up on a room I just couldn’t solve and hated redoing over and over. My bad, I guess, but I wasn’t really hooked (pun intended) on the whole experience.

While Abandoned does not do much with the chosen theme of this Ludum Dare–which is alone–it does look nice and play well. I mean, the room-moving grapple beam totally works and is a fun idea to build a game around, but I think the lack of a story and even slower reveal of it is a letdown. Would have liked to see this lower on the list, with maybe Stray Whisker or Last Breath in this spot. Onwards to the number one entry, a game called Frostbite that looks pretty dang good from an initial glimpse.

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #3 – Last Breath

Oh man. I gotta hurry up and finish playing the top 10 from Ludum Dare 22 before the next Ludum Dare challenge takes place. Which is around the end of April 2012, and I think I can do it, as I only have three more games to try out: Last Breath, Abandoned, and Frostbite. All of them look simply fantastic in visual terms and are definitely platforms higher than those that came before them, which might just mean a pinch more of reflecting on my part. I can and will do this, and if Ludum Dare 23 goes well, I’d like to do it again as it’s a great push on myself to try out some smaller games I’d otherwise not even notice.

Like in Stray Whisker, Last Breath features an animal as your protagonist. This time it’s a dog, and it’s unclear if it’s a dead dog or a dog in limbo or a dog that was hit by a truck so hard that it flew into a hole in the ground which then opened up into a maze-like cavern–oh, and it also survived the impact. I guess all signs point more towards a limbo-based Canis lupus familiaris given this bit of text from creator deepnight:

The story of a dog trapped between life & death.
I can’t say much more, it would spoil the story 🙂

Anyways, after exploring this cavern a bit, you’ll discover multiple red balls and a shadow version of yourself, with eyes full of hatred. As soon as you begin to collect the balls, your shadow duplicate comes after you, literally shadowing your every move and eviscerating you upon touch. Your goal, from what I can tell as I was unable to even complete this part, is to collect all ten balls without the shadow dog killing you. This involves some planning as you can find yourself at a dead end for some balls, with no way out and the shadow beast closing in. The closest I got was a total of eight balls.

Last Breath, much like that silhouette XBLA darling Limbo, nails a lot of things: atmosphere, suspense, and gameplay. The pixel art and animation work is immediately charming, and I’ve had a deep love for that floating particle effect ever since I first played Fallout 3. The controls are simple, as the dog can move, jump, and cling–in a rather funny way–to ledges, and you’ll quickly go from exploring casually to running and jumping for your very being. The ambient music doesn’t change to reflect this, which is a shame, but it’s tense nonetheless. There’s obviously a best path to walk, but I didn’t figure it out after ten minutes or so.

Do try it, and good luck getting all those balls.

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #4 – Final Trip Soccer

Like many, I was forced into competitive sports during my younger years, and I was never very good at any of them. I knew that then, and I know that now. In baseball, I mostly daydreamed in the outfield or sat on the bench, teaching myself how to juggle while other kids around me got mad and raged over things like striking out or missing an easy catch. For basketball, I did my best to stay out of everyone’s way and always passed the ball away a fraction of a second after it got deposited into my pale, weak hands. For soccer…actually, I had some good moments in soccer. Generally, I played defense, either as a sweeper or a dude that hung out near the goalie, kicking the ball away with a mighty foot; I do remember, however, taking an offensive role in one game, going so far as to even score once. Or maybe I just dreamed all that. Surely I was never any good at any kind of athletic activity…

That said, soccer in Final Trip Soccer, the number four spot from Ludum Dare 22‘s top 50 star-grabbers, is no stroll down a playing field. It’s actually your only weapon, your very chance for survival; better make sure your cleats are on nice and tight. Okay, let’s start at the start. A big soccer match gets interrupted when a UFO comes swooping in, eradicating everyone but you. Think your name is Nathan. It’s just you, a soccer ball, and an empty stadium. Here, you learn how to kick the soccer ball, which goes like so:

  • Move around: Use left, right, up, and down
  • Focus your kick power: Hold the Space bar down
  • Shoot the soccer ball: Release the Space bar
  • Control the soccer ball: Tap the Space bar when near the soccer ball

Those controls sound kind of simple, but they can be extremely frustrating. Controlling the soccer ball, which again I will mention is vital to Nathan’s survival, is a clumsy affair. If you get too close to the ball, you end up kicking it away, and generally, you are just trying to get close enough to charge up your focus power. Why? Oh, did I not mention that you have to kick the soccer ball at attacking alien blobs? Yup. Only a charged kick is strong enough to kill ’em. And with each successful screen, the number of enemies increases.

The premise and look of Final Trip Soccer are fantastic. It’s got this retro style, and the sound of charging you up your kick power will remind you fondly of Super Metroid and Mega Man X. Well, it did for me. Gameplay is a little slow, often requiring Nathan to constantly circle enemies or walk to the other end of the screen after a missed kick. I made it to the third screen, but a green-colored alien blob was too quick for me, and I was never able to get a focused kick against it. When you die, you just respawn on your current screen. I gave up after a few tries.

Final Trip Soccer is available to play via the Internet; give it a kick. And don’t let that jarring music on the start screen scare you away. And if you get farther than I did, please, tell me what happened.

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #5 – Stray Whisker

I don’t think Stray Whisker would’ve been as effective if it wasn’t for the fact that, just three weeks ago, Tara and I got two cats. Their names are Timmy and Pixie, and they are having a good time exploring and owning all the space within Grimmauld Place. I love them except when they vomit, poop, or put their smelly butt in my face when I’m trying to sleep. Conversely, I think they now love us, and I can say with confidence that one cat in particular–Ser Timmy of the Toylands–would go on a journey to find us if we ever abandoned him alone in the urban wilderness.

It’s a quiet game about just that though. A woman in pink leaves her kitty cat in a nondescript section of outside and just walks away. Maybe she can’t afford the cat anymore or doesn’t have room in the house with a new baby on the way or the cat threw up on her favorite pair of heels. We don’t know. We just know that, as the cat, we must get back to her. We must nuzzle her leg and be the greatest purr machine that ever purred. We must.

Gameplay is simple as it’s all controlled by the arrow keys. Left and right make the cat go left and right, respectively, and up gets it to jump. You can jump on to ledges and knock down pots in typical cat-like ways You are always moving right, and eventually you meet other cats and a not-so-friendly dog, but eventually you’ll find your master’s home, with your master at home upstairs. I got stuck here initially as I thought I was supposed to lead all the other strays back to the house with me, but that wasn’t it. Just had to climb into the house through the top window. Love achieved!

One moment in particular reminded me of Limbo, where you reach a new screen, get the quickest glimpse of your sister/owner at the edge of the opposite side, and do everything you can to reach her. It’s small, but effective, and made the reunion of cat and owner all the more precious. Also, kudos to Andrew Sum for the solid animation work. That cat’s tail is pretty authentic.

Total play time is under five minutes, unless that red ball really becomes a distraction. Get to it, cat fans.

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #6 – Split Party!

With Split Party!, you just have to ruin all the fun. See, your goal for each level is to separate different colored boxes so that each one switches from a smiley face to a frowny face. It’s like these blocks are your teenage kids and their punky, disrespectful friends, and you just came home from a long day at the blocks factory to discover your liquor cabinet wide open and emptied. Time to put your foot down, undo your belt menacingly, and get everyone to clear out. Well, that’s how I read it, but let’s see how its maker Ishisoft describes it:

A short puzzle game. Rotate the blocks to split them up from their friends, we don’t want them partying too hard!

I played up to the tenth level and got stuck. Not sure if there are ten levels in total, as there seemed to be more room available on the select screen, but nine successfully completed levels and a tough tenth one still encompassed a good time. The graphics are simple, but likable, though one caveat was that the ultra pink-purple background never changed with each level. A missed opportunity, for sure. And it’s amazing how effective a happy block to a sad block is. Music’s good and the puzzle mechanics of rotating, while initially confusing, quickly become secondhand nature. Early on, it was hard to wrap my mind around how to rotate the blocks to precisely cut them up and/or move them elsewhere within the level.

A great little gem of a puzzle game made in under 48 hours. Do give it a look, I say. And put back any liquor you took.

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #7 – The Last Geek

The Last Geek–the number seven spot from the top fifty Ludum Dare 22 winners–is quite impressive, but I don’t like it. Made by Robotic, this challenging run and jump and escape death by a fraction of a centimeter platformer certainly wears its influences proudly for all to see. And that’s kind of funny, considering the main character, the titular last geek, is naked save for a scarf and a generously placed leaf. But yeah, this is another take on Super Meat Boy and I Wanna Be the Guy, where gameplay is punishing and controls are crisp, requiring precise timing and endurance and quick reflexes. Alas, I’m terrible at those kind of games, being not quick enough to wall-jump my way to safety let alone make it to the tea kettle in time before it starts shrieking.

Okay, so in The Last Geek, there’s a story. No, really. It’s completely random and amorphous, told with some mediocre drawings that go by a little too fast to actually be read, all leading to our nudist stumbling across the factory of a mad scientist who is harvesting body parts. For what? Your guess is as good as mine. World domination, probably. This is a neat story device though that it makes for great division, devoting a room to each body part. Eyes, arms, legs, a heart, a soul, and more. The last geek must remake a girl to repopulate Earth, I guess.

Unfortunately, out of all the The Last Geek‘s rooms, I could only complete one of them, earning a single body part: the left arm. A nice touch in the game is that your dead forms remain on the spikes, often leading to a room filled with multiple versions of the last geek, all dead, all pierced and poised. At one point, I tried to make enough piles of myself on a set of spikes to be able to safely jump on them and get across a tricky gap. Didn’t work. I know, I know. I am teh suckiest. But it’s hard as heck to wall-jump using only the directional buttons and avoid buzzsaws of death. You try it. No, I insist. Go here and try it.

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #8 – Locked Away

Next on our list of top dog Ludum Dare 22 creations is a mostly vertical platformer called Locked Away. Made by MoltenMustafa, it starts out strong, asking the player to choose a color before a difficulty setting. I really liked that, and I went with green and Easy for my first run. We then get some side-scrolling text: They locked me away in here. On Christmas day. All alone. Poor kid. And with that, we’re plopped into the game, ready to make our little lonely avatar climb to the top of the map while avoiding enemies. The graphics are retro and crisp, and the controls and movement speed of the avatar is surprisingly fast and responsive. Touching an enemy kills you, bringing you back to an unannounced checkpoint–all of which happens in the blink of an eye. That helps to keep one playing as you can just keep trying to make that jump up until you get it.

Easy is definitely easy. You learn some of the game’s tricks here, like how to time jumps and hit semi-hidden platforms to open up a new path. It doesn’t take terribly long to get to the end of the map. Normal difficulty, however, proved to be problematic for me; I ended up getting stuck between two platforms of moving enemies and just couldn’t squeeze by them without getting hit. I decided to try Hard out, sticking with the good ol’ green, and this time, you’re falling, trying to avoid hitting obstacles. Kind of like in ‘Splosion Man. You basically have to learn where everything is and memorize it; beating Hard got me an end game screen, which had a house and present box on it, but these were upside-down. Not sure if that was intended or some faulty coding

So yeah, I beat Easy and Hard, but can’t get past one part in Normal. Go figure. Y’all should play it though as it is quick and enjoyable, with tight controls. Just remember to choose green as your color. Green is the only way to play.

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #9 – Craequ

The number nine spot from Ludum Dare 22’s top 50 submissions is called Craequ, and it was created in under forty-eight hours by Jonathan Whiting. That name is seemingly familiar to me, but after perusing his website I’ve learned that I’ve never played anything else by him. Though his style is unique and heavy on pixels, so I am instantly a fan. Reminds me of VVVVVV. Anyways…

Craequ loads up very fast to a small room with blocks in the center of it. The music has an odd tribal sound to it, almost captivating. One block of the bunch is blinking, and using the arrow keys I can move a featureless white avatar around. No instructions or assisting text is available. I can’t seem to move the blocks and standing on a symbol tile at the bottom of the room makes a strange sound, but otherwise does nothing. I then discover that I can go up to a second screen. A giant, flashing orb teleports me elsewhere when I touch it, and the music changes. I am then introduced to the first puzzle of the game; a trio of movable blocks will open up certain pathways, but it all depends on where you line them up. Eventually, I’m teleported back to the beginning screen where a single block is now moveable. Locking this into the right spot opens up more pathways…and more teleporting orbs. This pattern persists for a few more rooms before I decide that I’ve played enough.

A simple design and even simpler look are nice and easy to grasp, but the gameplay didn’t grip me for very long. I can only go from so many rooms to so many rooms. Craequ definitely fit the theme of “alone,” but maybe a little more guidance or purpose would’ve helped. Onwards to the number eight spot!

Playing the Ludum Dare 22 Winners, #10 – Soliloquy

I had some serious great luck the last time I perused the Ludum Dare website and some of the contest’s entries, finding the gem BATHOS in a sea of contenders. The twenty-second edition of the “create a videogame in a single weekend” challenge just happened in late December 2011, and site users have voted on the top 50 games based on things like graphics, sound, fun, innovation, use of theme (alone), and so on. The winning lineup went up the other day.

Now, I’m not going to be a crazy bearded mountain man and try to play all 50 of these homemade brews, but I think trying out the top 10 is worthwhile. I mean, these are the ones that got the most love by a large community of indie game makers and fans, and glancing at teaser images for them, well, a lot of them look neat. Saw some pixel art and started salivating. Plus, I’m still slowly gearing up internally for the idea that maybe 2012 will be the year I learn how to make a game; playing these can only add to my experience.

So, first up, we have Soliloquy, created by the user Friedrich Hanisch, also known as ratking. The game is described as so: In this game you are split. You are one person, alone in a lifeless world – but you have two souls, which have to work together. Okay, got it. I am playing it over the web, and it opens up in a first-person perspective looking down an empty hallway made up of large, texture-less, purple and pink polygons. There’s a constant feed of white noise. Somewhere, a baby giggles. WASD moves you forward and the space bar lets you jump.

The beginning part is just moving down this short hallway, jumping small gaps while pondering where exactly you are as well as why it all looks so boring. Found the stage’s exit, which took us to a new room of floating platforms. Time to jump around; I instantly miss the first big leap and fall into the abyss. There’s more jumping, and then the soul-switching mechanic comes into play–and it ruins everything for me. By clicking the left or right mouse buttons, you sort of split the world into two perspectives of the same image, one layered hazily on top of the other; not really sure how to use this trick to complete the level, and then I started getting a headache, bringing our time with Soliloquy to an end.

Not bad. Very unique idea that just didn’t work for me and my bad eyes. I played for about 10 minutes or so. Give it a try, I say. There’s also a post-competition version that tweaks things like mouse sensitivity. Onwards to the number nine spot!