Good little games journalists that we are, we’re always on the lookout for freebies, and Game James tend to provide them by necessity. This time, we’ve taken a look at Ludum Dare Game Jam, whose theme this time is “You are the monster”. The following six games were developed over 48 hours, and frankly the fact that they exist at all in that amount of time is impressive. Still, these were a selection which caught our interest.
Reviews by Sian Bradley and Robin Wilde.
The first thing that you notice about Coffee Quest by Big Cow is the art style. Everything looks as though it’s been hurriedly sketched on paper, much like one may do bored in the office, waiting for their coffee to brew. The aim of the game is create a delicious cup of coffee to see you through the daily office meeting.
While the puzzles in this point and click adventure are incredibly simple, with the solutions always being placed next to the problem, the main focus of the game seems to be the story and humour that runs right from the beginning to the end. It’s a quick giggle while you have a few minutes, with the thoughts you’d expect from a run-down, tired and coffee-less office worker.
Although the short story and writing is well thought out, the developers would do well to focus a little more on the gameplay. Clicking towards the edge of the screen in order to move the character doesn’t always work, leaving you bashing the button all over the screen just to keep moving to the next section.
Music has clearly been chosen well, with each area providing a new soundtrack, they don’t always build off of one another very well. It often seems like one extreme jump from one track to another, which can seem jarring as you play.
Overall this is a very fun story, offering players a quick giggle. For 48 hours it is a lovely game, but given a little more time, it could be great.
You are the Nightmare
You are the Nightmare by Petmonkey is less a shooter and more a puzzle game. You play a girl travelling through her own nightmares, fighting back against the beings that reside there.
The interesting thing about this game is that the enemies are a part of you – their movement patterns relate to your own movement in some way. The aim is to shoot them all until they disappear in a puff of black smoke, but more time is spent figuring out how to move in such a way that they become trapped in a corner, unable to shoot at you while you destroy them.
What starts as a fun virtual stress ball quickly becomes the cause of your anger. Hearts don’t renew between levels, so you have to complete all eight levels without getting hit more than five times. Often your death doesn’t even come from a direct hit, but from a stray shot from offscreen. At first, it makes you determined to try again and beat the people who are making your life a living hell, almost becoming addictive. Then, after about 20 minutes of incessant planning and dying, the game becomes infuriating. It’s what stopped me completing the game, it stopped being fun.
Technically the game could do with a little more attention. Understandably, not much can be done in such a short space of time, so the lack of walking animation can be excused. In fact, it makes the game seem even more dreamlike. However, the game has no sounds whatsoever, not even some background music taken from a free website, which could have really brought the game out of itself, setting the scene of a nightmare well and possibly making it less infuriating to play.
Village in the Valley
Teknic show us how short games really can be sweet with Village in the Valley. The whole game probably lasts less than a minute, but takes on board the theme in a very interesting way. Much like Coffee Quest, the art style in this game is a joy to look at, again looking like someone has sat down and doodled on your computer screen, which is always a nice aesthetic.
In terms of gameplay, there isn’t much to do. You are tasked with harvesting trees and building shelters to protect the civilians from the monsters that come out at night, all of which can be done with a couple of clicks of the mouse. This clearly isn’t the focus though, as the developer seems to put everything into the shocking ending which you don’t expect to see at all as you go through the almost tedious task of building a village for your little people.
There really isn’t much to comment on for the game, and it feels as though it’s very forgettable, right up until the ending. It doesn’t take much time at all and will be completed quicker than your kettle will boil, so it’s definitely worth a go. It is also hinted at that you can change the ending, which gives this short gem lots of replay value as you try to figure it out.
The Peasants are Revolting
The peasants are revolting – yes, that’s because they don’t wash. The old jokes don’t wash here either, in a pretty entertaining time-waster from Volumes of Fun. Taking the theme of being the monster to its logical extreme, the player controls a giant red devil flinging fireballs at crowds of attacking townsfolk.
The voxel-style graphics and destructible environments are nice, and though the gameplay essentially boils down to “stay alive as long as you can”, it does a good job of introducing tension through sparsely scattered health power ups and endlessly spawning foes.
The downsides that should have been fixed in development are mainly to do with aiming and movement speed, both of which are occasionally frustrating. The aiming reticule fires a fireball at the surface it’s hovering over, meaning quite a few projectiles flung at treetops rather than the mob of enemies gathered below, and while it’s good to have enemies that can outrun the player and force them to fight, here it’s a little too slow and ends up frustrating.
Given longer than 48 hours, some enemy variation might have been nice, as would some potential for directing enemy flows by making destroyed territory impassable to them. Going further, a wave-based system and an online high-score board could provide for a really polished high score challenge without too much tweaking.
Tale of a Mad Mage
GingerBill’s Tale of a Mad Mage follows a rich heritage of 2.5D fantasy combat games, taking into its fold The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall as well as Hexxen. The premise is pretty simple. using a selection of four offensive spells, you must fight your way through dozens of evil wizards to kill their boss.
“Fight the men, kill the boss” is a simple enough goal that’s been with us since gaming’s very earliest days, but that’s part of the charm of Tale of a Mad Mage. The combat is endearingly basic, conducted with a slowly-refilling magic meter and a lot of flame graphics launched at enemy wizards.
It’s not without flaws. The old system of first-person control from the Daggerfall era returns, with turning instead of strafing on the A and D keys, and no mouselook, which can make controlling your wizard feel a bit like driving a forklift truck with a flamethrower strapped to it. It can be difficult without any kind of flash or reaction animation to tell that you’re doing much damage to enemies, and the regenerating health can make things a bit too easy.
Still, it’s an impressive effort for a two day project, and flinging fireballs around never ceases to be good fun. With a map, more established HUD and a few quests here and there, we’re looking at a good old nostalgia trip in HTML5 form.
It’s actually a little bit difficult to review Monster Clicker, not because it’s bad but because all idle games keep me hooked for about three weeks and destroy my index finger to the point where I can hardly type.
The concept is pretty simple. You click monsters to rescue them. When you’ve rescued enough monsters, you can spend monsters on more monster-catching equipment to increase the rate at which you catch monsters. Did I mention there are monsters?
As clicker games go, it’s pretty lacking, really. There are only a few upgrade options and no real variety to the gameplay. It also has a really odd difficulty curve that makes it very slow to start, but weirdly easy towards the middle and endgame.
With a few more options to play with and some level counters for the upgrades, Monster Clicker could have some good potential. For now, it’s not bad for a 48 hour game jam, but it’s not great as much more than a proof of concept.