Ludum Dare 27 was held recently. In this game jam, participants had 48 hours to make a game based around the theme of 10 seconds. The submission window has been closed for a little over two weeks, but this is when the real fun begins. Now is the time for anyone and everyone to play the submissions, rate them, and for an ultimate victor to surface.
For anyone not in the know, game jams are events in which developers, usually single people, come together to make video games from scratch in a very short amount of time and with a theme element.
I’ve spent some time exploring the 2,000+ entries to Ludum Dare and have dredged up a handful to share.
Frost is a game that really exemplifies the time crunch that creators are under. This game looks great; the detail on the character was so impressive that I accidentally froze to death once while admiring it. That being said, it’s clear that the game isn’t finished. That’s not necessarily a major slash against it, because in these jams, games that don’t get to explore their full potential are the rule, not the exception. Let your imagination go and think of the cool places Frost could go if given the chance.
Not everything you may find while exploring Ludum Dare is a traditional game. There are a good number of experience games along the vein of Dear Ester or Kentucky Route Zero. A Step is a particularly good example of this. While I hesitate to call it a game, Hemuuli’s knack for tight, poetic writing and foreshadowing take what is effectively a slide show and solidifies it as a piece of interactive fiction. A subtle soundtrack and juxtaposing sound effects create a forbearing sense of dread that makes the ending all the more intense.
On the subject of experiential games, AidanAK47’s Insomniac is a kinetic fiction game that is going to give me nightmares. There’s no interactivity in this game beyond clicking to the next page, but the narrative present in Insomniac makes it too good to pass up for you horror lovers out there. The writing is solid, but a few weak patches make it feel like it needed just one more revision. Again, 48 hours is not a long time.
A lot of entries in Ludum Dare 27 resort to giving players 10 seconds to accomplish some sort of task. This makes sense, but it feels very form. It’s the obvious thing to do. It’s games like Space Janitor that stand out because they put different permutations on the 10 second theme. In Radmars’ game there is a clever use of 10 second timers throughout; it’s the amount of time you can spend in outer space, how long doors will stay open when activated, and how long your taser takes to recharge. These are the kind of subtle things that make game jams so much fun to pour over: seeing which directions people decide to go.
Saving my personal favorite thus far for last; The Only One by JaJ is excellent. I really don’t want to spoil anything in this story driven, poignantly atmospheric, game, but suffice to say that it takes a raw look at what depression is, what it feels like, and most interestingly, how it affects those around you. It’s a very touching game, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Make sure you stick around until the end!
There you have it, a quick look at just a few of the higher quality games Ludum Dare has to offer. There are plenty of other good ones to sift through, and plenty that you’re better off avoiding, but that’s part of the fun of game jams. Voting continues to run until Sept. 16, so vote early and often and maybe your favorite will win!