If you're not familiar with the concept of game jams, well, now's a great time to get acquainted with the phrase. In a nutshell, game jams are the entirety of a development cycle compressed into a ridiculously short amount of time; the whole nine yards chopped up to fit nine inches. While the rules can vary depending on which game jam you're attending, Ludum Dare follows a strict 48-hour policy. You get a weekend to make your game. Fail to complete it in time and, well, fail Ludum Dare. But not life. You're still most certainly a winner if you're willing to take the challenge to begin with.
History lesson aside, we've got a round-up of some of the more interesting entries from the most recent Ludum Dare. The chosen theme for this round ('10 seconds' seems awfully drab compared to some of the previous ideas) isn't something I'm personally fond of but there's no denying that it has spawned some genuinely cool ideas. Can't have a sword without a crucible, eh? But that's enough from me. You're here for spiffy games. Without further ado, have some awesome:
RimorD is easily my favorite of the lot. Short, not-quite-sweet and incredibly clever, it's a point & click adventure of sorts that opens with you in control of a straightjacket-wearing monkey. No explanation is given in regards to to how you got into your cell or why an angry rat, pressed up into the opposite corner, is pointing a gun at you or even why everything repeats itself every ten seconds. RimorD requires a little bit of effort before it starts to get going but it's more than worth the momentary perplexity.
Clockwork Cat is the story of a wrench, a whole bunch of platforms, a cat and its uncanny ability to turn back time. The idea behind it is simple: your feline avatar can, at appropriate intervals, push time back by 10 seconds. The objective is to get to your destination before the hands of the clock strike twelve. Why? Well, if I told you it wouldn't be terribly intriguing anymore, would it? Clockwork Cat makes no attempt at being anything more than an elegant little platformer which is, quite honestly, perfectly fine by me. No point messing with perfection.
The problem with Legend of the Troll is that it's short. Too short. About eight levels too short. According to the little blurb that comes parceled with every Ludum Dare game, the creator had originally intended to make 10 levels. Only one and a half made it. Which is unfortunate because Legend of Troll is absolutely swell. The general conceit here is that you must assist the Troll Queen to her destination. Given that she's seemingly terrible at anything that requires athletic prowess, you're going to have to get creative with the whole 'abuse-your-servants' paradigm. What do you do with a difficult outcropping and three trolls that turn into stone within ten seconds of coming into contact with sunlight?
You want to duel, you say? By Jove, you've got it! Of course, like gentlemen, we'll settle this by proxy. The Duelists is all about two guys intent on seeing who is the better man. However, instead of risking life and limb, they've elected to let their generals carry out the fatal shoot-outs. Controls are simple. You keep your cursor within a box while the countdown is going on. After that, you draw your weapon, take aim and fire. With luck, you'll be able to get the other guy before he puts a bullet through your eyes. Though simple in nature, the execution of the game is all but flawless. The Duelists is resplendent with all sorts of little nuances; a fallen hat here, a cheating bugger there. Here's to hoping the developers decide on a multiplayer version.
Four suspects. One dead duck - er, professor. You know how this goes on. The 10-Minute Murder happily embraces the grand tradition set by murder mysteries of yore. All the usual trappings are here, including the good writing. For something conceived in a weekend, 10-Minute Murder feels almost impossibly detailed. Not that that's a bad thing in any way, mind you. The characters are well-written, the dialogue largely free of cringe-inducing cliches and, really, if you're the sort who relishes sitting down with a good book, you're most likely going to enjoy this.
Fearless and fancy-free, Duke Dashington is an adventurer like no other. Upon accidentally triggering the collapse of the ancient temple of Nenapmis, Duke Dashington does what few would do: he charges headlong into the crumbling structure in a bid to recover someone else's treasure. Only a fool would give up untold riches in the face of certain death! Gameplay consists of your ability to navigate through various rooms within the temple in the span of 10 seconds. For some reason, Duke Dashington isn't very adept at jumping. Any attempts to change directions mid-movement will involve him lunging, shoulder-fist, at a new angle. The controls in Duke Dashington are a little fiddly, unfortunately. Getting our muscular hero to co-operate can be, to put it rather mildly, quite frustrating. Still, it's attractive and silly and fun when it's not being temperamental.
No Ludum Dare round-up is complete without something from game jam virtuoso deepnight. Proletarian Ninja X, like so many other Ludum Dare entries, obeys a simple formula. Here, your objective is to kill all the top hat-wearing capitalists without being seen. To do so, you're going to want to make careful usage of your amazing physical training and the few throwing stars that are at your command. The controls themselves are simple; left-clicking on a capitalist will propel you directly for the kill, right-clicking will send a shuriken in their direction. It's all elementary. In theory, that is. Compared to deepnight's previous entries, Proletarian Ninja X feels a fair bit harder. Not only do you have to be careful about avoiding detection, you're going to want to complete your blood-soaked misdeeds before the 10 second timer runs out.
Though I feel hard-pressed to sympathize with the main character, it's difficult not to delight in the sheer amount of polish that was ladled over The Wrong Door. Not only are the visuals superb, The Wrong Door, a quaint little point & click adventure that involves a red-eyed rastafarian and some mobsters, also boasts of actual voice acting, multiple endings, a sense of humor and even an arcade-style chase sequence. Have I mentioned voice acting?Because the team has somehow seen it fit to include voice acting into this gorgeous little production. Honestly, there are full-fledged games out there that could learn a thing or two from this one.
Once upon a time, in an era not quite unalike this one, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books were the bees' knees. And while a few companies have been doing their part in regards to bringing the genre back to the forefront, many naysayers are quick to condemn CYOA games as slow. The Aliens Came provides a possible antidote to this predicament. Instead of letting players wallow, the game demands decisions be made within the span of mere seconds. It's not the most innovative spin on things but certainly, it's a refreshing one.