The days of classic, 2D Pokemon games aren't that far behind us, but it can be easy to forget what you're missing until you revisit an old favorite like Red or Blue and get sucked back in again. It's a massive testament to Familiars.io, a free browser game, that it instantly evokes the same nostalgia.
Oh, and the whole game can also be played from a tweet. It even has online multiplayer.
That's how Familiars.io caught my attention and stole a good half-hour of my time over the weekend. Its creator, ClayLoam, figured out a way to embed Familiars.io on Twitter as though it were a YouTube video. Upon clicking the link, it pops open a window where you can customize your character, pick a starting monster, and begin roaming through its world. Along the way, you'll see other players wandering around, catching monsters, or even positioning themselves for opt-in PvP.
While it has a dark, inverted palette that lends it a style all its own, Familiars.io is unmistakably inspired by Pokemon. The current selection of 15 monsters tends a bit toward the weirder side too (my starter was Cobby, an ear of corn, and my favorite is the lighthouse monster Watt). In an interview with USgamer, ClayLoam says he'd like to "at least double" the number of monsters eventually.
"The game as it exists today goes back to March 2019, but I haven't been working on it the whole time," he says. "Lots of months I hadn't touched the game at all. It also uses some assets for an unfinished game from back in 2014."
All in all, ClayLoam estimates Familiars.io came together in its current state with about a year's worth of work in his spare time. Before figuring out the Twitter embed trick, Familiars.io "never had more than 10 people online at once," but now ClayLoam's seen the simultaneous player count peak at around 300. As of today, the embed tweet itself has been retweeted over 5,000 times and liked nearly double that.
The sudden boost in attention has been the good kind of overwhelming. "I've loved the influx of unprompted fanart," ClayLoam says. "I'm really happy that lots of people like the monster designs that me and my wife came up with." One of the areas in the Familiars.io map has even taken on a community name: Howdy Bones Cave, named for the ability to do a little "howdy" emote to other players.
Increasing the monster count aside, ClayLoam does hope to expand Familiars.io in other ways as well. "I have a few ideas for things that would make it more fun to play in a group, or to reduce the barrier to entry for people less familiar with Pokemon games. I don't have many concrete plans; I'm just going to try lots of things and see what's the most fun."