Ludum Dare Explores the Theme "You Only Get One"

We've just seen the back of Ludum Dare 28, in which solo developers and developer teams alike from all over the world came together to explore a common theme and unleash their creativity under strict time constraints. Here's some of the most interesting results.

Article by Pete Davison, .

Game jams are often where some of the most interesting ideas come out. And nowhere is that more apparent than the strictly time-limited Ludum Dare.

Ludum Dare describes itself as an "accelerated game development event," and has been happening four times a year since 2002. The 28th Ludum Dare weekend just passed on the weekend of December 13-16, and this time around the theme was "You Only Get One."

Since 2010, Ludum Dare has been split into two tracks: a main competition track, where developers must work solo to put together a functional game in the space of a weekend, and a team-based jam in which groups of developers have 72 hours to assemble something on the theme.

Given the tight time constraints, Ludum Dare entries often aren't the most polished affairs in the world, with some in urgent need of serious care and attention before they'd be a viable commercial prospect -- or even a completed game in some cases. But the important thing about the event is that everyone working together on a common theme can lead to some interesting ideas -- new twists on game mechanics; new ways of communicating concepts and themes through play; new developers trying their hand at making something for the first time. It's an immensely positive event, and it's always worth trawling through the entries after the main weekend of development has passed, just to see some of the interesting things developers have come up with.

With that in mind, we decided to do just that. Here's some of the picks we've found from Ludum Dare 28's entries, and we'll be adding to this list throughout the day. Likewise, if you've come across anything particularly interesting, be sure to let us know in the comments and shoot us a link to the game in question -- we'll incorporate the most interesting into the list.

Check out the complete list of entries for yourself here.

Life: The Cynical-Hipster-Tetris Version

Pete: This peculiar little game is a kind of puzzle game that evolves as you progress through it, using the theme "you only get one life." It begins as an exercise in sorting Tetris-style shapes together, but as your character "ages," more and more different colors start appearing, representing different influences on your life such as wealth, career, relationships and religion. By creating and copying new shapes and attempting to fit them together as well as possible, you'll eventually be left with a score representing how well you'd done in all these different aspects of your life by the time you die. It's oddly sobering, particularly if you try to make sense of where your "stats" ended up at the end of the game -- and whether it means anything about you, individually.

Try it out here.

Pan-Dimensional Roboids

Pete: Proof that a minimalist approach can work for gameplay as well as aesthetics, Pan-Dimensional Roboids makes a surprisingly enjoyable if simplistic game out of one life, one level and one type of enemy. By commanding your robot to pick up the energy pod and harvest power, ammo or health, you'll work your way closer to acquiring 1,000 total power and winning. But you'll probably fail in the process.

Try it out here.

You Only Get One Wish

Pete: A simple but charming Twine adventure about what you might do if you came across a magic lamp in the forest, but only had one wish instead of the conventional three. The story is fairly throwaway, but it's entertainingly written, despite a few spelling and grammatical errors here and there -- plus it's a good example of what you can do with Twine.

Try it out here.


Pete: Here's an infuriating little game in which you have to play a traditional platform game with nothing but a "jump" button. Tapping and holding the spacebar in various combinations causes you to jump up or sideways, or drop to the floor, and once you've got your head around the base mechanics you'll have to navigate some tricky levels using them. This one will make you grind your teeth to powder, but it's a great use of the concept to provide an amusingly different take on the platform genre.

Try it out here.


Pete: Terry "Super Hexagon" Cavanagh's work is always worth keeping an eye on, since his games often combine a self-consciously retro aesthetic with a considerable degree of hidden depth -- his recent work Naya's Quest was a great example. Fountain is a bit more contemplative and "arty" than some of his other games, but it's nonetheless worth a look for its excellent use of color and sound, plus its interesting core mechanic of only getting one life, but being able to extend it indefinitely if you're careful.

Try it out here.

Queen's Agent

Cassandra:Queen's Agent is a bit of a brain teaser. Bright, flashy animations are non-entities here but you probably won't notice. It's more than likely that you'll have your head down and face buried in a pile of notes. Who among the crew is aiming to sabotage the air vessel? Because you were unfortunate enough to fly without a lie detector, you're going to have to interrogate each and every member of the ship in order to determine who the guilty culprit is. Surprisingly, especially for a game crafted in so few hours, the entire experience is actually more than a little difficult.

Try it here


Cass:I liked Doubt. Even if I doubt I'm smart enough to properly digest its underlining message. It's an artsy sort of platformer/adventure hybrid that puts you in control of a somewhat dour fellow. Trailed by a cat that may not even be real, our unlikely protagonist mutters and natters as he weaves through the cryptic narrative. Doubt slowly becomes more transparent a little further into the experience, but that's assuming you get through the blasted doors first...

Try it here.

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Comments 3

  • Avatar for Volute #1 Volute 4 years ago
    I'd be very happy if you'd try my game :)

    The take on the theme is rather extreme : the game will only let you play one time ! The gameplay is minimal, it's intended as a metaphor on life.
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  • Avatar for peperomero21 #2 peperomero21 4 years ago
    Give Protoport a try! I hope you like it :D

    Protoport is a hard game where you'll try to beat over sixty levels that shows up aleatory with only one power up: Teleport.
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  • Avatar for leparlon #3 leparlon 4 years ago
    I made a QWOP parody in which you only have one leg, hope you like it, it was very very fun to make this game.
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