Seek Magician

by Moss Salamander.

Seek Magician is a classic RPG inspired by Space Funeral. You play as a frog trying to become a great magician, travelling the world and learning new spells from other magicians you meet.

Generally I’m more into mechanically driven games, but I really like the influence Space Funeral has had on RPG Maker games over the past decade – a shift in focus to making worlds that are funny to explore and hang out in, where the fights don’t really matter and the NPCs say things like “My clothes are made out of FILTH”.

[Download for Windows (itch.io)]

(via @netgal_emi, thanks!)

SPEED RUN 15

by TmanDaCool.

SPEED RUN 15 is a Roblox game (it’s completely free, but you do need to sign up for a free Roblox account first). Recently, I’ve been getting into Roblox in a big way – there is so much interesting stuff happening on the platform, and I would love to start covering some of it here.

Unfortunately, Roblox games really push against what I think of as the “rules” for this site –

  • I prefer to highlight recent releases, and it seems there’s really no good way to keep track of newly released Roblox games. By the time games hit the up-and-coming category, they’ve often been out for months, slowly spreading by word of mouth.
  • I also prefer to highlight “finished” games, rather than demos or prototypes – but on Roblox, it feels like almost everything on the platform is in a kind of perpetual early access, more updates always coming soon.
  • “Free” is a pretty important concept to me too, and while virtually everything on the platform can be played for free, even throwaway joke games will often let you pay 20 Robux (about 7 cents) for a fidget spinner or whatever. So that’s confusing.

But my own recent experiments on the platform have made me determined to figure out how to talk about all this, because there’s a whole universe of amazing creative work on here that is largely not getting talked about in my circles of game development. Roblox is making game development accessible to millions of people, many of them kids. Not only is it providing an excellent (free!) tool to make games with, it’s giving people the power to create their own online spaces for their friends – which is a particularly big deal with the pandemic.

So, SPEED RUN 15, then!

  • Because this game was made as an April Fool’s joke, it gives me a rare chance to talk about a Roblox game that’s just come out.
  • It’s also (probably?) not getting any updates, so it’s finished (the dead end in the Baudi stage is the end, I think, unless I’m missing something)
  • And while at first glance it appears to have microtransations, it’s actually just making fun of microtransations. Excellent!

This is a 3D platformer (or Obby, as they’re called on Roblox) with the player speed dialled all the way up to 11. It’s incredibly dumb and hilarious and only a few minutes long, which I think makes it a perfect introduction to the platform.

[Play on Roblox (account signup required)]

(and if you’re new to Roblox, and want some suggestions for what to play next, I recommend Goldie’s recent medium post, where she talks about her experiences discovering Roblox over the past year, and lists some of her favourite games.)

YRKKEY’S PARADISE

by droqen.

YRKKEY’S PARADISE is a puzzley-platformer from droqen, the creator of Starseed Pilgrim (and many, many other things!). You play as a little raccoon in a junkyard of electronic components, which you can assemble together to access a mysterious “cyberspace”.

Uff, droqen really seems to have a thing for making games that demand not to be spoiled, huh? It makes it pretty hard to talk about his work. I’ve already spoiled like two things that were really nice discoveries! (Three, if you count the meta fact that there are spoilers as a spoiler.)

Anyway, this is a game with a lot going on beneath the surface. Each realisation along the way is a delight, and by the end I was in awe of how everything fits together. This is one of the best freeware games I’ve played this year.

[Play in Browser (Newgrounds)]

Escorial

by sunil.

Escorial is a broughlike – that is, a roguelike in the style of Michael Brough‘s roguelikes (868-HACK, imbroglio, Cinco Paus to name a few). Basically, they’re de-constructed roguelikes on small grids, focused on mechanics that make you think about your position in a chess-like way. Well, most of them are anyway. Genre definitions are tricky!

It’s worth saying that Michael did not coin this term himself, and does find it a bit weird –

Well, whatever we want to call them, I think it’s really fantastic to see more people making games in this genre. There’s a lot of cool design space here waiting to be explored, as Escorial demonstrates!

It’s kinda built around what I think of as the “Super Crate Box” mechanic – in order to make progress, you need to change your current powers and adapt to new ones, while your enemies get tougher and tougher. Here, you have not one, but three powers to consider, which makes the moment-to-moment gameplay an interesting mix of short and long term planning, as you try to figure out which power you need to swap out, and which you need to hold on to as long as possible. It’s a lot of fun!

Escorial starts out pretty slow, and I admit I bounced off it during my first pass through this year’s seven day roguelike entries. There were a lot of good games released this week! But I found myself coming back to this one again, and again, and again, appreciating the little things it does more and more each time, until eventually it became very clear to me that this was my favourite game of the jam.

[Play in Browser (itch.io)]

Starjump

by Luca Harris.

Starjump is, uh… hmm. As descriptions go, I really can’t improve on the author’s:

“You are a star that jumps (video gaming).”[Author’s Description]

This is an interesting thing! Honestly, top down platforming is kind of a strange starting point, so to make that work takes a fair bit of effort. I like it for the same reason I liked last month’s GRiPPY – because it takes a weird concept that a lot of other people might have dismissed, and really runs with it. The level design is great, too.

I also really like how it pulls against the usual PICO-8 aesthetics, with its unusual colour choices and its “please open this in a separate tab before you play” style soundtrack – something I think I’ve only seen with twine games? This is a very nicely made, cohesive feeling thing.

Do this first -> [Play soundtrack in a background tab]

Then, start the game -> [Play on Lexaloffle BBS]

Fastest Gun in the West

by rahl.

Came across this super fun arcade game via the excellent twitter account @thegamecurator (thanks!). It doesn’t take long to explain – take aim with your mouse, and shoot at the baddies who charge at you across the uneven terrain. Try and defeat as many as you can before they overwhelm you: then, try to break that record.

There’s a real knack to making games like this feel “good”, and this one absolutely nails it. In a very good way, it reminds me a little of Bennett Foddy’s Too Many Ninjas (RIP Flash).

[Play in Browser (itch.io)]

Scrolleste

by Warspyking, Meep and RubyRed.

Before starting this Free Game of the Week project, I had no idea how popular Celeste Classic modding was. Turns out: it’s a big deal! This one, Scrolleste, went live yesterday. Since then, there are already two more – including Backwards Celeste, which makes Madeline walk backwards.

It turns out there are pages and pages and pages of things like this on the Pico-8 BBS, and there’s a lot of super interesting stuff to find out there if you dig into it. Some people redo the graphics, some people try weird experiments, some people even make whole new games.

Scrolleste falls into the “weird experiments” category, and I think it’s super cool. It basically just makes the following two changes to the original game:

1: All of the levels are stitched together into one continuous level.

2. There’s a rising lava floor.

This is a game for the most hardcore of hardcore Celeste Classic fans – it does feature a difficulty selector in the menu, but it sort of doesn’t matter? The baseline difficulty requires you to be good enough to complete the original game with zero deaths. It’s way beyond what I can do, but I still think it’s really interesting.

There’s a games-as-art question that does the rounds on twitter occasionally – if you have a concept like this, where most people aren’t even going to be able to play it anyway, does it even matter that the thing exists? Maybe the “idea” of the thing is the important part of the experience? Idk. Anyway, here’s a video of this being completed on expert difficulty:

[Play in Browser (lexaloffle bbs)]

If We Were Allowed To Visit

by Gemma Mahadeo and Ian MacLarty.

Yesterday, Ian released a new, updated version of Catacombs of Solaris, and it reminded me of this project he worked on last year that I really liked.

If we were allowed to visit is an anthology of poems by poet Gemma Mahadeo, rendered by game designer Ian MacLarty. You explore a sparse, rural Australian landscape, visualised as words implying the shapes around you. Each individual object has a text representation, usually a poem written by Gemma about that thing. As you move around the scene, a lot of care is taken from a technical perspective to ensure that any given screenshot of the game stands alone as a new generative poem.

I first encountered the game during a talk by Gemma and Ian at Freeplay 2019, where they showed an in-development prototype. I was absolutely blown away. Just, wow! This project is such a perfectly realised collaboration. Not only of the already unusual combination of poetry-meets-games, but of the particular type of poetry Gemma writes, and the particular type of games Ian makes. I was astonished, bordering on jealous.

The final version really delivers on the promise of that early prototype – it feels like such a pure, complete concept, not one character out of place. It’s really interesting to wander around in too, I enjoyed figuring out the shapes of things as I stumbled around, finding things in the noise, watching a tumbleweed drift by.

[Play in Browser (itch.io)]

Kenta Cho’s “Crisp Game Lib” Games

by Kenta Cho.

This is a collection of 30+ tiny arcade games, each of them delightful, compelling, and playable in seconds. They’re created in what the author calls “Crisp Game Lib“, a personal, puzzlescript-like framework specially made for making these kinds of rapid/minimal arcade things.

This whole thing is just, like, incredibly cool. The games themselves are a blast, especially played as a collection – and the framework behind it all is fascinating. The entirety of each game is contained in a single typescript file, with variables shared across each game – a score, a simple description so that you know what the controls are, and common functions like end() to trigger a game over. Graphics are defined as these big strings where you can block out rough sprite designs:

Want sound effects? You can just write play("jump") or play("explosion"), and it all works. Want background music? set isPlayingBgm to true and it’ll just… generate some. What?

You can find the entire collection on the crisp-game-lib page, but here are a few that I particularly liked:

[Play FLOATER][Play COUNT]
[Play GRENADIER][Play FORFOUR]
[Play DOSHIN][Play DIVARR]
[Play ARCFIRE][Play SLALOM]
[Play SURVIVOR][Play FLIPBOMB]
[Play LLAND][Play PILEUP]
[Play CYWALL][Play REFBALS]

It’s worth saying: Kenta has been doing this sort of thing for a very long time now – Crisp Game Lib is the latest iteration of a series of projects that includes mgl.coffee, and a collection of flash games made in the now defunct wonderfl.

(Via Tim at Warp Door. Thanks, as always!)