Crazy Stairs

by Sleazel.

In general, I prefer to highlight recent games on this site. But I think it’s worthwhile being a bit looser with the rules when it comes to Roblox games, and I really wanna tell you about this game from 2018 that I just found out about.

Crazy Stairs is a multiplayer stair-climbing game. You’re all racing to reach the top of a random 4x4x21 tower of stairs, and the first person to grab the glowing orb at the top wins.

…except…

To make things interesting, you’ve all got special powers! Powers cost mana to activate (which you can collect in the tower), and they do things like create stairs between platforms, or destroy stairs that are in your way.

…but, also…

Actually, you have six powers, and there are 10 (main!) classes, each of which has their own unique set of six powers.

For example, you could play as the green Patron class, which can create staircases and floating platforms, and which generally has abilities that create pathways through the level that benefit all players.

Or, maybe play as the yellow Joker class, which progresses by inverting staircases (so that ones that are going down are now going up), or by creating invisible stairs that nobody else can see.

Or maybe the orange Keeper is more your speed – it’s a little more complicated, but you can rotate staircases to find alternate paths up the tower, or move stairs laterally to make progress and frustrate other players behind you.

Or… well, look, the point is that there are a lot of these classes, and they all feel very different to play. Classes like the Patron feel like deliberate beginner classes. Other classes, like the red Wicked class (which destroys staircases), feel almost impossible to make progress with unless you’re coordinating with other players. Trying to make all these weird classes work is a big part of what makes the game so interesting.

If this all sounds like a lot, well… it is!

There’s more…

You only actually start with one ability per chosen class. Whenever you collect an Orb at the top of the tower, it unlocks another one, until you have all six. After that? Uh, yeah, actually there’s a second tier of massively more powerful abilities for each class, called “Ultimate Spells”. They use “tokens”, which you win by winning races.

Sometimes you’ll find yourself kind of stuck, out of mana and unable to do anything to change your situation. But don’t worry, because a ghost of your player is reflected through the middle of the tower at all times, and your ghost can also collect mana on your behalf. A lot of the time this will happen when you don’t even realise it.

Something I liked a lot is that you don’t actually have to race up the tower, if you don’t want to. There are basically two game modes – one where you just climb the tower and try out the different classes, with no real pressure, and one where you decide you’re in a “race”, and the first player among all the players who have agreed that they’re racing each other wins some tokens.

Regardless of which way you play, all the players are in the same tower, manipulating stairs for each other and changing the layout of the tower. Both ways of playing are great, and I really appreciated the freedom to decide if I cared about racing or not – a decision I sometimes made mid race.

Just look at that screenshot! Like… I think most designers would just not have tried to make this. Most designers would probably have simplified the core ideas dramatically, maybe focused on 3 or 4 very strict and balanced and different feeling classes. It is to the designer’s credit that they haven’t done that – instead, they’ve embraced complexity and chaos and made something that feels wildly unique and fascinating as a result. This is really special.

[Play on Roblox (account signup required)]

Swallow the Sea

by Maceo bob Mair and Nicol├ís Delgado.

You’re a tiny egg in sea of strange fish. Absorb creatures smaller than you so that you can grow big and strong. It’s a bit like agar.io, or flOw, except it’s designed as a single hand-crafted experience that takes about 10-15 minutes to play through.

The game has some amazing moments – you flip back and forth between playing as a predator, and then being prey, which is just a really interesting thing to build a game around. It doesn’t hurt that the art and audio is fantastic, and that the enemy design is incredible. Maybe skip this one if you’re squeamish, though!

[Download for Windows/Mac/Linux]

Squinky and the Squinkettes present: SECOND PUBERTY

by Squinky.

A collection of seven short games about isolation during the pandemic, and medically transitioning in your thirties. It’s maybe less intense than that description might lead you to expect – the games are short, and playful, and funny, and more than one of them has a fart joke.

There’s some really interesting writing about each game in the series on Squinky’s blog, which I recommend checking out after you’ve played these!

[Play Online (itch.io)]

Get in the Car, Loser!

by Love Conquers All Games.

Get in the Car, Loser! is a lesbian road-trip RPG, from Christine Love (Analogue: A Hate Story), featuring art by comic artist Isaac Robin and pixel artist August Cartland, and audio by Christa Lee and Jami Lynne. This is a hell of a team, releasing an incredible looking title that’s been at least four years in the making – I’m probably not alone in being surprised that it’s free.

It’s pretty common for Indie RPGs to take inspiration from the “golden age” of SNES RPGs, i.e. your Final Fantasies 4 through 6, your Chrono Triggers, and so on. Get in the Car, Loser! pushes hard against that, which is cool – instead, it draws inspiration from modern RPGs, with a combat system built around ideas like cooldowns and staggers and weapon upgrading. I’m still pretty early in the game, but so far I’m enjoying the combat a lot, and I’m very excited to see where it goes with its ideas in the later acts. Don’t miss this one!

[Download for Windows/Mac (itch.io)]

Balance

by RookieBi, tomthebighead, and bloccoPNG.

In Balance, you must carefully guide your marble through a series of precise and difficult 3D platform challenges. It’s inspired by the 2004 shareware game “Ballance” – which I haven’t played, but what a great title that is!

Balance is unfinished, or possibly abandoned? Whatever the case, in its current state, there are no checkpoints, and you need to manually select the stage you want to play by pressing 9. Which actually, I really like? On the one hand, I like the freedom of just being able to hop around and see everything without any restrictions, and on the other, I like that it implies that the one true way to play is to start from the very start, every time, and complete the entire course in one go. It works whether you’re feeling hardcore or casual!

When I first tried this, I bounced off it a bit – but it really came to life when I tried it out with a group of four on our last games morning. Maybe the coolest thing about Roblox games is the way that they make all games multiplayer by default – and therefore suggest the possibility that, you know, maybe all games could be multiplayer?

[Play on Roblox (account signup required)]

(via Roblox Underrated Games. Happy 4th anniversary!)

Frog Finder

by Poobslag.

Frog Finder is an educational puzzle game, with a series of abstract puzzles about finding the frog hidden in a grid.

I think I had an expectation going in that it was going to be somehow subversive, somehow… Frog Fractiony? But that’s not it. If anything, it’s anti-subversive, like it has a kind of charming earnestness, which is something I guess you get in kids games. It’s adorable! It made me feel like a toddler.

It’s hard to describe – it manages to capture a nostalgia I didn’t know I had, for these alien-feeling early edutainment games that evoke a sense of wonder and joy.

[Play online (itch.io)]

Slide in the woods

by Jonny’s Games.

I feel like comedy and horror have a lot in common. Is this just me? A lot of it is that both genres have a lot of carefully-timed empty space where you’re waiting for something to happen (or dreading it). But it’s about set-up as well – they’re both genres where someone embarks on a plan that’s obviously a bad idea, that’s clearly going to end badly, where all you can do is put a pillow up to your face and say “I can’t watch this anymore, tell me when it’s over”. I think this is why you get so much horror that ends up being unintentionally funny.

I really enjoyed this game. Though, while it’s all very scary, it always feels like less of a jump scare and more of a punchline.

[Download for Windows (itch.io)]

Memorial Pillage

by Ivan Zonotti’s MyMadnessWorks.

I just came across this really nice platformer from back in May that I missed – it’s a new game from the creator of Imscared and FIREWORK.

Memorial Pillage is a self-described “love letter to CORE’s Tomb Raider”, and focuses on the kind of weighty movement you don’t see in a lot of platformers anymore. Your movement has inertia – how far you jump depends on how fast you’re moving. Cool!

Over the last decade or so, it feels like indie platformers have settled on a kind-of “correct” way to do things, so it’s refreshing to play something that pulls in a different direction, and takes inspiration from places less explored.

Two quick notes for this one:

  • There’s an “optional” tutorial accessible from the main menu that really shouldn’t be optional, since it explains a couple of non-standard control things that are important. TLDP; you can drop through platforms by double tapping down, and if you press CTRL it slows down time.
  • Let me spare you some rage: you can’t walk into spikes from the side, or climb up onto a platform that has spikes on it. That place where you’re trying to do that? You can just jump right over them!

[Download for Windows (itch.io)]