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)]