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.
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:
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.
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:
Ok, so: in GRiPPY, you’re a blobby thing with two big arms and no legs. You can individually fling your arms around – Z for your left arm, X for your right. Hold the keys down to grab stuff and release them to let go. There aren’t exactly a lot of games in this “genre” – I mean I guess if I think very hard I can think of someothergames it’s a little bit like, but it’s a very short list, and this isn’t really like any of those games.
Honestly, who would have thought this would be any good at all?! I’m impressed! At first it just seems like a bad concept – something you maybe think up at a game jam, but don’t actually, you know, MAKE.
GRiPPY defies my expectations and leans all the way into its strange concept, and somehow manages to make it all work. It has great controls, really nice level design and tonnes of weird charm.
Castaway on a Weird Island is a game about deduction – you’re given scraps of information about what might be where on a little 6×6 grid, and have to use that information to figure out a safe path through each level. Do you play it safe and try to avoid most dangers? Or take risks and make moves with uncertain outcomes to try and maximise your score?
This is such an elegant little game! I particularly love the variety of enemies – all of which have their own little quirks that you learn about through repeated plays. I’ve been playing a lot of this during the week, and expect to be playing it a lot more in the weeks to come.
Came across this cute little arcade thing (via WarpDoor, thanks Tim!) and knew it was going to be my pick for the week – I have a bit of a weakness for well-made minimal arcade things. And this one is great – it’s cleverly designed and feels great to play. It has good “game-play”.
The game is super simple – you’re a cat, and you have to rush from one side of an allayway to another, avoiding the chaotic splattering of raindrops on the way. You’ve got a limited dash move to help. Make it to 1,000,000 points to “win” and you’ll see an ending.
Like all great arcade games, there’s a lot of nuance to the simplicity of its rules. You get a bonus for dashing across without stopping – which feels arbitrary until you realise you can start the crossing whenever you think the time is right. You get badges for catching stars during a crossing, which means you’ll probably want to let the bouncing stars accumulate, turning them into low-stakes obstacles in addition to the raindrops. A tiny set of mysterious per-game achievements lights up as you play, offering clues on how to approach your quest for a million points. This is the sort of game that looks easy to make, but really, really isn’t.
[edit: whoops! I was wrong about the win condition. You win by completing five laps once the rain has reached its maximum intensity – which makes sense! As a high score game, it would have been a little odd to artificially cap your score.]
This is an hour-long mod of Fire Emblem 8 by (Dicey Dungeon’s artist!) Marlowe Dobbe, created as a Christmas present for her boyfriend after bingeing the entirety of Gilmore Girls last year. (I’ve never seen Gilmore Girls, but I did rewatch the entirety of The Good Wife last summer, and the actor who plays Cary is in both shows. So, you know, I can relate.)
As well as being conceptually great, the mod is funny and well designed and I’m just delighted that it exists. More of this sort of thing, please – people making bootleg fanfiction videogames for their partners is the future Indie Games promised us.
Before Celeste became the platforming giant we know today, it was a tiny PICO-8 game, made in just four days. I was completely obsessed with it when it came out.
Forever Red is a mod of that original PICO-8 Celeste, with all-new levels, created over the course of a year. It features some great level design inspired by the eventual final version of Celeste – in a way it feels a little like somebody porting Celeste Final back to Celeste Classic, but also very much like its own new thing.
While Forever Red is difficult, I like that it’s pitched at a level just above the original Celeste, likely within reach for anyone who managed the original climb. And for those up for more, there’s a very exciting inscription at the 1000m mark which hints at the existence of a greater challenge. I don’t want to spoil anything beyond that, but it’s a big part of why I wanted to highlight this game.
Sometimes, it’s hard to say anything at all about a game without ruining it! With tiny show, I strongly recommend going in without knowing anything about it – you can play it right in your browser, it’ll take you about three minutes to play, and you’ll be very, very glad you did.