This is an ongoing collection of strange and beautiful places, each one inspired by one of the author’s dreams, connected through a hub world of glowing doorways. I’m still pretty new to Roblox, but I’ve yet to really see anything else like this on the platform.
One of the really interesting things about Roblox is that you play each game as you. As the avatar that you’ve personally created – and it’s the same avatar in almost every game on the platform, no matter whether you’re breaking out of prison, driving trains around rural Wales, or running around in someone else’s dreams. I love that. I think that’s particularly interesting in a game like this.
So far, I’ve only run around in these dream worlds alone, but it looks like the server limit on the game is set to 50 players, and I’m really excited by the idea of exploring these places with more people.
NextDoor is an adaptation of the comic “The Woman Next Door“, from Junti Ito’s collection of urban legends, Mimi’s Ghost Stories. It takes about 10-15 minutes to play. It’s horror, but more creepy horror than jump-scare horror. It’s best to go in blind!
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”.
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 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.
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.
(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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.