Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Double Dog Ludum Dare Vol I: Geometries Around Explosions

Double Dog Ludum Dare is a series where we explore games made for Ludum Dare events, a series of game jams with a time limit of one weekend. The most recent iteration, the 23rd, was held from April 20th-23rd, 2012. The theme this time around was “Tiny World.” Because of the stringent time limit, the finished products range from haiku-like pieces of inspired design, to completely scattered, dysfunctional skeletons. We subject ourselves to it all. (to try out the games, click the blue headers, duh.)

Birchmountain: Cylcubere Origins

Right off the bat, a real winner. A sinister smiling face greets you and a downwards pitch-shifted voice says, “Hello.” Then, “What is your favourite geometry?” Your choices are Cube, Sphere, Cylinder, and curiously, Cylcubere, a portmanteau combining the three previous geometries. The idea of a cylcubere freaks me right out, and I don’t want to think about it.

Next, the face asks your favourite colour. Then the lights come on. In my case, a red sphere was in the middle of the room. A personification of my particular affections. The face was revealed to belong to the cylcubere, who proceeded to test my typing abilities, followed by my abilities to keep my mouse cursor in a moving square. Both very important skills indeed. The difficulty came when for whatever reason the mechanism which was supposed to recognize that my mouse cursor was indeed in the square malfunctioned and the malicious cylcubere roasted my sphere in jets of flame.

And so for me, the game was ended. Like I said, a real winner.

Naouak: Fire Around

You play a spacecraft trapped in orbit around a tiny world. You can adjust the radius of your orbit, but otherwise, your craft keeps spinning around and around and around and around. If you fire your green bullets they spin around and around and around and around as well. If an enemy spaceship happens to appear in the path of your bullets, it goes boom and falls to earth, the remainder burning up in the atmosphere.

Of course, those enemies are shooting back at you, and you get stuck in this loop of bullets which goes around and around and around and around the world and eventually you can’t deal with the shots orbiting around and around and around and around. And then your spaceship goes boom and falls to earth, the remainder burning up in the atmosphere.

A great execution on a nice concept for a shmup, and the perpetual rotation made the whole ordeal pretty disorienting. Very difficult to wrap the head around (and around and around and around).

Tempest: Materia

Made in only 24 hours, Materia is a bit like playing nuclear jenga. You are tasked with collecting cubes of various colours without compromising the integrity of the Materia. Because then it explodes. And the game’s over. No one wants the game to be over, do they?

You expend energy to collect cubes. White cubes give you few points, but at little consequence. Orange cubes give you many more point, but require more energy. Pink cubes eat away at the integrity of the whole structure. Finally, red cubes give you a lot of points, but almost completely compromise the integrity of the Materia. Every 100 points, you can progress to the next level, where a new structure is displayed for you to dismantle.

The play field is presented similarly to the sadly unheralded Picross 3D for the Nintendo DS. For those who haven’t played that game (most people, I’d imagine) let me explain. You have a structure which you can rotate along all axes with your mouse by holding the right button and dragging. Because you’re working with a 3D object, it’s important to be able to see it from any angle so as to catch any pesky, lurking cubes. By left clicking on a cube, it is chipped away, revealing what it underneath.

I find the execution of this project very impressive for a game developed in 24 hours, but it does show obvious limitations as well. It suffers from being repetitive very quickly (similar) because it involves the repetition of basically the same one mechanic for the entirety of the gameplay. The addition of a time limit per level may have helped this. One feature I found particularly interesting was that you aren’t forced to move on to the next level as soon as it is unlocked. Instead you can harvest more points off of the one you’re on, and carry those through. By completely mining the first two levels out, I could completely skip the next three levels, because I’d already achieved the point requirements for them. This kind of idea would work very well if the scoring of points was based on skill, rather than tedious tenacity. By playing well and proving yourself, you would earn the right to skip through a few levels, to find a real challenge.

I think this is worth a play, if just to marvel at what the developer made all by himself, in one day.

This is what Ludum Dare is all about.

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