So this fifth year of the jam’s history has seen the largest growth, which isn’t too surprising as game jams are becoming wildly popular events – just look at the Ludum Dare numbers to see another huge growth. You can see on the global status page a more detailed breakdown of where people were jamming and how many in each location, and I love how spread it really is, with there not really being too much of a focus in one particular region. And that should hopefully mean that there’s a lot of different minds and ways of adapting the them into game form. And just to make sure there is, each participant has a couple of different diversifiers that they should have tried to stick to.
But with a whopping 3,000 to wade through, there’s no way anyone can could possibly go through them and find the more quirky or high quality examples – not to say that we don’t value every single entry, of course. Maybe some day, some crazy person will have been through them all, but until that time, you’ll have to make do with our picks from those that we’ve played so far.
The game that all the kids are referring to as QWOPeration. Surgeon Simulator 2013 is terrifying at first – as you take that outstretched hand into your own with the rather tactile button layout. Lying before you is a patient awaiting a heart transplant, and you’re the one who has got to do it. The joke is that controlling this hand really isn’t all that easy, and when this inherent clumsiness is combined with someone’s organs and lots of sharp tools…things get a little messy. I sawed through the ribcage with the sharp edge of a tray, flung it aside and then yanked out each lung like a kid trying to grab the last cookie at the bottom of a jar. Play this game just for a laugh, and then try to beat it and fail and fail and fail.
The heartbeat in this dungeon running puzzle game causes the walls on either side of the screen to draw in closer and closer. The enemies within the game also move to the beat. You, on the other hand, are left to scarper through the isometric wall maze as quickly as possible without being crushed or otherwise killed. Avoiding enemies, manipulating blocks and collecting power-ups are all vital to get through, but it’s finding out the order to do things in and where to run to that ensures this game will keep you on your toes.
Our very own Chloi helped to make this one, so we’re not biased at all…nosiree! Honestly, though, The Polygraph is an excellent game about trying to lie your way through one of the eponymous tests in a rather jazzy noir setting. The idea is that you hit the space bar in time with the beats running across the bottom of the screen. As the interrogation ramps up, the beats take different forms that make it much harder to keep your cool. The text that is oh so worth reading runs just above this bar where you’re battling the shakes, but it often acts as a slight distraction as you attempt to read the questions and find out more about this plot yourself, while also keeping your eyes on the the beats.
Keeping with the focus on atmosphere, we have here a clever horror puzzle game in which most of the screen is blacked out and just a small circle of sight is offered. The lack of visibility in Paranoia induces the state of its namesake very gradually, and with the sound of a heartbeat always audible, you’ll know when your on-screen character is feeling tense. That, naturally, starts to play on your mind as you shift rocks around on floor switches and avoid arrow traps and the like.
This is intended as some form of ‘street abuse’ simulation in which you attempt to make it home alone at night and with a number of strangers in between you and your destination. Once again, there is only a small circle of view and the sound of a heartbeat to provide the atmosphere – that seems to be a fairly common technique used to create a sense of hostility in this game jam. So as you wander around the dimly lit streets, you’ll see a number of grey figures, a number of which cannot be avoided, and the risk is that they may shout some abuse at you. Playing on what I presume is the often used wolf whistle that repugnant people cast out at lone females quite often, those who hurl the abuse become a wolf to an extent.
If you’ve got a friend you can play with, then Heart Attack is going to be great fun; I can sense it. Considering that I had fun playing the role of both players must prove something…right? Basically, in this very well presented game (the music is brilliant too), one player has to keep back the heart attacks the old man encounters during his trip to the park bench. They just press the Space bar at the right times to keep back the palpitations. The other player uses the number keys to trigger a variety of different events that will induce these heart attacks much more frequently and vigorously. It seems weighted against the player managing the heart attacks, but I guess the other player will have fun watching the other squirm after their little pranks.
Oh, I spot a CRT filter and instantly my nostalgia bone is telling me something about how much we love games that look like this. Terrible thing, isn’t it? Well, fortunately Sigurdr’s Havoc is interesting for more reasons than its looks, and is fun along with it too. You play this viking kind of guy as he jumps down the gullet of this huge serpent and travels downwards with all of its insides to contend with. Mostly it’s a game of dodging by means of quick reactions (not too quick) and a bit of well-times axe swinging. As things progress the direction of travel changes and brings with it new challenges to learn and conquer on replays – because you’re almost bound to die at least a few times.
Starting off in a stretching desert all alone, you’ll take off in any direction you like (it may not look like it, but you are moving) before a piece of the world reveals itself to you. By heading towards its glow and engaging with it, you’ll be transported to a glorious piece of art work, where you’ll be met with a challenge, and one that’s most audio-based, so make sure you have the volume at a decent level. Once the puzzle is complete, you then find yourself back in the desert with that piece now following. You do this seven times to finish this serene experience, which mostly excels in changing things up with the audio interaction – a welcome touch.