The Corporate Adventures of Mr. Mask is a five-minute game created at the Austin site of the Global Game Jam. Unlike most GGJ games, it's complete and pretty polished, if short.
It's a classic stealth game in a retro mold -- arrow keys to move and GameBoy Advance-level graphics. Each level has an entrance at the bottom, an exit at the top, and a bunch of patrolling baddies in between you have to avoid.
I'm a little hesitant about recommending YouDunnit because it's damned confusing and hard to play -- but the idea behind it is very cool, and, well, 48-hour games are rarely going to be perfect.
The basic setup is this: You murdered someone, in locked-room detective story-like fashion, and the detective has shown up to investigate. He's asking everyone their stories. If you catches you out in an inconsistency -- or if you somehow permit everyone else to establish a clear alibi -- you're screwed.
Bacterial Invasion is a level-based puzzle game in which you are a bacterium infecting a human body. Or rather, sort of; the analogy inspires the design, but this is no sim. "Infection" doesn't mean breeding wildly in vivo and outspawning the immune system; instead, it apparently means finding the spawn points for leucocytes and "infecting" them, at which point the game transitions to the next level.
We're All Plain! 2 SE is a little level-based Flash puzzler created for the Global Game Jam. On each level, there are an array of colored orbs. They're on springs; you can pull one back and let it go. If it intercepts an orb of the complementary color (red/gree, blue/orange, purple/yellow), both turn white. To clear the level, you must turn all orbs white.
Decepticolor is a remarkably polished little game, for a 48-hour game jam effort. It's a puzzle game, supposedly for two players (one using WASD and the other the arrow keys), but in fact it can readily be played by a single player manipulating both, although it's sometimes hard to remember which of the squares under your control is controlled by which set of keys this way.
Each player controls a square that contains a simple pattern of 16-bit colors. Somewhere in the game are are two "target" squares. You must move your squares to the target squares in such a way that when they overlie the target squares, the pattern of colors matches.
The keys "flip" your squares -- left or right moves you one square distance and flips the pattern across the vertical axis, while up or down flips across the horizontal axis. In addition, if on player flips his square, or part of his square, atop the other player's square, the underlying square assumes the overlying pattern. Thus, on many of the higher levels, you need to figure out how to strategically flip squares atop part of each other in order to build the target pattern. (In the screenshot above, the target squares are all blue, so the two manueverable squares need to be manipulated to transform each other to an all-blue state.)
The result is quite an interesting set of spatial and logic challenges. Only twelve levels, but then that's pretty good for 48 hours.
Console dweebs frequently say things like "PC games suck because you can't be sure they'll run," and its true that sometimes there are configuration issues. Of course, we PC gamers sneer at console gamers for this kind of thing, because it's rarely a problem post-DirectX, and anyway, we know what a goddamn DOS prompt looks like and know how to use a Linux shell when we need to, and suspect that console gamers' coffee pots are all blinking "12:00". But Jesper makes me think maybe they have a point.
I don't often feature two-player games, with people whacking on the opposite site of the keyboard, because, well, the basic dynamic sucks. And anyway, we PC gamers are basically recluses. If we had friends, we'd be playing board or tabletop roleplaying games, and even when we play online, we generally prefer to solo instead of dealing with a bunch of whining guild mates. So I'm left testing a 2-player game playing left-hand-against-right, which really sucks, and anyway, I suspect the portion of our readers who'd play such a thing is small.
A Global Game Jam entry from students at Carnegie Mellon, Balloon Man is a pleasant, dream-like little game in which a man holding three balloons rises upward (an "upscroller" rather than a sidescroller, if you will) past a somewhat surreal skyscape. Various obstacles float in space, and if a balloon intercepts one, it pops -- lose all three balloons, and you lose, of course.
Off With Her Head is partly an experiment with an alternative conversation system; partly an exploration of a morally dubious space; and partly the sort of game the purpose of which is to uncover the different endings (ala I Wish I Were the Moon or The Majesty of Colors).
The backstory is that the King has gotten annoyed that no one will marry him, and has decreed that all unmarried women must join his harem, or die. You are the king's executioner, presented with a series of women. You must attempt to persuade them to join the king's harem or, of course, execute them.
Gameplay is in a series of dialogs with these women; rather than entering text, IF-style, when it's your turn to respond, you press one of the arrow keys: Up for Yes, Down for No, Left for "ask question" and Right for "answer." At left top are a series of red light-bulbs for you, and yellow ones for the woman you're talking with; if her row of light bulbs is reduced to zero, she succumbs, and you have saved her life. Contrariwise, if your row declines to zero, you've run out of ideas, and must execute her. Some other dialog choices also lead to her execution (e.g., answering "yes" if she says "You're going to kill me now, aren't you?")
It's actually a somewhat awkward game to play; as you, or the woman, speaks, text appears in a scroll, and the instant she stops talking, your light bulbs start to disappear. Thus, to play effectively, you must be ready to respond instantly. As a result, though the dialog from the woman is often interesting (and pathetic), you wind up ignoring much of it and hammering on a key to avoid losing light-bulbs. A little more time to respond would improve the game, I think.
As the executioner, you are, of course, in a morally repugnant position; neither execution nor slavery is exactly a desirable alternative, of course, but if you fail to do your duty, the king will execute you instead (and call in a new executioner -- game over and restart, in other words). Still, perhaps where there's life, there's hope, so conceivably the least repulsive option is to earnestly try to persuade the women. But of course, some of them are very resistant, and there's certainly a temptation at times to say, hell with it, kill the bitch.
In addition to the clearly undesirable ending (the king kills you), there are at least two others: one in which you have persuaded enough women to satisfy the king, and another in which you execute the king. They're hard to get to, however.
Kino One is a retro 80s arcade-style shmup, vertical-scrolling, with borrowings from the bullet-hell style and R-Type-like bosses. The 80s feel is reinforced by some nice flourishes; the start-game screen shows several arcade cabinets, and in addition to playing Kino One itself, you can select some of the other cabinets and play small Pac-Man and Arkanoid clones. Among the logos displayed during the start-up sequence is a Department of Justice logo along with a warning against drugs -- a common feature of early 80s arcade games.
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