LOWREZJAM 2017 – Part 1
Welcome to the first of many dives into the weird and wonderful worlds of game jams! If this is new territory for you, game jams are short challenges to create playable games under certain time limits and restrictions. Indie developers often use jams to cook up prototypes for new games or experiment with systems that might not work on a larger scale. And of course, there are always folks who just want to practice or hang out while they make cool stuff.
This series will be looking at LOWREZJAM 2017 hosted on itch.io. Entrants were challenged to create a game that runs at a resolution of just 64×64, and had just over two weeks to do it. Submissions closed on August 17th with 243 entries spanning every genre and theme imaginable, from platformers to racers to city builders. My goal here is to highlight some of the incredible creations that jams like this produce, and while I won’t be able to get to everything I’ll do my best to hit a wide range of submissions. I’m not on any kind of schedule here, so updates will come every few days and continue until I’ve had my fill.
Today’s jam dive focuses on browser-playable submissions, ones that you can pop right open from the links below and try yourself. I’ll be highlighting ten creations that I think are great places to start exploring the jam from, thanks to their creativity or fun factor or just because I like them. These won’t really be reviews but more short summaries of the games and why they’re notable, so by all means click through to their page and try them out for yourself. And it wouldn’t hurt to comment on or share any of the creations you like, too!
Magical Mythos – I had to include this one for the amazing mash-up premise. It’s a first-person dungeon crawler RPG where you play as a magical girl (think Sailor Moon) exploring a mansion of horrors. Every part of that incredible pitch is taken seriously, with a large map to poke around, a full battle system with stats, transformations, and non-combat options, and extensive branching dialogue with NPCs. It’s remarkably robust and manages to cram plenty of atmosphere into its tiny display area.
Dash Craft – This one takes a simple arena and spices it up with unique combat and visual flair. Your ship is mouse-driven and attacks by dashing with left click. Your enemies move similarly, dashing to attack or firing shots you can reflect by dashing into. It’s hectic and challenging, but the bright explosions and silky-smooth animations make it a real pleasure to work at. I couldn’t last more than a few seconds (laugh it up) but I have a feeling mastering the art can be pretty gratifying.
unknown grounds – If you can forgive the lack of randomization this one plays just like a fine little roguelike. Take your turns exploring the dungeons, grabbing ever-better loot and bumping into enemies to murder them (and hopefully not yourself). The visual polish and solid gamefeel make this a good one to burn plenty of coffee breaks on.
Knockout Station 64 – There’s not a whole lot going on in this brawler, just pacing on a train platform and punching dudes before they punch you. However, it’s the striking mix of smooth 2D and detailed 3D that makes it fresh and exciting and very much worth trying. A lovely soundtrack is the icing on this brawling cake, along with the gratification of rolling under a punch and laying out the aggressor.
META-ZETA – “Intense” is not what I’d call most block puzzlers but it fits here. Your job is to get your block past pits, walls, moving platforms, and lasers to the block that resembles it, all to travel inside yourself for the next level. Even starting out the puzzles are insidious and demand perfection, a tall order with the thumping soundtrack in your head. It’s a rare experience and if you can hang with it, a gratifying one as well.
Pixelated Journey – Don’t be fooled by this screenshot and trust me when I say the animation for this one is incredible. You journey down a road towards adventure, battling monsters with intense click-timing sword stabs. Each monster has its own pattern and gimmicks, all lovingly rendered in this strange squishy style you need to see to appreciate.
Traceur – One-button games can be tricky to pull off in a fun way but this one does it with creative challenges and a brisk but measured pace. Precision is the name of the game, as is working out how to master the challenges in this six-stage run. Fans of Canabalt or Bit Trip Runner will probably get the most enjoyment here, but it’s simple and clear enough for anyone to attempt.
Teeny Ceety – I got super excited to see my favorite genre pop up here, and while it’s not a very deep game it does scratch that OCD construction itch. There are four buildings to place and balance against their populations and funding impact, but once you figure it out you can build the teeny sprawl of your teeny dreams.
Pixel Peak – You’re looking at this and thinking Ski Free, and that’s totally okay. Good luck getting far in this one with all the trees and cliffs and yellow snow to contend with, but the adorable graphics make it too enticing to stop. The map gets pretty crazy further down, too. I’ve no idea if there’s a snowman waiting for you, but it’s plenty fun working at it to find out.
Trisk – I’m not even a real big match-3 guy but the mechanics here really got my attention. You’re swapping pieces horizontally and are free to move them about without matching which allows for some really creative combos. The visuals are nice and clean and give great feedback as well, so puzzle fans will find plenty to like here.
That’s it for my first look! Considering the spread of games here there should be something for everyone, and from there you can start seeing what the lowresjam has to offer. I’ll be back soon with some more browser games, and then we’ll move on to the downloadable entries. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think!