On the third day of the ICT Game Jam, crowds filed in to test the games–more than anyone expected. Some games sported lines of people waiting, crowded around, watching the current player struggle, fail, and try again to conquer a particularly difficult challenge. Each contender was unique, but all were a pleasure to play. I tried out all eight, and was thoroughly impressed with how much each team managed in less than 48 total hours of work. Below, I’ll share my impressions of each game. Spoilers: there wasn’t a bad one in the bunch.
Falling for Putin
The first game I tried was a nutty little creation by team Alone in the Dark, called Falling for Putin. I played as an accidental paratrooper: a man whose “useless power” was falling…slightly slower than most people. Recruited as a paratrooper for Vladamir Putin, my job was to fall all the way to the ground, dodging planes, helicopters, and other nonsense in my way as I dropped. By moving left and right, I could dodge most of it, but occasionally I had to use my “power” to slow myself down before I hit a particularly finicky plane.
Falling for Putin had three levels of difficulty and I was able to finish them all, cheered on by quirky Russian arcade music and large pictures of Putin’s face. Falling for Putin turned out to be a politically silly take on a familiar style, and a lot of fun to play.
Opossum: The Power to Play Dead
From Quickdraw Games Studio, we got a game that’s fairly self-explanatory. Opossum, the main character, wants to feed his family by collecting garbage from the garbage can. Unfortunately, there’s a big, scary dog in front of the garbage. Your objective is to sneak past the dog when he’s not looking, “playing dead” if he spots you.
Opossum was simple: only one screen to completion, and fairly easy. But all the makings of a solid stealth game were in that first screen. The mechanics were easy to understand and use, and it wasn’t a stretch to see this game with more levels and difficult patterns to dodge and hide. Also, the Opossum was really cute.
This title won my heart before I even touched the game. Chicken Engine After Tuesday created the aptly named Fluster Cluck. You play as a chicken attempting to rescue her chicken friends from a high-security coop, guarded by cops and traps and lasers. Chicken’s power is a magic gun that can shoot random objects, each with a different effect on the target. Some do nothing, others insta-kill…in that regard, the combat is largely luck-based but partially skill-based too. Your gun has unlimited ammo, so you can keep on shooting until you get what you want, but expert dodging was required if a decent shot didn’t fire soon enough. And there was plenty of quick-movement, too, when dodging two guards, two lasers, and a door opening and shutting in front of you.
Fluster Cluck was created in old-school style, with sprites and simple assets, but the gameplay was solid. I’d love to see where it goes with more time and polish.
What’s Up, Chuck?
I didn’t really know what to expect at the ICT Game Jam, but I can safely say a rage game was nowhere near the top of my list. One team, known only as “This Table”, surprised me. What’s Up, Chuck? is a 2D platformer with a disgusting premise: Chuck’s useless power is throwing up. He cannot control this power. Chuck throws up after he has moved a certain distance in any direction, indicated by a meter in the top left of your screen. Once full, he pukes.
The rage part is that your puke can be used as either A: an attack or B: levitation?. Both are necessary to defeat enemies and cross wide gaps, but since you can only “control” your power by moving in a very specific way, this gets immensely frustrating when trying to cross a huge gap. You have to run back and forth in front of the gap perfectly before you can cross. And it only gets harder, as eventually a giant wall of spikes chases you, and the platforms get smaller and farther apart.
In spite of the difficulty, What’s Up, Chuck? was delightful to play, and the mechanics were like nothing I’d seen before. If “This Table” finishes it, this could be a good one for YouTube streamers to lose their minds over.
Hard games can be great, but sometimes you want to relax. Team Dump Truckin came out with Jump Truckin, a children’s game featuring a cute dump trunk out to collect stars as they fall from the sky. And that’s it. He can move and jump, and spawn more stars. Intended for very young kids, this riskless, rewarding game is cute and simple for a reason, and its completeness earned it an Honorable Mention from the ICT Game Jame for best use of the time allotted. Congrats!
Not everyone went for the “rollerskate” model, and for “Number One Team”, this worked to their advantage. Sailor Sam has three levels, all different, as an ever-growing sailor attempts to navigate the city on his way to work. He keeps getting bigger in each level, though, and it becomes increasingly difficult to get there. The first level is a sidescroller where you jump over cars and duck under signs to reach the objective. The second level was unfinished, but the third is a 3D truck-dodging game taking place on the freeway as semis zoom at your character.
Sailor Sam also took an honorable mention for Most Ambitious, and boy, was it. Each level had a flavor all its own, and the art assets of the third were particularly nice. It’s got a long way to go to completion, but when it gets there, Sailor Sam could prove an interesting challenge.
The Unlucky Apprentice
By far the most beautiful game at the Game Jam, The Unlucky Apprentice, created by Caffeine&Dreams, puts you in the shoes of a magician’s apprentice who has managed to shrink herself down and get stuck on the table. The spell that will grow her to normal size again is on the other end of the table, but the table is covered in magical obstacles, and mean enemies, such as mice. The apprentice can shoot spells at the enemies to get rid of them.
Gameplay was a bit rough, especially the motion controls, but the game already looks very pretty, and the basics are there. The Unlucky Apprentice won the community vote for best game at the Jam, and given that it was made by a team intending to push for full development, this might be one we’ll see on Steam Greenlight someday.
Finally, this. From a visual standpoint, GoldenEar (made by Team GoldenEar) doesn’t look like much. But then you put on the headphones.
Intended as an app game, GoldenEar turns you into a spy, listening in on an important conversation. By clicking (tapping, intended for smartphones), you can keep the rapidly expanding blue circle in the middle between the two white circles. If it’s within the white circles, you can hear the conversation. If it goes too far in or expands too far out, you lose the voices and hear static instead. Purely story-based, your goal is to hear as much of the conversation as possible. And it’s worth it–the dialogue is simultaneously intriguing and hilarious, involving an evil-pidgeon plot, and…
…wait. I’m not going to say anymore, because GoldenEar’s team has every intention of taking this thing to the app store. Not only was it the most unique and complete game at the Jam, but it won the judges’ favor and the prize. Congrats, Team GoldenEar. Hope to see this puppy on the app store!
If you’re interested in breaking into game development, or maybe have a bit of experience but aren’t sure what to do with it, Game Jams are an amazing way to give development a push in your community. After seeing what so many talented people can do in a short amount of time, working together, I highly recommend such an event in any community where there’s an interest. The ICT Game Jam will be back next year, hopefully with even more participants, sponsorship, and community support.
And for anyone out there with a bit of skill or experience, who isn’t sure if they can make anything substantial: you can. Just build a rollerskate first. You’ll be surprised how far it can take you.
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