Remember The Witness? Remember how everyone loved The Witness?
What? You didn’t love The Witness? Are you it some kind of blasphemer?
Sure, it has all those smarmy tape recordings all over the place. Certainly, you never quite feel like you’re done with it. Absolutely, everyone has at least one puzzle they find maddeningly obtuse (mine was on the ship). But you gotta admit, the special category of puzzle was a work of genius. If you don’t know what I mean by the special category, um… forget I said anything!
Well whether you loved The Witness or if you think it Jonathan Blows, you might want to have a look at The Looker, a pitch-perfect parody that’s actually a pretty decent puzzle game in its own right. It’s rated Overwhelmingly Positive, and as a reviewer says, “If you liked The Witness, you’ll like The Looker. If you hated The Witness, you’ll love The Looker.”
It’s free on Steam, and only takes a couple of hours to complete!
Via MNeko on Twitter, Apotris (itch.io, $0) is nothing more than a really sharp and responsive clone of a certain tetromino-stacking puzzle game. It just feels good to play! It’s Game Boy Advance homebrew, and I can personally vouch that it’s particularly nice if you have the means to play it on a jailbroken 2 or 3DS.
Us remaining (or even new!) blogs in the distant future year 2022 have to stick together, so I feel it’s important to point you to the blog of Matt Sephton, which is on a variety of tech and tech-adjacent topics, including sometimes games!
The particular item of interest there that I want to point you to today is on the obscure Japanese handheld P/ECE, released in 2001, which is a lot like a foreshadowing of Panic’s quirky elite gamer fixation/lust object, the Playdate. It too was a purposely-monochrome device in an age of color, and it also hosts a range of quirky homebrew games. It even still has a website!
f special note is that it was a place that notable and prolific small-game homebrew design genius Kenta Cho, a.k.a. ABA (Twitter), released their wondrous work even way back then! And where else can you find a demake of Rez that pits you against a malevolent Microsoft Outlook icon?
Please, check out all of these far-flung and varied links!
By now many of you are no doubt familiar with Alvi Tekari’s Baba Is You (itch.io, Steam, Switch, Android, iOS). The premise is simple. In a Sokoban-style world composed of discrete blocks aligned with a grid, you try to get a figure (usually the sheep Baba) to a goal (usually a flag). But nearly everything about this game world is malleable, according to special word blocks in each level. If a set of three blocks is arranged in a horizontal (reading left to right) or vertical (reading top to bottom) line, then that statement becomes true throughout the level. In fact, every level comes with certain statements already in effect: it is only because somewhere it says BABA IS YOU that you can control Baba, and if something else IS YOU, then you can move it too. And you can make new rules by moving the words to make new sentences.
Baba Is You became an indie darling from its game jam release in 2017, and in 2019 it absolutely exploded, being featured on several game stores including Nintendo’s eShop picks page. Its rules are simple, yet their implications becoming diabolically complex later on. Not to give away some absolutely amazing secrets, but there are very few games that get as hilariously weird as Baba Is You-or as difficult. Baba Is You is a challenge that will keep you going for weeks, but eventually pays it all off with one of the best end game sequences anywhere. If you haven’t played it yet, you really should. I did a Q&A with Alvi Tekari for Game Developer about the creation of Baba Is You, and I think it’s one of the best interviews we’ve done.
This is all to make sure we’re on the same page when I mention the sublimely ridiculous Baba Is You XTREME, a free parody of Baba Is You made by Baba Is You‘s own creator!
Baba Is You XTREME seems just like the original at first, right until you press the first key and discover: the game now has a completely spurious physics engine! Baba no longer snaps a step at a time centered in the cells of a Sokoban grid, but now moves around freely, with acceleration and friction. The same is true with all the other objects on the screen that are IS PUSH. Objects that ARE STOP are locked in place, though.
The addition of physics makes the execution of any move into a challenge to itself. The rule system is still in place, some old words have much weirder implications, and there are even some new words to explore. There’s only 11 levels (it is a free game, after all), but around level seven you’ll be scratching your head. But one implication of the physics is that words that are in a corner aren’t completely impossible to shift like they were in a grid setting, so with some dedicated pushing it’s possible to break some troublesome sentences here that would be impossible in Baba Is You‘s Cartesian cosmos.
It’s completely free, so if you’re a fan of BIY it’s worth checking out. And if you haven’t tried Baba Is You yet, it is worth a look too!
Today is the launch date of Unexplored 2! (Steam) The sequel to one of the more interesting roguelites of recent years, the original simulated a game world with a lot of depth, and played a lot like a real-time version of a classic roguelike with updated graphics.
We live in a golden age of game jams, thousands of people every month make little games in absurdly short amounts of times, and surprisingly often those games are even interesting! What that says about the nature of game creation is very interesting, but not the subject here. That would be Godot Wild Jam (itch.io), a monthly themed and judged jam where the thread of continuity is the use of Godot, the amazingly small yet feature-packed free and open source game development system.
Audacity Games is Activision co-founder, not to mention the creator of Pitfall! and A Boy and His Blob, David Crane, along with former Activision designers Garry and Dan Kitchen. They’re getting back into the games business with a new Atari VCS/2600 title now available, after three years of development: Circus Convoy!
With hardware acceleration, lots of crazy tricks are possible, as demonstrated in the recent post here on homebrew VCS carts. David Crane himself helped pioneer this approach with his seminal Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, whose original VCS version used a special chip to help make possible its many tricks. Well, Circus Convoy is notable in that it doesn’t use such tricks! It doesn’t use “hardware acceleration,” although I presume it still uses tricks like bank switching and additional RAM.
Take a look at the features and play guide pages on their website, and if it looks interesting to you and you still have a working Atari, maybe buy a cart? The prices do seem a bit high for a new VCS game in 2022, with the cheapest offerings at $55-60. But I’m sure there are hardcore VCS enthusiasts out there who are interested.
The long-running Atari fansite AtariAge sells a number of carts that run on classic Atari VCS systems that make it do things you might not expect that system could do. Some of the most impressive of these are remakes of classic arcade games that go far beyond what was possible at the time. A number of these were developed by Champ Games. Here are links to a number of videos showing them off, although sone of the may not currently be in their store:
Kenta Cho is a brilliant game maker, and he’s come up with a couple of generators that can generatively make short stretches of music, suitable for classic-inspired arcade games.
Short VGM Generator is on itch.io, and works by taking a pre-existing piece of music and attempting to make another piece of a similar style.
The Good Old Game Sound Generator is on GitHub, but for playing around you might be more interested in its Demo page. It takes a bit more effort to make something with it, but it’s a much more flexible tool. I must leave you to your own devices to make something of value, or at least of interest, using it.
The process that let him to create these tools is up on a page he made on dev.to. If you’re interested in generative music you should take a look!
That’s the hook! The real reason to load it though is Boundary Break does nice work, finding out-of-bounds content in games. Also check out their recent video on Wii Sports, although note there’s an ad as part of the content. Folks gotta eat.
You made it through another week of life in 2022! Here is some video silliness to congratulate you, and encourage you to keep on keepin’ on!
I’m always down for an excuse to link new Homestar Runner content, but this here’s a gaming blog! It’s gotta be about games Mr. Strong Man.
What’s that you say? It is a game? Well fine then, I will gladly accept that flimsy excuse! It’s Marzipan’s Beef Reverser, and it’s on itch.io. You play Only Girl in the Homestarniverse Marzipan as she whips mobile steaks with her Shantae-like hair in a Game Boy setting, sending them careening into a cow skeleton, helping to reconstitute it back into a cow. I’m sure it works that way in real life too. And notice, it’s not a Flash game, it’s an actual Game Boy rom file, playable in your favorite homebrew-capable Game Boyish setting.
A short devlog from RujiK the Comatose about a monster breeding sim they’ve been working on. Dismayed as a kid by the fact that breeding in video games tends to be done according to tables rather than truly from combining the attributes of the parents, they set out to create a procedural version that matched what they expected when they were young. The results seem to be satisfactorily freaky, although, possibly to the dismay of some, we get no renditions of monster mating.
A quick digression. They’re basically redoing what was done in Spore some 14 years ago now. Why is this interesting, while Spore is old hat? My guess it’s that the tech is being put in service of a Pokemon-like game instead of Will Wright’s extremely generic simulationist gameplay.