Gamefinds: POOM

We love it when we find weird and unique indie games to tell you all about! Our alien friends to the left herald these occasions.

Found by Varyag on kitsunes.club, this may be the ultimate version of the Pico-8 version of other game phenomenon, not a remake of a classic arcade game but of id Software’s DOOM itself. And it has a great name: POOM. It’s made by freds72 on itch.io, and it’s free to download and play. Its levels are not ports of the original room, unless my memory is faulty, but smaller versions, but the general sense is still there. It even has a good remix of the first level music.

It’s a really good name

7DRL 2024 Coming Up Soon

I never finished my recap of 2023’s highest-ranked 7DRL entries, and 2024 is rolling around already, set to begin on March 1st! Here is it’s itch.io page, and Cogmind creator Kyzrati’s Mastodon mention.

7DRL, the 7-Day RogueLike challenge, is one of the oldest still-going gamejams out there, and still among the most interesting. Every year a number of surprisingly interesting games come out of it. One year, back when @Play was on GameSetWatch, I took it upon myself to look at every game that succeeded at the challenge that year. I think it was 2011? Even though it took weeks, enough time that I vowed I’d never review every game again, even some of the lesser ones had some interesting aspect to them.

This year will undoubtedly add yet more game to that backlog, hooray! That was a sarcastic hooray, I won’t deny it. But it was also, in a sense, an honest one too. More interesting and unique games mean more fun for everyone, fun that doesn’t cost $60 + DLC prices. And making them means more experienced gamedevs making things they like, things that don’t rely on multi-hundred dollar triple-A outlays of cash to realize, and that helps us, very slightly yet perceptibly, reclaim gaming culture from the wash of monotonous big-money content with which we’re all inundated.

It all starts March 2nd, so if you’re interested in participating, get ready to make! And it all ends, mostly, on March 11th, so get ready to play! (I say mostly because technically the challenge isn’t absolutely time-locked. But it’s a good period to aim for and build hype around.)

Brainscraps.net

I think, when you find a blog that’s been around since 2009, and is still being updated somewhat in 2024, that itself is worthy of celebration, and that is the case with brainscraps.net. It’s maintained by May Kasahara, a member of the venerable community webblog Metafilter (where I can also be found posting and commenting as JHarris).

Blogs come and go. Bloggers come and go too; sometimes they lose interest, but sometimes they pass away, such might be the case with oneswellfoop, a.k.a. Craig Wittier. There was a recent Talk post there about the many members who have passed away.

This is not a Metafilter focused blog. I mention all this to say that people’s blogs, and being around to blog, that’s precious, people’s writing is important, it’s a part of them, and I’m happy whenever I encounter it, whether the blog gets 10 readers or a million of them. But it’s nice when people go by there and read them, and I hope that you’ll be inspired to read Brainscripts, and other blogs, and if you don’t already, that you’ll learn to cherish that they exist. They won’t always, their bloggers won’t exist always either. Neither will I, and neither will you. So let’s all enjoy what time we have here left!

But let’s not be too maudlin. May Kasahara also has an itch.io page, with a variety of fun projects on it, like Mary Sue’s Character Casino, and Daisy Doom, and Senpai Simulator, and Legend of Cascadia! I am more than happy to spread the word.

Cosmic Collapse Level After Sun

A few days we linked to Cosmic Collapse, a Pico-8 Suika Game clone that, I claim, is better than the original, or its many many other clones. Its graphics are less cloying, its music is much better, its physics are livelier which adds a greater element of skill, and it has missiles awarded at different score levels that can be used to destroy individual planets.

Cosmic Collapse’s bin is slightly smaller than Suika Game’s, and to compensate a bit for that its “winning” “planet,” The Sun, is only the 10th item in the game, unlike of Suika Game’s Watermelon, which is the 11th of its orbular objects. Nether game really ends at that point, it’s the kind of game that continues until you lose, but it serves as a thematic success point.

But as it turns out, as revealed by a comment by creator Johan Peltz on its itch.io page, Cosmic Collapse has two levels beyond sun. The first is a rather striking animated Black Hole object! After a lot of playing I finally managed to get to it. Here is a screenshot:

Pretty neat! The comment from the game’s creator mentions that there is a level past it, but that they don’t think it’s possible to reach. I don’t think it is either: to get to the Black Hole you have to have two Suns, and to get to that you have to have one Sun plus one Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, Earth, Mars, Mercury and Pluto. (I think it’s Pluto. What would it be if it wasn’t Pluto? Ceres?)

So, to get to the last object, you’d have to have a Black Hole plus a Sun, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, Earth, Mars, Mercury and assumed-Pluto, which probably won’t all fit in one bin. My guess is it’s a guest appearance by some galaxy or something. Maybe someone can look at the game’s resources and find out what.

In addition to playing to get to Sun/Black Hole/Whatever Follows, it’s also possible to play Cosmic Collapse for score. The best way I’ve found to do that is to use missiles to destroy the largest objects when it becomes evident that you can’t do anything more with them. My highest score is nearly 15K. Indefinite play doesn’t seem quite possible, as missile awards come less frequently at higher scores, but it’s still fun to see how high one can get. (That’s not meant as a drug-inspired euphemism. Or a Donkey Kong-inspired one, either.)

Addendum: After writing this, I managed to get to Black Hole again, and got video of what it looks like in motion, which is pretty cool:

Hempuli’s itch.io Collection

I recently made a Metafilter post with the title Exploring the BABA IS YOUNIVERSE. Having used that pun here already I can’t well put it up again, but the links in the article are good ones, so I figured I’d present them here too, with a few extras. All of these, plus more, are on Hempuli’s (Arvi Teikari’s) itch.io page. Everything here is free and for Windows, unless otherwise noted.

Once in Space 2022
Stumblehill
  • The “gravity-changing platformer” Once In Space 2022, which gets pretty tricky pretty quickly.
  • Stumblehill is a platformer, with striking graphics, where the controls are purposely a little harder to master than your basic example of the form.
Baba Friend
  • Baba Friend is a little desktop buddy/toy who wanders around your computer’s screen while you do other things. It’s much like the classic computer amusement Neko!
  • Rude Chess is another Sokoban variant: some of the pieces you have to move are chess pieces, which shift according to their movement rules when pushed. The rude part applies because, if a piece has a choice of squares to move to, it always tries to pick one that doesn’t lead towards a destination square!
Rude Chess

There’s more too, that I only fail to list here because of time-related reasons, including some physical games and a screensaver. Go on and explore their itch page, it’s brilliant!

Hempuli’s itch.io software (mostly free, most for Windows)

Game Finds: Ghost Hunter

We love it when we find weird and unique indie games to tell you all about! Our alien friends to the left herald these occasions.

Another game jam entry, Rรณger Goulart’s Ghost Hunter is a short and silly game about a young lady who loves ghosts, maybe a bit more than she should.

Here are some opening screens:

Take a moment to enjoy this screen.
They may have a point.
And a new unholy quest begins.

Most of it is a kind of guessing game. Each of three cemeteries has tombstones arranged around it. You go to each one and dig it up with your Shovel of Resurrection. If it’s a friendly ghost, then it emerges and you get one credit towards your quota. If it’s a cursed tomb however, an angry ghost comes out and chases you for a bit. If it catches you, you take a point of damage.

How do you tell the difference? Well, usually you can’t. But there are these orange tombstones placed around each level, and when you dig one of those up you get a random powerup for a short time. (Usually: once in a while you’ll find an angry ghost in one instead, but that’s rare.) One of the powerups shows you whether a tomb has a friendly or angry spirit in store. Other powerups slow angry ghosts, disguise you so they don’t chase you, refill your health or make you walk fast for a short time.

Level 2 has periodically appearing sludge ghosts that must be destroyed by digging up waterspouts to block them. Level 3 has annoying bat enemies that must be avoided, and a higher quota than the other levels.

My tips:

  • When you stop digging up a grave in the middle of the process, the digging you did before isn’t forgotten. You can sneak in a little extra digging when running from angry ghosts this way.
  • You tend to lose a whole letter grade at the end of a level from taking damage, so be safe.
  • The best powerup is the one that reveals the cursed graves. When you get one, I suggest just wandering around for a bit, looking for the mean ghosts, and remembering where they are so you can dig up friends in piece.

Spoilers for the ending are after the download link!

Ghost Hunter (itch.io, $0, web and Windows)

A shame, but they asked for it. Also, what happened to their faces? They’re scarier than the ghosts!
And isn’t that all that matters?

Little Runmo: The Game

Last year for Sundry Sunday we linked to Gooseworx’s video game-inspired cartoon Little Runmo. In summary: a platforming character discovers that the peril-filled world he’s tasked with traversing is part of a system designed to support the life of a grotesque ruler. They turn it off, but other circumstances happen, and in the end things don’t go too well. Here’s the video, again (16 minutes).

A little green person off on a dangerous journey.

Little Runmo was made four years ago and has amassed 30 million views. Much more recently, a month ago Gooseworx made a pilot for a show to be called The Amazing Digital Circus, which in that short time has gotten an incredible 147 million views. Presumably it’ll get a series, but who really can tell these days? We have one major media company that thinks it’s worthwhile to make complete expensive productions then purposely kill them before release for a tax writeoff, but these are not the pages to discuss that.

Pointy things: the bane of all runny jumpy people

Over on itch.io JuhoSprite has made a platformer game inspired by Little Runmo, constructed in Godot and (it seems) with Gooseworx’s permission. Here is the trailer (2 1/2 minutes):

You might think it’d be a simple recreation, in game form, of the original, but it’s got its own things going on! Its platforming is pretty sharp. In addition to basic running and jumping, pressing an action button in the air gives Runmo a forward dive that gives a slight bit of extra height and some forward distance. On the ground while ducking, this move turns into a forward dash that can get through low ceiling passages.

Even with all the thematic deconstruction happening in Little Runmo, we never find out why Runmo has to traverse dangerous worlds. Presumably the evil king their deaths supports has set up some social pressure to convince his people to traverse spiky obstacle courses. Maybe the local rulers are in cahoots with him. BTW, it’s fun to say “cahoots.” Cahoots!

The game is divided into levels, but they aren’t clearly announced, and to a limited extent you can explore the areas as you wish, in a different order than as presented in the cartoon. The game world isn’t exactly as the cartoon presents it either, with the areas much larger, and containing a decent number of secrets to find! It’s usually worth it to poke around out of the way places if you can figure out how to get to them.

There’s a section with Mario-style timed alternating blocks, although here, if you’re inside a block when it appears, you just die.

The game starts out fairly chill, but gets pretty difficult. It doesn’t seem like an unfair level of difficulty, although it may take you a few plays to build up the skills to conquer it. Here is some advice to playing it:

  • If you haven’t seen the cartoon, you should know that the above ground area is only a small part of the game. The wide pit, the first one with the alternative spike wall over it, is the entrance to the rest of the game. Pikit’s message hints that that’s the way to go (press up to listen to it).
  • Unlike as seen in the original cartoon, you have to use the midair dive move to get past the pit, it’s too wide to cross with wall jumps alone.
  • Get used to hugging walls on the way down, to slow your descent. This can be used to scout out pits for secrets, to see if the scrolling continues.
  • If you press towards most walls but keep jumping, you can climb them easily. Get used to doing this all the time.
  • If a ceiling has a one block overhang, you can get around it with a jump off the wall and a dive back towards it.
  • Watch the cartoon, and think about ways to explore regions that the animated Runmo doesn’t go to.
  • There is at least one place where there are extra lives hidden off the top of the screen.
  • While running out of lives doesn’t erase your metaprogress, it just sends you back to level 1, the game does not save its state when you exit it. If you quit out and reload, you’ll be at the very beginning.
The Meatball Man is one of the funniest parts of the cartoon. It is possible to complete his room, but it’s optional in any case.

If you don’t care to see the game yourself, this 100% completion speedrun shows off the locations, although of course it doesn’t waste time talking to Pikit or exploring unnecessary places. There don’t seem to be any unnarrated longplays around yet, so, best to sharpen those skills if you want to experience it all.

Little Runmo: The Game (itch.io, $0, Windows & Linux)

Here is a secret room. What is this place? A possible reference to The Amazing Digital Circus?

Decker

The history of computers is filled with great transformative ideas that never took off, or sometimes, were even actively sabotaged.

One of those ideas was Hypercard, a “multimedia authoring system” for Mac OS Classic. One way to describe it is like an individual website, contained within a file on your computer, that you could click around and explore. Unlike websites, instead of learning a special language to create documents in it, it has its own creation system that allowed users to wield the Macintosh’s powerful UI to make things.

Hypercard was an early version of several different things. Of course its concept of linking between different “cards” of information was influential to the design of the World Wide Web. Its method of placing controls onto cards and attaching code to them is reminiscent of RAD development environments like Delphi and Visual Basic. And its multimedia capabilities allowed for the creation of full games, the most prominent example of which, of course, is Cyan’s Myst. Hypercard also could be seen as the inspiration, with varying degrees of directness, of a swath of creations ranging from TWINE to alienmelon’s Electric Zine Maker.

But wait! Don’t we live in something rich people call the “free market?” Aren’t superior products supposed to make their creators (and, of course, investors) billions of dollars? Why aren’t we all making Hypercard stacks now, on our Macintosh System 29 computers? Of course: it’s because good things are not necessarily profitable, that corporate politics matter much more than the intrinsic worth of a technology, marketing is grotesquely powerful yet also somehow overvalued, and finally, the World Wide Web came out and essentially did it one better.

Yet Hypercard still has its fans even today. Decker (not Docker), the subject of this post, is a kind of homage to Hypercard made for current OSes. It looks, on purpose, like it’s a program for early versions of Classic Mac OS, with 1-bit graphics and copious use of dithering. Yet despite that it’s still reasonably powerful. So, rediscover the promise of computing circa the late 80s, with Decker.

Decker (itch.io, $0, for Windows, Mac and Linux)

Game Finds: Feydome

We love it when we find weird and unique indie games to tell you all about! Our alien friends to the left herald these occasions.

EDIT: there was a WordPress display glitch that was causing images to overlap the text. I’ve changed the formatting a bit to keep it readable.

There’s hundreds of new games released every day, and there’s no way to can even find out what they all are, let alone try all of them. So there’s an inescapable element of randomness to what meets my eyes, and thus to what I bring to you. It’s useless to ask, “Why did you link to that silly little trifile when Important Game by Known Developer goes without remark?” Our finds are always going to be kind of idiosyncratic.

So it is with this one, Feydome, a slight but fun game made in two weeks for a game jam. It’s a laid-back 3D exploratory experience where you’re a barely-garbed, at first, fairy, searching an eerie abandoned village for clothes to wear. Movement is by WASD, with the Q and E, or else the left and right arrows, rotating the camera. Yes, it’s an exploratory dress-up game!

At the start your fairy is weak and can barely fly at all. You find glowing orbs that each grant a tiny bit more wing stamina, but never enough that you can fly indefinitely. Each orb very slightly extends the amount of flight time, by around one or two frames. So you’re always tied to the ground, but there are a lot of orbs to find, and that extra time adds up.

The fairy can glide if you hold the fly button down, even when out of energy, and if you keep tapping the space bar you can glide much further, which is a huge help. It helps to devote one hand to this, while using the other to move forward.

While you can rotate the camera, you can’t adjust the angle vertically, so you can’t look above or below, and there is no mouselook. The developer says that an expanded version is being made, maybe these control oversights will be addressed in that.

The pieces of clothing, 29 in all, are in weird chattering spheres that are stuck all over to the walls, floors and ceilings. When collected, a sphere stops chattering, which is of great help in tracking down the last few. Clothes go into your Customize Menu. You start out with just a Tied Fiber top and Leaf Panties bottom, but each item you find helps to make your wee friend more presentable in polite society (if there were any in this game).

There are no enemies, and no moving objects besides the fairy. While it’s difficult to get around at first, it’s surprising how even an extra half second of flight time expands their horizons. Mind you, there is no reward for finding all of the clothing. There is no ending; the journey is entirely the point with Feydome. You’re left alone in the abandoned world, you and your wardrobe, until you exit the game. There’s no save function either, but the game’s so short that it can be finished in one sitting anyway. Maybe 40 minutes in all, if you focus on finding everything.

But it’s fun to explore! It’s a satisfying gameplay loop, finding orbs, using the extended flight time to find yet more orbs, and punctuating the process with occasional new clothes. I’m sure this kind of gameplay has been done before, but this is a neat example of it, and it doesn’t cost anything to try.

Feydome (itch.io, $0)

Time-Limited Pumpkin Carving Game

Every year, the creator of A Short Hike turns on the servers for a pumpkin-carving game. This year he plans to keep them up until about a week after Halloween, so enjoy it while/when/if you can!

The carving interface is easy to use, although it does result in a glitch that has to be undone sometimes. Keep trying though!
There’s over 2,000 pumpkins to be seen so far, with the ability to favorite ones you like and award the best ones badges!
There’s more than just pumpkins to see, you can go on a hayride, explore a maze and find interesting spots too!
Nice Elder Sign!

The Annual Ghost Town Pumpkin Festival (itch.io for Windows, Mac and Linux, free but $2 gets you a cosmetic extra, goes offline after Halloween season)

Romhack(ish) Thursday: 21st Century Roguelike Pac-Man

On Romhack Thursdays, we bring you interesting finds from the world of game modifications.

It’s another romhack post that’s really not a romhack, but kind of pretends to be one. Gridlock’s 21st Century Roguelike Pac-Man (which I’m going to call 21CRPM) at first looks a lot like the arcade classic, but then becomes something really, really different.

It becomes so different that the game it most brings to mind isn’t Pac-Man but Frog Fractions. It keeps piling on the play mechanics, in a way that the game makes apparent is meant to be humorous, but also sort of, kind of works. I mean of course it’s me saying this, ๐–ณ๐—๐–พ ๐–ฏ๐–พ๐—‹๐—Œ๐—ˆ๐—‡ ๐–ถ๐—ˆ๐— ๐–ช๐–พ๐—‰๐— ๐–ก๐–บ๐—‡๐—€๐—‚๐—‡๐—€ ๐–ฎ๐—‡ ๐– ๐–ป๐—ˆ๐—Ž๐— ๐–ฑ๐—ˆ๐—€๐—Ž๐–พ๐—…๐—‚๐—„๐–พ๐—Œ, so maybe I just like that sort of thing. Although the way it’s the most like roguelikes, permadeath, making you start completely over after losing, is possibly the weakest part of it. I had to start over a lot.

You start in the middle of the normal Pac-Man board, in a field of dots, and the ghosts roaming around as usual. It’s not exactly like classic Pac-Man; ghosts can catch you much more easily on corners (you’ll get caught this way frequently times before you adjust), and the AI is a little different. The Red monster, Blinky/Shadow/Akabei/Oikake, can actually turn right after coming out of the box, and move up through the paths above it.

Also, eating the Energizers in the corners doesn’t make the ghosts vulnerable. Instead, Pac-Man can shoot the dots he eats at the ghosts to defeat them, and while an Energizer is active his shots are stronger. Pac-Man must be facing into a corridor in order to fire, meaning he must often be running directly towards a ghost before he can shoot it. The Red ghost has the least health, and can often be gunned down even without an Energizer, while the Orange ghost has a lot of health, and usually must be shot while it’s traveling away down a long corridor. Fortunately, he’s not any smarter than he was in the arcade game.

A big difference is the Hunger meter at the side of the screen. It constantly runs down, at an alarming rate, as you play. If it runs completely out, the game ends immediately, regardless of how many lives you have left! You have to make sure to keep tabs on your hunger. And dots and ghosts don’t refill it, only fruit does, and only a bit of it. What Pac-Man can do, however, is save it for later: he has an inventory now, and grabbed fruit go right into it. You press the X button to bring up a menu, and can then pick out the fruit and munch it on down.

If you had to rely on the fruit from the center of the board though you’d starve pretty fast, so now Pac-Man has the ability to plant fruit in the maze. If you plant it, of course, then you can’t eat it, but it doesn’t take long for it to sprout and start generating new fruit of its own. You’ll soon have to start relying on this to survive.

When you clear the board of dots, the monster box opens up and when you go inside you get this screen:

This somewhat sarcastic screen appears to suggest that there’s more to the game than the starting screen. And it’s right.

Once you clear the board of dots, the game doesn’t end. Ooooh no, you’re just getting started. No, the board you start in is the “home” location in a much larger maze, accessed through the tunnels on the sides of the screen. As you explore this maze, new locations will be filled in on a map in the lower-left corner. The borders of this map aren’t the ultimate edges either. This greater map is created anew with each play; sometimes you’ll have tricky situations right near outside the starting board, and sometimes it’ll be fairly easy going. There are ghosts and dots and fruit in these boards too, and sometimes more Energizers, but there are no regeneration boxes. Ghosts you defeat out there turn into eyes, but have no way to turn back into ghosts, and eventually just fly away.

Out there in the maze there’s a lot of weird things to find. Like shops.

And quest givers:

And locked treasure rooms:

And areas of solid stone, and ore, that must be dug through Minecraft-style with a Pick (go into the Tools section of the menu to use it):

And a whole Pokemon-themed area:

And there’s crafting! And you can spend Galaxians you find to enhance stats! And boss ghosts to defeat! And probably more! I keep finding new parts to the game as I play. The game’s itch.io page even claims there’s a final boss to defeat, in the form of an evil version of Pac-Man, but I haven’t found it.

You can save your game, but in roguelike style, your session ends when you do it, and its deleted when you resume. Your game ends either when you run out of lives or your Hunger meter depletes, and both are way too easy to have happen. I find it helps to plant at least one fruit on each screen, but don’t carry around too many: if you’re holding too many things you become “Encumbered” and slow way down!

It’s an enjoyable game, for awhile at least. Pac-Man’s movement speed quickly feel much too slow for exploring the huge over-maze. His movement speed is one of the things you can upgrade by spending Galaxians, but I’ve only just recently even found one of those in the maze, and it was in a locked treasure room. It feels like there’s a lot more to the game than the permadeath feature allows me to see, but I’m still trying.

It is true that, ultimately, 21CRPM is a joke game, and the point is that Pac-Man doesn’t need elaboration upon, and the extra mechanics exist mostly to feel tacked on. There may not even be a real point to them. But neither is there a point to video games in general, and it’s still fun to explore them, for a while.

One of those boss ghosts you can receive a quest to defeat. They take a lot of damage, speed up as you deplete it, and can even fire back at you. You might want to craft a shield before taking one on, out of three Iron Bars (made from ore) and a piece of Wood (bought in a shop or acquired from using the Pick on a tree). You might be able to use a Sword on one, but they break quickly and I haven’t tried it yet.

21st Century Roguelike Pac-Man (itch.io, $0)

Cab Ride

This is something that a few of you may have seen before, but if there’s anything we’ve learned from bumbling around the internet for… geez, it’s been nearly 30 years now, it’s that most things could always stand to have a few more eyes looking at it. So it is with Cab Ride.

Cab Ride is a free itch.io project that uses the Pico 8 engine. It gives you a first-person view from the engine car of a train as it travels between procedurally generated stations, and plays jaunty chiptune music. It’s a game only in the barest sense. It does rate you on how well you stop at each station. There’s no penalty for doing badly, and no conclusion. From the title screen you can activate Very Chilled Mode, which disables what little scoring it has.

The down arrow key (a little unintuitively) increases the throttle and increases acceleration, while the up arrow decreases. To play normally, you want to stop when you’re close the platform (when the number in the upper-left is as close to 0 as you can get it), then open the doors with Z. If you’re playing with a controller, that button may be different. Press X (when playing on keyboard) honk the horn, which is not required for anything. You can hold the left arrow key to announce the last station, which is the only in-game way to conclude a session, or right arrow to active “Express Mode,” which basically runs itself (but won’t stop to pick up or drop off anyone).