Last weekend’s ‘Journo Dev Swap‘ games are in, and I’ve spent my day playing as much as possible of each one. Each team has performed brilliantly to get something playable created in such a short space of time, especially given they’re complete amateurs. So here’s what Past the Pixels thinks of each game. Who won the prestigious Game of the Jam award? Read on to find out.
Just Like Real Life – Lewie Procter and Karn Bianco
Real life is hard, like really hard. So Lewie and Karn decided to make a game to reflect this well-known fact. Just Like Real Life is space shooter that takes elements of Asteroids and Breakout and melds them into something else. Playing as one shiny ball… thingy, you have to weave your way around the game screen destroying the other shiny ball thingys while racking up a high score. Though a simple enough idea, it’s complicated further by the player’s own bullets bouncing off the screen edges, and coming right back at those who hang around in the same spot too long.
Bumpers placed around the levels add a tactical element: Patient players may want to sit tight in a protected corner and wait for enemies to drift into their stream of bullets; whereas the more cavalier will want to zip around picking off enemies. No matter what strategy you pick, it’ll be tough.
The music during gameplay is a lovely piano tune that is at odds with the bullet-hell chaos that quickly ensues – But it works. Like Demon/Dark Souls, the extreme difficulty of the game (and constant restarting) never feels unfair. Add in the high-score table and it’s got all the attributes needed for the ‘one more go’ mentality to kick in. A solid debut, would love to see the idea worked on more. Special mention to the tutorial screen, best I’ve EVER seen.
Double Droid – Keith Stuart and Theo Chin
Continuing the theme of making stuff really hard, Keith and Theo came up with Double Droid. This is what happens when you mix multi-tasking and endless runner games like Canabalt. Players have to keep both droids safe as they each move from left to right dodging obstacles. To dodge, the gravity is switched, just like that power-up in Jetpack Joyride. Pressing W moves the top droid, S moves the bottom.
The design on the droids is great, and reminds me a little of cute robots in Machinarium. The sound effects are suitably futuristic, with an alarm sound heralding the arrival of the nuclear obstacle. When it all gets a little hectic and two alarms go off at once, there’s a genuine feeling of dread that kicks in. The lack of a background track is a shame, but given the time constraints, forgivable.
Double Droid is a fine concept, well executed. Slap a Star Wars license on this, add in C3PO and R2D2, and watch the cash roll in.
GI Joyce – Rob Crossley and Kevin Chandler
Well this one was played for laughs. Remember when you used to say to your mates ‘imagine your gran was an assassin?’ (What, you didn’t?), well Rob and Kevin did. Another shooter, GI Joyce stands out for not taking the standard left-to-right format, and having an erm granny as the lead character.
Ninjas fly from the left of the screen to batter our Joyce, while she unleashes a hail of bullets. The game is controlled with only the mouse, and pressing Q and W to switch weapons doesn’t appear to do, well anything. The soundtrack keeps in tow with the rest of the game in that it’s absolutely bonkers and brilliant.
GI Joyce is a proper mental idea that if given more time could be a fun shooter. A few more weapons that keep with the granny theme (like cakes, brollies and curlers for a start), more enemy variety and a better control scheme would see GI Joyce be a pretty neat little distraction.
Split Destiny – Dan Griliopoplus and Luc Shelton
This is the only title that incorporated the actual theme of the event into their game as a mechanic. Split Destiny is a platform title with a unique twist, half the game is played as a game dev, the other as a journo. Pressing the shift key switches between the two on the fly, each with their own level setup to contend with. It’s a brilliant concept and the fact it ties in with the event had me genuinely smiling at the amount of thought given to it.
The music and backgrounds change depending on which character is currently in play. The game journalist has a more relaxed theme as he hops over piles of books (Which they’ve never read, guess that’s why they sit about in the levels), while the developer has to jump around a neon level with a suitably electronic theme.
Everything in the game screams 16-bit platformer, so those in their 20s and up will get warm feelings of nostalgia. I kept thinking of Zool and James Pond as I played through. The way the characters glance out of the screen at the player is classic Sonic the Hedgehog. The only thing that can kill either character is the spikes on the floor. So game highlights the one constant in the lives of both journalists and developers, spikes hurt.
Would love to see this one fleshed out, with perhaps the journalist having a strict deadline (time limit) and the developer having much more rapid paced sequences (crunch time). A cool nostalgia trip that plays up to the theme of the event, well done chaps.
So the Past the Pixels ‘Game of the Jam’ award goes too… Just Like Real Life!
A really fun game that had me playing well beyond the time I’d set aside for it. When I’m saying to myself “just one more go” as Tokyo Jungle waits patiently on my PS3, then you’re doing something right. Well done Lewie, Karn and all the ‘devs’ and ‘journos’ that worked so hard over the weekend.
You can play the Journo Dev Swap games for yourself at this link and here’s a little gallery of screens from each game.