Who knew that being trapped in a room could be so entertaining?
The Dev Squad Jam’s July session focuses on the concept of one room. 26 games have been entered, and while the jam has closed to new contributors, the voting for the best game has not. No third party assets were allowed, meaning that participating devs could only use assets that are free or included within the programs in the creation of their games.
Some of you might think that being trapped in a room is a cliché from horror movies. We picture a helpless person sobbing within the dirty walls of a darkened room, their shaking hands squeezing and pulling on the rusty door handle. Yawn, right? It’s been done a million times.
But that’s exactly why I grew interested in this jam: I was excited to see someone use this trope but make it entertaining. And some of the entries were quite surprising. Here are the five that really had an unconventional take on theme.
The Last Room
What it looks like: Some sort of… gardening game? In a creepy, strangely tiny arboretum?
What gameplay is actually like: This is a survival game set in the year 2050 in which you are the last person on Earth, and you live next to the last tree ever. Your goal is to survive as long as possible. Polluted air will seep into the room from the pipes, and you must run away from the smog in order to survive. You get three chances to survive as long as possible, and after that, it's game over. As far as I can tell, there's no true way to win the game; you can just challenge yourself to survive as long as possible.
Summary of my experience: When playing this game, don’t be surprised if you’re frustrated by the controls. In fact, skip rolling altogether. I found that for some reason, it didn’t work. But it’s still amusing to try to survive, given that the pollution clouds seem to gain sentience and hunt you down. I also found it cool how the “horror” in this game wasn’t because of the existence of a serial killer or boogeyman, but rather the future that we have created for ourselves. The game itself is short, but it gets its message across.
What it looks like: Y’all remember those old flash games on Newgrounds like One Chance? This kind of reminds me of that, in some way.
What gameplay is actually like: A point-and-click puzzle game in which you’re placed in charge of the lives of four people, each who have committed horrible crimes such as arson, murder, and racketeering. Using these people, you have to conduct an “experiment,” within the time frame of six minutes, and you aren’t given any instruction as to what that experiment is.
Summary of my experience: Although the solution to the experiment is rather simple, the process of getting to it is nerve racking. Completing the experiment allows you to make an interesting choice, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve “won.” While short, there’s a lot of characterization incorporated into the game’s story. Each character has their own unique dialogue, abilities, and criminal history. At times it comes across as overly detailed and maybe unnecessary, but for a game jam, it’s an admirable effort.
What it looks like: A very loving tribute to squares.
What gameplay is actually like: You start off in a room given only the ability to jump, and once you obtain the warp gun, you have the ability to do super jumps. You simply point the warp gun where you want to go, fire it, and it will teleport you to that location. There are different types of blocks you’ll come across in your environment: red blocks, which kill you; blue blocks, which you can stand on; purple blocks, which defy gravity; and green blocks, which you must reach in order to get to the next level.
Summary of my experience: I found it incredibly challenging at first! The concept and level design is a pretty simple copycat of Portal, but that still made it fun. Unlike Portal, where you can use the gun to generally get a sense of where you’re going, when I used the warp gun in Jump, I had no idea if I would end up where I actually wanted it to take me to.
What it looks like: A strange Roblox-like zombie game where you play as one of the T-Birds from the musical Grease.
What gameplay is actually like: You are locked in a room. There are three pistols positioned by the open windows which have infinite ammo. You simply need to click on the pistol to arm yourself, and point your mouse in the direction of the zombie. Your character will shoot automatically. When you want to reinforce the doors, click on the door icon. When you want to repair the car, click on the car icon. Once your car gets to 100 percent completion, you’ll win.
Summary of my experience: Surprisingly challenging! But that was mostly because I didn’t realize that you could reinforce the dang doors… which the zombies kept breaking down. The zombies are annoying. Every time I turned around, they were there. Just like a… well, like a horde of zombies. I cringed when I heard their groaning, and rolled my eyes as they pounded my door. They aren’t so much terrifying monsters as they are two year olds that you have to keep putting back in timeout. A permanent timeout, that is.
What it looks like: A door simulator.
What gameplay is actually like: You play as a depressed person who doesn’t want to leave their room and is searching for hope. Within your room are interactable objects (books, syringes, photographs) that will give you either negative or positive feelings. Your goal is essentially to find the positive things and leave the room.
Summary of my experience: I feel like it takes a simplified approach to addressing depression: thinking about happy things isn’t a treatment that may work for everyone. For a short game, it does a great job. I liked the process of helping this person see things more positively. For example, some of the negative things, such as looking at the photograph or the game disc, turn into positive things if you select them in the right order.
Each of these games are fairly short, but stand out for the unique ways they take on a theme. This is what I like about checking out game jams: you get to see new devs test out their skills as well as see how they think outside the box. It makes me curious and excited about future projects that they have.
There are plenty of other entries to check out for this month’s Dev Squad Jam session. Voting closes in less than a day, but these games will still be available to play even after the competition ends. To see the full list of games, click here.