Indie Freebies: Ludum Dare 37

Always short of a few bob and looking for something a bit different, each week I scour the internet for fun, interesting or just plain curious Indie Freebies.

This week I’ve been purely looking at entries from the Ludum Dare 37 game jam, which took place last weekend. The somewhat restrictive theme was “one room”, but you know what they say about creativity thriving upon limitation and all that.

Anyway, my picks are: FIIL Mk 37, a game about managing your needs efficiently so that you can spend time working on your engineering masterpiece; Jim Is Moving Out!, a quirky physics platformer where you have to help Jim move his room without damaging the furniture (too much); Pixel Artist Simulator, an interactive satire on being a struggling artist; and The Employee, a digital metaphor on modern working life.

 

FIIL Mk 37

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You know how it is: To get things done (…you’d better not mess with Major Tom, ahem…), sometimes you just have to lock yourself away in a quiet room, free from all distraction. Well, the nameless engineer from FIIL Mk 37 has taken this to the ultimate extreme. He’s literally had himself imprisoned in his own lab, completely shutting himself off from the outside world. So, in addition to continuing his work on his life’s masterpiece, he also needs to produce his own food, water and power.

Using a one-click interface, FIIL Mk 37 is essentially a short and simple resource management game. You have to eat and drink to stay alive, and you need power to work on your project. Distilling fresh water requires power. Growing food requires both power and water. And power itself is generated by using food as a biofuel. So, it’s a case juggling this equation in a way that frees up enough time and power in order to make progress with the main project.

Rendered in some deliciously gloomy pixel art and accompanied by a moody synth soundtrack, it’s challenging, atmospheric, and looks and sounds great. Oh, and the ending is brilliant, not least because of the animation. It took me just under 7.5 minutes to complete, though I imagine that a more efficient and systematic approach (as opposed to whimsical and panicky) could shave at least a couple of minutes off that time. When I get chance, I might have another bash.

FIIL Mk 37 is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and can be downloaded from itch.io for free here.

 

Jim Is Moving Out!

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Jim is your typical, everyday guy. A red square living inside a hollow rectangle with all the mod cons – flatscreen TV and stand, refrigerator, table and chair. But now he fancies a change of location, and it’s up to you to help him move his entire house.

A quirky physics platformer, the aim of Jim Is Moving Out! is to move the single-room home through a sequence of obstacle courses. There are ledges and steps to surmount, steep cliffs to descend, tight spaces to manoeuvre through and spinning platforms to dodge. But thanks to his inhuman strength (well, he is a square), Jim is able to orchestrate this without ever leaving the comfort of his humble abode.

Controlling him with just the arrow keys, you can move the house in any direction by exerting a force on any of the four walls. And, yes, this includes upwards! In addition, pushing off-centre causes the room to tilt, allowing you to rotate it and flip it on its side. It takes a bit of practice to get used to the mechanics, but effectively you can fly the house across the maps, moving Jim around as necessary to maintain the balance and direction.

The catch is that Jim needs his furniture intact. For each of the seven levels, there’s a set damage threshold – go beyond this before reaching your destination and you have start the round again. Easier said than done when everything is falling over inside.

Jim Is Moving Out! is a unique, imaginative and fun concept that requires skill, precision and a little strategy, especially as the terrain gets increasingly ludicrous as you progress. Setting the action to Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King was a real stroke of genius and tops off the experience perfectly.

Jim Is Moving Out! is available for Windows and can be downloaded from itch.io for free here.

 

Pixel Artist Simulator

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like being a pixel artist? Well, now you can find out for yourself with Pixel Artist Simulator. Starting with a measly $150 to get by on, you play a struggling pixel artist squirrelling away in their office. Game designers and YouTubers keep popping in to offer you work. Most can’t pay right now, but it’s always a super sweet project that’s bound to get you some awesome exposure. Accepting the jobs means mashing the mouse button to churn out those pixels.

More interactive satire than game, it’s cynical, jaded and very funny, and no doubt based on personal experience. As someone who was once offered $1 an article to write for a gaming website (seriously), I can totally empathise! And surprisingly enough, it features some lovely pixel art.

Pixel Art Simulator is available for Windows and can be downloaded from itch.io for free here. You can also play it in a web browser, but this version has a tendency to black out if you skip the text too fast.

 

The Employee

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Sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep, work, eat… sound familiar? Well, this is the central theme of The Employee, which takes place in a single room with four walls and four doors.

The experience begins in a bedroom, the alarm clock rousing you from your slumber. You reset it and head through a door, doesn’t matter which one – they’re Scooby-Doo doors, you go through one and come out the opposite. A floor panel in the centre of the room flips over, and suddenly you’re in an office with a computer desk. Nondescript white boxes block the doors. You bash away at your keyboard, both in game and in reality, until the boxes finally vanish.

Moving through a door flips the panel again, and you find yourself in a dining room. Pick another exit and you’re back in the office, the boxes re-materialise – it’s back to work for you. Head once more into the dining area and then return to the bedroom. A new day dawns, the calendar advances by one. Reset the alarm and repeat ad nauseum.

It’s a digital metaphor for the modern age – conveying the tedium and monotony of working life with dry humour and pessimism. Viewed from a top-down perspective, the visuals are austere in their presentation. A subtle yet ever present white noise haunts the proceedings. The light and shadows change as the day progresses. It all adds to the sense of nihilism and bleakness. To be honest, I was expecting something new or different to occur at some point. I made it to 31 days, but the cycle never alters. You can’t break the routine. In the end I held down escape, my character collapsed and died – finally set free from this vision of hell.

The Employee is available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and can be downloaded from itch.io for free here.

Written by
For nearly 30 years I’ve been enthralled by the magic and escapism of video games. From the highly-pixelated 2D graphics and simple but addictive gaming concepts of the 8-bit era to the sophisticated multiplayer 3D worlds of the modern gaming system, I’ve always loved gaming. These days I'm a massive fan of indie games, but I still find time to play classic Amiga and PC games via emulation and read about video game history.