In case you missed it, last weekend (31 Jan – 02 Feb) saw the latest group of developers from all over the world take part in the 2020 Global Game Jam. At its core, a game jam is simple in concept. Individuals or groups of developers have a short amount of time to create a game. Think of it as a team-building retreat; except you end the weekend with (hopefully) a playable game and (hopefully not) ruined relationships. Since the first official game jam in 2002, the popularity of these quick-fire development events has skyrocketed. Hundreds of jams now take place every year, all over the globe.
The Global Game Jam (GGJ) is the world’s largest game jam. Not operating from one single place, the GGJ takes place throughout multiple locations across the globe simultaneously. The GGJ is not a competition but rather, encourages collaboration. 2019’s jam saw over 9,000 games made across 860 locations and it seems that 2020 is no different.
This year’s theme was Repair – a brief that could be interpreted any way the developers taking part chose. At the time of writing this, not all of the games from the 2020 Global Game Jam have been submitted, and of the ones that have been, I have only managed to play a small handful. Out of the few, I have played, a couple stood out to me the most.
Home Repair Plane
As your flying house hurtles towards the ground you quickly realize that the last defense between life and certain fiery death is you. This fast-paced 2D platformer sees you scrambling through your home, desperately trying to repair the malfunctioning turbines keeping your humble abode afloat. It’s fun, easy to learn and strangely addictive.
The game starts off with a relative level of calm; a couple of turbines are broken, indicated by lights dotted throughout the level, and it’s your job to walk over and repair them. The longer you play, the higher your score climbs and the more chaotic things become. Multiple turbines begin to fail at once, giving the game a welcome level of strategy. I found myself plotting the most optimal route around the house in my head, ensuring I’d reach all the failing turbines in time.
For a build that is only 48 hours old, the game controls nicely as well. Double-tapping the arrow keys to build up speed and sliding under birds to maintain momentum felt tight and responsive. The level that you play in has also been made with surprising attention to detail. The cute 2D aesthetic works really well and it’s clear that care and thought were put into the design of each asset.
From the furniture that tilts around you, the music that quickens as you descend, and the quirky speech bubble that pops up from your relaxed partner as you frantically run about – the team behind this little gem have filled it with detail and personality. They have created a charming and well thought out platformer that is definitely worth your time. You can check out the game here.
Have you ever broken your mum’s favorite vase and tried to fix it with ramen? No? I hadn’t either. That was until I played Ramen Repair – a ridiculous, hilarious ‘repair-sim’ (?) that has you doing just that.
There is only one objective. Mending a vase you smashed using the only material accessible to you, ramen. Broken into four stages, the game has you smashing, filling, sanding and spraying in an effort to (hopefully) repair a broken vase. Each stage only lasts a few seconds and couple-dozen clicks, meaning it never gets stale. Upon completion of each stage, you are awarded a prize – a ramen-themed celebration along with one of a handful of messages of encouragement from the developers. A few favorites of mine included “Sick Fill Bro” and “Are You Bernie Sanders?”, the latter referencing my stellar sanding skills. It’s really quite silly and simple but also funny and delightful.
This game’s main pull to me was its ability to fully accept and embrace just how bonkers it was. Its upbeat music danced around my head as I went to work lathering each vase with enough ramen to put a wagamama out of business. If you are into dumb humor or simply feel the need to smash up some ramen, this is the game for you. It’s available for download here.
Beyond The Jam
I am confident that there are plenty more gems amongst the thousands of games produced over the weekend that I didn’t get to play. If you have a spare minute I encourage you to download a few that catch your eye from the official website. The vast majority are open source and I’m sure the developers would love to see people enjoying the games they made.
The majority of participants take part in the game jam for a bit of fun. A way to spend their time with friends being creative. Some people, however, manage to catch onto something quite magical with the games they make. In the past, developers have gone on to flesh out their demos made in previous GGJs. Fully-fledged titles like Surgeon Simulator and Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes started as a submission from previous GGJs. Both of the titles I covered show promise and have the legs to make two really interesting and unique games. However, if the developers choose not to take their games forward, I’m sure they will have bright futures in the games industry regardless.
If taking part in a game jam in the future interests you, Itch.io has compiled a list of upcoming game jams across the world that you can find here.