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jermrellum

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Excerpt from Misunderstood Works of Genius, published 20 August 2084, retrieved via time machine:

"Perhaps one of the most collossally overlooked games of all time at release, S_prite's Electrolove is a masterwork in minimalist game design, visual storytelling, and metaphorical mechanics.  While it is understandable that audiences of 2021 were not prepared for such a work, it is a grave error on their part.

The game presents itself as a simple maze game, under the theme that you are an electron inside of a circuit, looking to connect with your true love: another electron.  It is your goal to navigate the maze to find the other electron, but your viewport is limited.  You can only see a small portion of the maze at a time, the rest of it seen as you navigate in the maze and the viewport scrolls left and right (but never up and down, reminiscent of a long wire).  After moving to the right for a while, you eventually see a pixelized representation of an electron and a heart made with the walls, reminding you of your goal and foreshadowing its proximity.

Subversively, however, coming to the end of the maze is not your electron love, but a simple LED light.  The player can move close to it to turn the light on, or by continuing to the right, they'll find the other electron inaccessible behind a wall, with a path leading back and above the entire labyrinth they just crossed.  To reach the goal, players must now backtrack all the way back to the beginning of the maze to find a path that goes up and above the playfield, and only then will they be reunited.

What does each of these elements suggest about the human condition then?  Well, if one sees the LED light as a metaphor for work, consider that the game is placing romantic fulfillment and professional success at odds with one another.  Not only can you not keep the LED lit at the same time as being with your love (suggesting of course that performing your job detracts from the time spent with your partner) but the path between the objectives is fraught with twists and turns and a rather long commute.  The partners may be able to even see each other through the walls of the circuit, though they remain inaccessible, reminding us of the relationship of the person so involved and obsessed over their work that they come home emotionally distant, unable to connect with their partner.

Remember as well that the working path is filled with twists, turns and dead ends, suggesting a difficult and treacherous journey through the corporate world, before one is finally able to reach their goal and shine their light on the world.  Meanwhile, the path to love is a straight line, reminding us of the idiom of following one's heart.  The game is suggesting a certain purity of the romantic path which is not present in the corporate world.

The color palette is very suggestive as well.  The walls and background are a very dull gray coloration, at its surface reminiscent of electron microscope images -- which are black and white due to color ceasing to exist at such a microscopic size -- but consider what it suggests about the metaphors presented earlier.  With the only saturated colors of the game being held by the electrons (red and blue) and the LED (red when unlit, yellow when lit), it makes the two objects of the game even more prominent (love and work).  The game presents a dull and tedious representation of the journey to get to your destination, presenting the goal as the important thing unto itself.

Let's not dismiss the subtle LGBT themes running through the game.  While the colors of the characters suggest a traditional 1950s style heterosexual relationship (the player is blue, traditionally a boy's color, and is the one who is doing work, while the red electron (red or pink traditionally being a girl's color) waits patiently at home), it is important to note the contradiction that an electron is seeking out another electron, when traditionally in circuitry, electrons run from the negative terminal to the positive terminal.  In light of this, our view inevitably must shift to viewing our player character, as well as our romantic interest, as both female, making the game subtly about female empowerment as well.

Also rather subtle is the lack of any kind of end screen.  Audiences at the time clearly could not comprehend the lack of resolution and felt like their hard work was going unrewarded, but this lack of an end screen serves an important purpose.  If a "You Won" message flashed upon the screen upon reaching your goal, it would serve to suggest to the player that their ultimate goal was the love of the other electron, but with it not being there, it leaves resolution up in the air, much like it real life.  Perhaps either goal was valid, the powering of the LED in the corporate world being just as much a resolution?  The game leaves it up to the player if they want to leave romance aside for the sake of their profession.

Overall, Electrolove is a masterclass in metaphorical design, representing the conflict of love and work throught the context of a circuit.  Perhaps when this was created, S_prite wasn't even aware of all of the intricate and detailed meanings each element of the game was providing, in the same way that most audiences misunderstood their meanings, but the subconscious mind is very powerful and should never be disregarded.  As Sigmund Freud once said "The mind is like an iceberg, it floats with one-seventh of its bulk above water."  As a result, when the audiences of the year 2021 were busy playing Among Us and Fortnite, they missed out on a true classic."

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Absolutely fantastic, cute, short, clever puzzler.  It's awesome to have a single large holistic puzzle with a whole bunch of thought into making it all work together, something that's difficult in a game jam setting and why everyone else probably opts to make a set of levels rather than one complex one.

What I love is how each character has an intuitive set of properties and they all play very different from each other -- making four characters feel all unique and useful is not something even commercial games do well.  As a result, you get something reminiscent of Thomas Was Alone's teamwork based puzzle platforming, but better.  Only the penguin can swim, but its jump height is the smallest, so it needs help from another buddy for all but the smallest of jumps.  Meanwhile the monkey can get almost anywhere alone, but its small size means it's not useful as a platform for helping others escape.

I did think I was softlocked at one point before I realized the penguin could make the one block high jump over the ice island on his own -- previously I had used the monkey to help.

One of the three perfect scores I've given in this jam (of idk, 50-100 I've played).

Love it; one of my favorite games in the jam.  One thing; it could sometimes get confusing when selecting another character -- they did stand up (but only when on their feet) and the piece does pop to the front if there are multiple pieces overlapping, but absent this, all you get is a very subtle blinking border, and it would have been more obvious or clear if the characters changed expression upon selection or something.

Absolutely fantastic.  Some collision bugs, it'd be nice to have left-shift or F as an alt to enter to switch character since I am a lazy gamer and don't want to move my hand.

This is great and really polished!

Bridge.

This is great and reminds of Stephen's Sausage Roll.

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This is a fantastic mechanic and is really interesting and fun to play.  However, the learning curve is way too high -- you're assuming the player will be able to figure out the mechanic immediately, and that's not a great assumption, especially with instakill spikes there, especially when those instakill spikes' hit detection extends to their side so players feel like they get an unfair death.

Actually, honestly, remove the spikes, at least from the first level, and this is great.  Not a fan of lives in general either though, but that might be my own preference.  Oh, and actually, when deselecting blocks, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and it's hard to figure out why this is, and it can be very frustrating if you thought of a clever solution to a predictament you're in, and it doesn't work because you arbitrarily can't deselect a piece.

But what I really like about this mechanic is how divergent the gameplay becomes.  Players can have a completely different experience of the same level and can form completely different shapes and solve different problems within a fairly simple space, and that's a really amazing and impressive thing. 

For example, I wound up in a large inverted L shape and decided to grab a tile in the floor to my mistake, falling to grab the floor above me that I was just standing on.  I was too large to jump up, so I thought initially that I made a mistake an had to restart.  But then I realized I could jettison the bottom blocks below me to make the bottom part of that inverted L smaller so I was then able to clear the jump and make it up to the floor I had just fallen through.  It's an interesting puzzle that happened simply because of my own mistake (so most other players wouldn't even experience this), but I was able to get out of the situation because of natural and interesting consequences of the mechanics.

Also you should be able to select multiple tiles at once, pressing Q then E is kind of annoying.

Anyway great mechanic and stuff.

Edit: So after reading the credits I went and played some of Un Blend, and yeah, the only real differences are the level design and jump height.  Magnet Join ends up being more chaotic as a result; it feels less designed and more divergent in comparison, which is bad for learning the mechanic initially but great for player choice and replay value.

Once I heard the theme, I knew we were going to get a lot of games where you control two characters at once, a mechanic that I've seen in a lot of games before the jam already.  So it's awesome to see this game take those mechanics and expand on them in a way that I've never seen before - you're in control of the speed between the characters you're controlling.

Actually it almost feels like you're given too much control, being able to almost completely stop one character and move the other, with the only limitation being you can't get too far apart (though it makes sense on the final level, where pursuit means you can't just take your time; you have to move both characters at once, but the characters move at different base speeds, so it's not as simple as a problem as leaving the bar in the middle).

I enjoyed the levels that were here, though I'm curious about how these ideas can be expanded further in interesting ways - this game showed me that there's actually more ideas about controlling multiple characters at once than I thought.

Also actually starting Unity game downloads isn't just a problem for this game, as I found out later -- a lot of them weirdly won't start first try for me, so it might be my fault.

Slightly updated version at https://notthefuture.com/blob/.  Changes are the undo button works better on later levels, the texture is smooth and not broken into rectangles, text has a shadow, and the music's instrumentation has been greatly modified (I can't stand the original's overdrive guitar bass sound at this point).

Had difficulty running this, but I solved my problem.  It said I was missing vcruntime140_1.dll, so I had to go online and download the dll file from an external website and put it in the game folder, but once I did, the game started.

Ah, see I also had an undo feature in my game as well, but I just used an array of snapshots, where each snapshot stored all the relevant variables in the game, so it's only theoretically limited by the amount of memory Javascript can allocate, so for practical purposes it was infinite.  I haven't used GameMaker in over 10 years and back then I barely knew how to use variables so I'm not sure how you'd do that in that engine though.

I also got stuck in the pit.  Restarted and realized I needed to find double jump first, so I actually was softlocked.  Also, I had trouble starting this -- I launched it a few times and nothing happened, then it magically started when I clicked the Unity Crash Handler for some reason (maybe that was completely unrelated, idk).  Anyway, connection to the jam theme is rather loose at best but it's super impressive to do a metroidvania for a jam as I know from experience, especially one that has great game feel and controls, music, and art.  It feels really polished and complete other than that one softlock.

So, besides the obvious fatal flaw of how easy it is to get unintentionally stuck and have to restart the game from the beginning, this is actually my favorite game in the jam so far.  In fact, it's incredible for me to see a Corrypt/Promesst/Game Title/Aunt's Flora's Mansion/Ludoname style large world sokoban game that Jon Blow loves in a jam.  

If you played Aunt Flora's Mansion though, that game also has a problem where you can easily totally break your game and get stuck, but it has save blocks that are dictated by the player.  It would have been nice to have that here -- or at least a press R to restart the room feature -- or more than 20 moves history at least, I don't know if there's some technological reason why you couldn't have more than 20 moves (and why it couldn't cross rooms), but I was almost incredibly angry during the final green block section when I thought I stucked myself when I hadn't.

What you did have was a "Press Z to unto" message, which, once you realized the purpose of it was essentially the same as the Morrowind "The thread of prophecy is severed" message (because you killed an essential NPC and the game is unwinnable), it became incredibly useful to tell you when you messed up.  Or at least before the final green block section, where I got that message twice but still was able to complete the game.

Still, designing this kind of game where literally every block is linked and having the game still be playable (as in the player doesn't stuck themselves unknowingly mostly) is an incredible feat.  I'm curious about how the Z to undo thing even works because I feel like this kind of problem would be Turing complete and actually as impossible to solve as the halting problem (I mean clearly it's not perfect, but it functions well enough to be incredibly helpful).

Anyway, like I said, despite the brutal unwinnable by design nature of the game, I absolutely love this.

My experience play by play with the game:

- Oh cool, it looks like Metroid Zero Mission, this looks competent.

- *Jumps* Oh, OK, the physics are Ghosts 'n' Goblins style where you can't change course mid-air.  That's more realistic I guess, but it makes these jumps harder.

- *Grabs power-up* Oh, neat, I can fly and shoot now, this is a really neat and cool power-up, I like this. *Dies by flying into beam grid*

- So then I decide to go left at the start and wind up flying straight up into the void.  Hmm, maybe I flew too high.  *Lands inside the wall*  Well, I guess true to Metroid, this has secret worlds.

- After falling in the water, I go right at the start now.  I collect a different power-up now, one that makes you invincible and/or invisible.  I proceed to get stuck between some pillars for a bit but make it out and head back left.

- Before finding a use for the invisibility power-up, I find one gives you the ability to shoot.  I run to the right firing liberally and then I Won?

Anyway, it looks great, and has a lot of mechanics, enemies, power-ups and everything, but the level design definitely needs a bit of work.

You don't use brackets on the first level, you have to push a slime in the pit so you can walk over it.

Hey, this is great!  I'm intentionally searching out all the metroidvanias in the GMTK jam and this one is surprisingly lengthy and even has a boss.  I think the high jump mechanic should have a little more feedback to let you know it's activated (like in Mario 2, you start blinking when you've charged it enough).  There was one corridor when I had four slimes and there were three spike boys and I kept dying to them; I eventually managed to cheese it by getting close enough to the slime in the wall to get him to come to me so I could warp back to the start without having to figure out how to pass that legit.  I'm still not sure exactly how to defeat those enemies -- are they just jump on the head types?, because the spikey heads made me hesitant to do that.

Also, confused about the ending, I got over the east mountain and then fell into the void.  Seemed a bit avant-garde to me, but I guess these slimes would rather fall until integer overflow than be stuck in a cave.

Anyway, great game.  Like I said, love these metroidvanias, and this one has a lot of content and neat upgrades, which are all benefitted from the number of slimes you've joined together -- more slimes means more weight to get to more areas, more slimes means more ammo for throwing, and more slimes means a higher max charge jump.

I made this comment while trying to solve level 10 and being stuck on it for a while.  Even after reading what you wrote here I still didn't really understand; went back to it now and I finally get that moving left would decrease your hearts while moving right would increase it.  I thought that moving either way would decrease your hearts.

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OK, finally got it -- I may have been somewhat hesitant to throw my cow into spikes but I didn't realize he was impervious to the damage.  Even now it took some time to get the rhythm, but once I did it was pretty consistent -- Jump, throw, snap up.

Edit: And woot, I completed the game.  I actually only had 6 stars when I got home so I went back to the first snake spring stage to grab the extra star there -- I managed to grab the star by waiting for the cow to fly over the spikes and fall down so I could snap to him and go through the wall.

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So this is fantastic and a great original idea and one of my favorite games I played in the jam so far.  Two minor complaints:

My first impressions was "Why do you move on key-up and why does it feel like there's a delay in my inputs?" but idk it's sokoban so it doesn't really matter but you'd think you'd move on key-down.  Or if you really like moving on key-up, from a game feel perspective key-down should at least acknowledge your input by animating the character preparing to move or something.

It can be hard to tell what block affects what.  Does moving left-right give me health or take away health, for example.  In practice this doesn't matter that much because you're not going to solve the puzzle right away from looking at it and it takes some trial to learn the things anyway, but it still just felt a little unclear sometimes.

But yeah fantastic, great and stuff.

Hey neat!  I made a very similar game (basically exactly the same, except yours has way more mechanics and better art) so it's cool to see a different take on the same idea.  The one thing my game has that this doesn't though is an undo button, which definitely would have been appreciated when there's trial and error late into a level.  Another difference is that in my game the pieces all line up perfectly adjacent to each other while this game's blocks can be misaligned -- your game allows for more depth to the puzzles with even more creative solutions, but it also can make things wonky and requires the player to have more accuracy.  In particular level 5 I was having some difficulty getting the two high tall block to connect sometimes.

Oh wow, this is great, way more fun than I thought it would be.  Once you get the hang of it, the game feel is great and it's very satisfying.  There's also a surprising amount of variety within this; more than you'd think for this kind of game.  Great tutorials, great physics.  It is very frustrating, but in a QWOP or Surgeon Simulator way where it's fun.  It also has great speedrun potential because of the way the physics work, and it seems also you can make the rope shorter than intended in certain ways to go even faster.

Didn't complete it though; 15 minutes in I had to do a series of momemtum jumps in a row, and I got through most of them before falling down (it feels like missing a Bowser throw in SM64).  I failed this again and fell throuh the four rings section and decided that I wasn't doing that again.

Great game though, fun, frustating, awesome game feel.

Hey, it's the best game I've played in the jam so far!  (Honestly that's not that many though, I've played like 10).   Great art, music, idea, mechanics, and levels.  And there's impressively quite a few mechanics too.

Some things: there's quite a bit of button pressing to move around -- I guess that's a given in sokoban-type games though, and you did add a dash to mitigate that, which is nice, though it's hard to use when there's so many spikes around.

I like the distinction between spikes and pits (pits can have blocks on them, spikes cannot), and the concept is introduced rather intuitively by having the player early on drag a block across a pit.

The best level is the large pit level.  However, it is potentially a big stumper.  I don't think at that point you even introduced the idea that you can grab blocks with other blocks.  There definitely should have been a level before that introducing that idea, especially since that level is so complicated (also the spikes at the end are potentially very frustrating considering the lengths it takes to get everything there).  However, the puzzle itself on this level is great, and it's by far the most interesting bit of problem solving you have to do in the game.

I cheesed the last level by putting the block over the pit then dashing over the spikes to skip the spike maze.  I thought it was neat though how in the previous level you could use blocks to protect you from projectiles.

Anyway, like I said, good game.

With this many controls it might be a good idea to keep them on the screen at all times -- can you even move the sub and the diver at the same time?  Do they have to be separate buttons?

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Beautiful looking game with a great mechanic, but I can't get past the second spike jump on the second level.  I feel like Shift or F isn't the best choice for the throw button since then everything is happening on your left hand -- I was playing by having my right hand pressing F right next to my left.  Anyway, it feels like the longer I wait, the farther I go when I snap and the more momentum and the further I should go, but that doesn't seem to be the case, it seems like pressing early or late doesn't affect my momemtum as much as I think it should.  I tried that jump for a few minutes and was just barely missing; is there a secret to these mechanics or is it just a really tight jump?

Edit: Oh lol I forgot about right shift

Really like the idea, it feels pretty unique.  I did have some trouble wrapping my head around was going on at first -- at the beginning (three lever puzzle), I was getting stuck in the wall and that was adding to the difficulty of hitting the switches, and then later when I was spamming click trying to attack it felt like the controls were unresponsive.  However, once I realized how attack worked in non-spirit mode, it made more sense; that is, there's a half second delay or so between click and attack because you are human (though that half second delay could be made more clear with a wind-up animation, think Dark Souls or Monster Hunter), and it's one of the main advantages of going into spirit mode because that delay is eliminated.  The other advantage of spirit mode being enemies track it instead of you, however, I think it might be better if you didn't take any damage in spirit mode (or maybe it took away 1 attack instead of hp).

I got to red boss man after a few attempts but had very little health, and the lack of a checkpoint is not very motivating for me to go through again to beat him.  Anyway, I liked it -- good job.

I'm also confused.  Are you saying that a game that is playable by any number of players, good habits encouraged and bad habits explored is a hangman game?  That seems very very open.

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Hey, that was an awesome mechanic.  It did take a little bit and some hard puzzles before you actually introduced it, but once you did, there were some clever puzzles in there.  I think a really neat design choice was to give the player the choice of which key they were going to lose when exiting the slime puddle -- it adds complexity to the puzzles in an intuitive way and gives room to more interesting puzzles.  And later the rotation mechanic is really clever.

Oh yeah, I did have it crash on me on that level, but if you press space it resets and redraws the level with your robot still on that tile.  By the time I completed it, there were three robots, my own, and one on each tile (who were ghosts collision-wise).

Hey, great job on making a game that's not like anything else in the jam.  One design decision that I thought was pretty good was to make the walls destructible over a period of time, that way even if you totally walled off your sheep from the wolves, they might eventually break in.

Well reading the how to play was definitely essential; I kept dying without realizing I was leaving the battlefield at first.  But hey, the mechanic is simple, but also pretty interesting, original, and the game works quite well.

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Well, for me, this is the best looking game in the jam.  The pixel art is absolutely amazing, I love the Windows 95 theming and aesthetic, the way the UI is set up is amazing (especially because there are other games with this kind of taking away controls idea, and their UI for displaying this does not compare to this game's).  The level design is fantastic, getting really creative with all different kinds of ideas.  Then my favorite thing that no other game of this kind seems to have is how a button gets linked to a mechanic -- jumping might also activate platforms disappearing or appearing, or it might shoot a cannon.  And this game has a lot of levels too.  It practically feels like a commercial game that was made and completed in just two days.  Really good!

Yeah this same thing happened with me.  I restarted the game and I could see the ball, and I watched it shoot straight through the right wall.

Checkpoints would be nice, but great idea.  Minor game feel note: gravity in the downward direction feels really heavy, you go up fine, but coming down you slam into the ground.  

So I liked the map design, and it's really nice to see a Pico game this year, since while there seemed to be so many of them previous years, I think this is the only one I've even seen this year.  But controlling the kitty seems less like an interesting game design choice and more like an experiment in frustration.  Idk, maybe it'd be more interesting and less frustrating if the kitty always followed the laser pointer when it had full battery, but might wander randomly when it was charging between uses?

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Love the concept.  When I heard the theme, one of the things I thought of was using a tank and shooting backwards in GTA to gain incredible amount of speed, but I wasn't sure how you could make that into a game, and here, you did just that.

I think it might've helped for players to acclimate to the unusual controls by introducing them one at a time.  There's a lot going on at first, and while following the text on the ground is very helpful, I foolishly messed with the controls before even realizing A went straight, so I was just bumbling around in the corner for a while.  And like some others said below, checkpoints would be nice.

Also, I should mention too that I left that comment around level 6, edited it around level 9, and now I've just finished level 18 (which was pretty difficult, but totally fair in the end).  I'm impressed with the longevity of the game, it's probably one of the longest I've played in the jam, and it was neat to see you introduced a new mechanic halfway through with the buttons.

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I really like this idea -- it's super clever, fits the theme really well, and the puzzles are well designed.  Levels 8 and 9 are both great in the department of "Wow, this looks simple" but is actually much harder than it looks, which is a fun trope to pull to show the strange consequences of the mechanics.  It does become a little hard to keep track of where you're going to land, especially if you have multiple regain control cards going -- I'm not sure what you would be able to do about that, the best I could think of is a button you hold to show a grid of numbers or something, but idk if that would even look good in the aesthetic or be intuitive.

Anyway, one of my favorites in the jam.  Great game.

Hey, pretty good.  I made a game for the 2017 GMTK game jam that had a similar mechanic.  It would be neat to see the game be expanded into more levels so I could see what kinds of unique twists you could put on the fire mechanic.  Already, a good idea that is new to me are the moving blocks -- they require you to move at the right time to block the fire from spreading as fast.

Agree with Bjorne below.  Gameplay is alright, but the controls are really unintuitive without there being visual feedback on the screen of the direction and how far you're going to fling the cell.  I wasn't even sure if I could move them at first.  Once you figure out how to play though, the game becomes a lot more fun.