Game Jolt Jams‘ fourth Game Boy-inspired game jam, GBJAM 4, is coming to a close, and over 180 entries have been submitted, ready to play for free on your computer or in your browser. There are many great titles amongst the selection; some have truly captured the much-loved essence of the accessibility and fun of Game Boy titles, offering experiences that wouldn’t be out of place on the 1989 handheld. There are some truly brilliant, original ideas that should not go overlooked amongst the selection, so prepare to get familiar with those trademark green hues once again; here are some of the games I think are definitely worth checking out.
Imagine this scenario; the world is faced with the threat of impending doom. Alien invades have decided to take over, and the only thing standing between them and world domination is a little girl with a baseball bat. Now imagine this playing out like a fast-paced, Breakout-style arcade game, accompanied with a killer chiptune soundtrack and some simple yet gorgeous sprites and animation. This is Aliens Go Home Run! in a nutshell; it’s not a complicated game, but it’s a lot of fun. It utilises a simple gameplay premise that wouldn’t seem out of place on the Game Boy, and presents it in a fun and charming way that only ups the level of entertainment. I feel like this is the sort of game you could get a real kick from picking up and playing for a couple of minutes here and there, trying to beat your own score and progressing through all of the stages. This is a perfect example of capturing the Game Boy essence in a pocket-sized, replay-able experience.
Defender 88! is a cute yet surprisingly challenging shoot ’em up which puts you in the role of the ‘Defender 88’ submarine, tasking you with using your machine gun and torpedos to defend your home and fight off oncoming waves of the aquatic menace that is monster jellyfish. Despite it’s simple gameplay, Defender 88! offers a compelling and addictive shoot ’em up experience; the submarine handles beautifully, with the game’s physics really making you feel like you’re underwater, and there’s nothing more satisfying than sending a torpedo cascading into a pack of oncoming enemies. The game looks and sounds great, and the game’s nice use of Game Boy-inspired green hues to simulate the deep darkness of the ocean is a nice and immersive touch. The way the music changes as waves of enemies begin their attack creates a real sense of pressure, and matches perfectly with the challenge of balancing the protection of three generators, as well as monitoring your limited supplies of torpedos and turbo fuel. It’s an ideal score attack game for those who are after a well presented, retro-inspired challenge.
Let’s be honest here, the only thing more satisfying than piloting a giant mecha is using said mecha to destroy skyscrapers, right? Well at least it feels that way after playing City Crushers, a ridiculously addictive game with a ridiculously simple premise; you’ve got one minute to destroy as many buildings as possible, using a combination of massive robot punching, and an incredibly satisfying jumping attack which ruins buildings all around you. It’s another arcade-style score attack game, and the global leaderboards give a real incentive to get back to smashing buildings as soon as your minute is up. The game looks gorgeous, with chunky sprites serving perfectly at building up a soon-to-be-destroyed cityscape, and the design of the robot works well to convey a sense of power; you are a City Crusher, after all!
(Just a heads up for anyone who might be concerned, I don’t condone the real life misuse of giant mechas.)
Compared to the other games that have been on this list so far, In search of is a little more laid back. It’s a difficult game to describe, and perhaps even to pin a genre onto (although the game plays out in an RPG-like fashion, offering a top-down perspective accompanied by dialogue boxes, which make up the majority of the gameplay. The premise of the game, which is apparently based on a popular Facebook group in Toronto, revolves around trading objects to ultimately get an object of your choosing that you desire. The game offers limited options in terms of how to interact with the ‘trading zone’s cast of characters, but a beauty comes from this simplicity that makes the game so unique. In a way that I found reminiscent of EarthBound, much of the game’s strengths come in the form of the dialogue, which is well written, humorous and charming; even though interactions are brief, you can’t help but feel invested in each of the trading partners the game offers and the little lives they lead. The blocky style of visuals mixed with a nicely upbeat and catchy background track help complete the experience. Definitely one worth checking out if you want to try something completely different!
The first thing that you will notice about Outbound is that it looks absolutely gorgeous. Programancer clearly has a solid grasp of pixel art, because everything from the backgrounds to the enemies look fantastic, and make brilliant use of the Game Boy-style colour palette. It’s even better that the game’s a lot of fun too; it’s another simple concept, defend generators from oncoming waves of enemies, but it’s the mixture of smooth controls, great looking and creative environments, and an upgrade system that encourages you to keep trying, even after death, that make the game so addictive. This is a title that would sit nicely at home on the 3DS eShop, an ideal title for the pick-up-and-play concept championed by the original Game Boy, and one brilliantly executed and presented at that.
Of course, I couldn’t talk about every single game submitted to this year’s GBJAM, but these are just a few of the ones that I really enjoyed! There are undoubtedly some more great titles amongst the huge selection of entries that you should try for yourself, so check out the full collection here!
Got a favourite title from the lineup that we haven’t mentioned? Leave a comment below!