Game Jams are an interesting and exciting look into how creative people can be with limited time and tools at their disposal. One of the things that makes jams even more exciting for those who aren’t participating in creation is the fact that you get to try out hundreds of unique games with new, fresh ideas and fun takes on the Jam’s theme. Game Maker’s Tool Kit, or GMTK, holds an annual game jam of some note. This year’s jam had the theme of “Roles Reversed”, focused on trying to present any game that would fit the idea of ‘reversing’ the usual expected roles of interacting with games.
What resulted was a staggering 6821 entries; of course, you likely don’t have the time to check out 6000+ games, let alone 60 games, but don’t worry! I’ve got a list of ten really fun games for you to check out when you’ve got a little time spare and want to divest yourself from your daily grind or even in between your regular gaming habits. The best part about exploring Game Jams is sometimes you’ll find a game that really clicks into what you really love about games, and make you appreciate the games in your life that do those things, making you want to reconsider them or revisit them if you’ve spent a little bit of time apart.
This is not a list arranged in quality or any order, by the way, just ten games that I really liked, although I will say that my list criteria focused a bit on the theme as a big marker. If the game really leaned into the theme of ‘Roles Reversed’ over being just a ‘fun game’, that’s something that I wanted to keep in mind for my list. After all, if you go to a restaurant renowned for its pizza, you don’t order the soup instead on your first visit, right? So, without further ado, let’s talk about some cool experimental games!
I overscoped. by NitramiuZ
What I liked about this funny little puzzler is that it doesn’t quite give away what or how it wants you to play it for a little bit. I almost expected it to be a narrated platformer, similar to something like Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy, but instead I overscoped. features a fun narrative twist that asks you, the player, to fill in for the developer’s inability to finish the game in time for the gamejam. I liked the idea of asking the player to become the developer, and the way the game establishes how this works is through a programming puzzle mechanic that felt a little bit brain buzzing, but didn’t overstay it’s welcome. The game’s page on Itchi.io promises that a full version is coming to Steam sometime in the future, so I would be curious to check out what that looks like when it’s finished; if you want to try it out, the game is fully playable in your browser, but does require sound, so perhaps a full version will have accessibility options like subtitles to help a wider group of players enjoy the concept.
UVSU by dietzribi and Mothense
This game took the concept of roles reversed to a level that I don’t think any of the other titles compare to. The concept is initially a little confusing, but then becomes one of the most fun puzzle games I’ve played in recent memory. Much like I overscoped., this game asks you to do a bit of basic ‘programming’ of character actions, except that you switch back and forth from the ‘player’ and ‘enemy’ side of things. Your first move is as the ‘player’, trying to reach the exit, and then as the ‘enemy’, trying to stop the player from reaching the exit. Each level has an increasingly complex level of back and forth of how to do this, and even in this small smattering of levels I was surprised at how complicated it was, and how rewarding it felt to actually figure out the puzzle in the end! Similar to a few other games, this one is also promising a full release in the future via Steam on it’s Itchi.io page, and I really think it’s got a chance to be a hit if it can expand the concept to be fresh and exciting through a full game concept. I really loved the idea of alternating roles to play ‘against’ myself, while also having to make sure I could then ‘beat’ myself on the next turn to complete the puzzle.
Descriptionary by fingerclap
Drawing games might be one of my most liked but also most hit or miss type of games. I often play Jackbox games with friends via discord or at gaming nights, and there are times when drawing with other people is… not always as funny or exciting as everyone else seems to imagine it is. So, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this game, since it is a single player drawing game in which the game tries to give you a vague set of instructions, and then see if you can guess the actual thing it is trying to get you to draw. The theme for each round is cute, as is the general vibe, and I found that it was a fun little diversion after a while. There is certainly a level of mechanical skill here that is going to help or hinder you when playing it, because frankly, my artistic skills are a bit lacking, but even with my somewhat sorry artistry, I was able to complete the game and have a good time with it. The page promises some updates in the future, but for now, I think the game is just a solid and fun little diversion, the type of browser game you fire up when you need to distract yourself from a spreadsheet or google document you’ve been staring at for a few hours (Not that I’d know, of course…).
Magnetism Rally by mokadevs
I am going to be upfront: I had a little trouble getting what the role reversal was here at first, but then I actually figured out what it was going for after playing it, and ended up really liking what it was doing in this small little spin on a ‘dating sim’ style game. I don’t want to give away the twist in the event that you play it yourself, because figuring it out really made me appreciate it more, but the general gist is that you are playing a dog, owned by the ‘main character’, Rei, who is on a date. Rei, however, is likely to screw up the date, so your job as her dog is to ensure that the date goes well. You have a lot of options, and there are ways to actually not get the ‘good ending’ here, which I thought was a neat touch. Unlike a few of the others, this one seems like a one and done, but there’s enough here to really appreciate the aesthetic and idea of what Magnetism Rally is playing with, and that’s what really matters.
Ragdolf by weentermakesgames
Ragdolf was the first game that I actually played in the gamejam, and it was also the first game that I was confused by. I swore that something was wrong with the game, and that maybe this was all a waste of time. Showing a stunning lack of reading comprehension and critical thought on my part, I completely missed the point of the theme here, and felt very foolish afterwards. Thankfully, no one needs to know that, except you, dear reader, but anyway, Ragdolf is a very cute game that takes the Roles Reversed theme and works with it in a fairly fun and challenging way. Like many of the games that I enjoyed, this one is a bit puzzly, and gave me a huge jolt of nostalgia for the free flash games I used to play in my browser during the early 00s. That era of gaming is mostly dead, but something about Ragdolf really made me happy to keep playing it, seeing how I could try and solve the puzzles better, or faster, even. And, like many great browser games of old, it was fun to just fire it up, mess around, and close it. I don’t think there’s a future version of Ragdolf down the line based on the page description, but it really doesn’t need it: this is a hole in one and doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Spring’s Ballet by Itooh and Jaylus
One of my favorite arcade games was always Arkanoid, and the variants known as Breakout. I always liked moving the paddle, usually with a knob controller, trying to bounce the ball back up and going for huge combos and racking up a lot of points. There’s been a lot of games in that sort of vein, and oddly enough, Spring’s Ballet works very similarly. You control 3 different lilypads at various heights, and your goal is to catch the frogs as they leap for flies, causing various musical tones and sounds to call out as you do so. The musical part was the interesting thing that flipped the switch for me on this one; the game is fairly short and doesn’t overstay its welcome, and does have just enough challenge for the amount of time the game asks you to play. Also, I found that playing it again and going less for perfect precision and more to see what types of emergent music I could get made it worth another two plays. There were a few other Arkanoid style games in the Jam, but I actually kind of liked this one the most.
Streamer Screamer by organzola
I watch a lot of streamers, perhaps too many. The other day, my partner gawped as she noticed I had five different tabs open with a streamer on each to flip through. I mentioned that I just wanted to know what each one was doing, and they were all entertaining, so what other choice did I have! Anyway, if you watch a lot of streamers, you might know that one of the favorite pastimes of streamers and their viewers is watching them get the bajeezus scared out of them by playing horror games. Streamer Screamer is a game that takes that sort of concept and reverses it by asking you to be the ghastly ghoul that will cause the streamer to get scared. There is an air of showmanship in the design that I really like; simply running up on them doesn’t get you the most points, but making it entertaining to the viewers–and horrifying to your target–is what gets you the best bang for your buck, and I found the concept really enjoyable. Because the game is a bit more intense than the others, you’ll need to download this one to get it to run on your computer, but it was worth the download and time, and one of the more inventive games on the list.
Ledge Painter by Charlie Wagner and Adrien Dautel
Have you noticed the increasing large amount of ‘yellow’ things in video games that help you figure out where you need to go? Whether this design tool is a necessity or a crutch is a debate that isn’t of interest to literally anyone, it is a funny gimmick to use as the crux of a game, and that’s exactly what Ledge Painter does. Players are tasked with painting the ledges and paths that the ‘Player’ will follow, essentially programming their overall destination for them in advance. If you aren’t careful, the ‘Player’ won’t run where they need to. You’re also given a limited ‘Texture Budget’ with which to paint your paths, meaning that you need to be expedient and creative with how you guide the ‘Player’ to their goal. You can play the game either in browser or download it, and I found that doing so in a windowed version was a lot easier and allowed me to view the game better, but if you’re just curious, it’s certainly worth firing up your browser at least to give it a try!
Pinball Pioneer by Alex Eckardt
One thing that I noticed throughout this game jam was the tendency towards puzzle games; Pinball Pioneer is no different, perhaps because of the fact that the thematic element of role reversal allows for creative solutions to seemingly simple problems. Pinball Pioneer is no different in that regard, and has players taking on the role of being designers of a pinball field, except the goal is to stop players from winning, which is where this game sort of turns into being almost anti-golf pinball. Holes on the map are the goals that the balls will try to enter, and your job is to set up as many obstacles and diversions as possible to prevent the balls from doing so. I found the mix fun, and the aesthetic is really cute and inviting, giving players the role of being a construction worker on this nonsensical pinball ‘table’ as a way to build the overall vibe of the game. The idea of stopping a player from winning to, well, win yourself, is a fun idea as well. This one doesn’t work in browsers, so you’ll need to download it if you wish to give the little puzzle pinball game a shot yourself.
SPARED! By clxrffdman
I said I didn’t have a particular ranking, and I don’t, but I think SPARED! Might be very, very close to my top list. The way the game works is exceptionally fun and feels like the type of game you’d play on a gameboy advance or similar ten or twenty years ago (don’t look it up to see if it was really that long ago. Just don’t.) for fun. The graphics, the UI, and the challenge all feel extremely fun and engaging, and I loved playing through SPARED! a few times since I started reviewing these. I think the game nails the idea of role reversal well in an arcade-y sense, and the ramp up of such a basic challenge, don’t get hit, is very fun. This one works great in browser and out, but I will be honest and say that downloading it and playing it in a discrete window really helped up the enjoyment I had with it. Shockingly, it doesn’t seem to have any noted plans for a wider or more developed release, but if there was one, I’d probably jump at a chance to scoop it up for myself.
Obviously, these ten are influenced by my own interests and time with the list, but there are literally thousands of games to try, and all of them are worth checking out. The website even lists them by ranking of how they scored during the Game Jam, so you can check out what the judges picked and what people thought of as the ‘best’, but you should also dig around in the stacks to see what other titles catch your eye. Most of them cost you nothing but a few MB on your HDD for a few moments of fun, so don’t hesitate!
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