Since I spoke with inkle’s cofounder Jon Ingold in July, the studio announced and completed their first game jam for the ink language they use in their games. They received more than 60 submissions, most of which you can play in a browser. In two installments, I’ll share my thoughts and impressions of some of these games.
Inkle’s games have strong identities and Ingold shared his thoughts with me about what makes ink a special language. It was easy to imagine many of these projects as islands or cities in 80 Days or stalls in the markets of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery!. Some were simpler and more like tiny Twine games. All represent a lot of work in a very short time, and I like what that says about the state of interactive fiction.
Serhii Mozhaiskyi translated his game Капсула (“Capsule”) into both English and ink. It’s a short, low-stakes puzzle IF where you find your way out of a long-term sleep aboard a spaceship. The language is a little rough, but it’s a rush translation and from Cyrillic script no less.
In Davis G. See’s longer, more linear game, you see a life after civilization and Grindr, but also with little interaction of any kind — “Proper food and water aren’t the only needs that aren’t being met.” You meet strangers and assess their trade and romance potential quickly.
Tropes push games forward, so I can’t fault this jam game for relying on them a bit too much. Solve a murder mystery in a gritty noir setting.
Josh Labelle’s good, unsettling game pits you against obscene user content as quality control for a social network. Labelle includes pixelated art with descriptions, and gives you a cheatsheet of guidelines to decide what stays or goes. Watch out for despair.
Rik Godwin’s clever, funny little mystery reminds me of the comically prude narrators in books like Wuthering Heights. This one has charming art and a great typeface, which is pretty impactful!
Christine Danse said her goal was to make players hungry, and she accomplished it. Venture into the local nondescript storefront and enjoy either brunch or hotpot. Based on her descriptions and the comments, Danse is writing about real meals she has shared with friends.
This short, fairly linear entry reminds me of the game Burly Men at Sea: both feel more poetic and evocative than necessary interactive. But it’s fun and the idea has a lot of potential.
Scott Heavner’s grimy cyberpunk world is evocative in just a few lines. You take on a “freelance job” finding and taking some data, and there are puzzles and obstacles in your way. I wish he’d proofread a bit more closely but this is a fun IF anyway.
You play a young Vietnamese man exchanging letters with his dad in America, exploring secrets and emotions related to war, atrocity, and the memory of places. It’s overlong and has a bit of a language barrier but I loved the idea and how the art is presented.
Sammi Narramore made this surreal burst that works with IF mechanics but feels like, well, a dream.
Mary McKenzie’s “very tiny” game has no right answers, but that makes it funny and good.
This is my favorite of the first batch of inkjam games. You play a realtor who shows homes to clients who are various kinds of monsters: vampires, ghouls, fairies, and more. Their appearances, behaviors, and comments give you clues, and you must pitch the home based on what you believe they’ll like best. In my first run, I did a terrible job and ended the day with an invitation to some kind of mental conditioning sales camp. In my second run, I did great and received an almost more upsetting commendation from my boss.
Sébastien Delahaye’s bilingual (English and French) game uses language that gives it an out-of-time feel, like the Triplets of Belleville or a Miyazaki movie. Three elders share stories about a spooky hotel.
Chrysoula Tzavelas’s one-day exploration puts you in the path of a young girl in a fairy costume who turns out to need more help than you first guess. I had a grim feeling like a bad surprise was coming, but this is a lighthearted, sweet, cute game.
I really liked this dreamlike take on the queasymaking shops you often find in games. Sure, these potions sound too good to be true, so I should still buy one and use it, right? Right.
Sheamus Crowley’s game is perhaps the most fully formed of this batch, with character stats, extensive writing and decisionmaking, and a full week of events. You, a self-determining protagonist, carry a disabled young royal as your job. Each day, the two of you decide what to do together.
A preachy but interesting little fable. Just try it.