Game Boy Showdown 2023 hosted by Tronimal was a smashing success. With 404 people joining the jam and 83 entries to rate, we saw a lot of awesome games and technical showcases with the given theme of “Friendly”. We submitted our own game in an effort to make an awful entry, but unfortunately we made it too amusing apparently. Oh well, we’ll try harder next year.
Here’s some thoughts from our staff on games submitted to the jam, in no particular order.
My Friendly Little Island
My Friendly Little Island can be summarized by three C’s. The first is cuteness, in visuals and writing which are wonderfully itty and oh so witty. The second is camaraderie, in how each new person you meet entices you with how to solve their problem and who will turn up next to help. And finally, coconuts! Scattered across the island and used for leveling up your character to traverse the island. A real charming game that may be on a little island, but has a very big heart!
Ever wanted to play Stardew Valley meets Untitled Goose Game? Wait, what’s that? No? Oh. Well you’re in luck because Goose-A-Gotchi does its own thing! Admittedly there is a decent bit of tamagotchi influence… but it’s best to dive in blind with this one. Suffice it to say that it’s definitely a hoot and a honk to play. Silliness aside, this game serves as a refreshing reminder that game jams don’t have to be a standard game experience crunched out over the 7 days. It can be an opportunity to get loosey-goosey and experiment with all sorts of wacky inclinations. Debatably friendly but definitely funny, Goose-A-Gotchi is a wonderful addition to this year’s submissions.
Retro Quiz Tower
Pub Trivia has been a frequent staple in my life. The atmosphere certainly gets competitive at times, but more often than not, I have found myself chatting to strangers over the trivial knowledge we share – and when I find a fellow retro game enthusiast, it’s all the more easy to make a new friend. So when I jumped into RubenRetro’s submission and began questing through a dungeon filled with monsters not to kill them, but to best them in a friendly round or two of Retro Game Trivia, I was sold on the premise immediately.
The Pokemon style pre-battle dialogue is wonderfully specific, with a Werewolf proclaiming he is desperate to find edition #285 of Nintendo Power, for example. The artwork is detailed and adds a lot of character to the monsters as they throw questions at you. The isometric view feels fresh considering not many GBS devs have explored it yet, and the trivia questions themselves are well written with a good amount of challenge. Retro Quiz Tower is a great example of keeping the scope of a jam game focused, so that the design elements are fine tuned and the game flow is succinct, a tricky thing to balance during any jam!
Don’t Forget To Smile
Don’t Forget To Smile is a charming little game about managing an ice cream shop. It’s very basic but the dialogues and interactions are pretty funny. You’re forced to smile your way through a cast of sometimes rather strange people, as you survive a minimum wage job, not forgetting your manners. It’s not just about doing what customers tell you, sometimes you need to think what they would like.
I think it was a nice short experience. It’s a shame you can’t serve the dog that pops up at one point though…
What Friends Are For
Are you having mood swings lately? Have you been angry with someone and then felt bad? Well, that’s what the story and gameplay of this peculiar puzzle platformer is about. While it can be difficult to innovate on the Game Boy, What Friends Are For succeeds in a game where your mood influences the world around you. When you are angry things might disappear allowing you to reach places previously inaccessible, or changing to a friendly state allows you to jump over them to reach very high places.
All this with a cute atmosphere and spectacular music (which also changes in real time depending on the mood) has thus achieved the well-deserved first place in the Game Boy Showdown 2023.
As so often with games, Friendly Fire drew my attention with its cover and screenshots. The core gameplay is a relatively basic arcade game where you have to catch droplets of fire (the fire of friendship), that rain down from the sky. You need to catch the droplets that match your color, which will randomly change once you caught one. If you catch one that doesn’t match, you’ll lose one of your three hearts. A highscore counter tracks your progress and occasionally a heart falls down from the sky, to fill up lost lives.
In the story mode, the game is framed in a scenario where you get to play this retro game with an old friend like “back in the days”, that delivers a tone of thinking about the good old times, which I can completely relate to.
The soundtrack is catchy and the sound effects fit the arcade style of the game.On the game’s start screen is a note that says it was designed with the color-blind community in mind, which is a nice approach towards accessibility.
Love You To Death
While GB Studio is an awesome tool, there are limitations to what can be done with it. Love You To Death shows what’s capable using GBDK, which is the codebase that GB Studio is built on. The gameplay reminds me of old flash games, or even Wario Ware like mini games where your goal is to move a circle around on screen to avoid anything that is red. The movement is satisfying with a well implemented squash and stretch on the circle as you move, and the art in the background moves perfectly with the beat. The speed at which everything appears on screen makes it feel like you’re playing a music video more than a Game Boy game, which is such an amazing feat on 25 year old hardware (it’s a Game Boy Color only game).
I also love the twist half way through the game where on screen text questions the validity of the game for the theme of “friendly” only to add another sprite on screen that mirrors your movements, making it even more challenging! The game takes only 3 minutes to play, perfectly suited for a Game Jam, and the music is fun and energetic making replaying great. The highest I’ve managed to score is 90%, and I’m motivated to try and get higher!
Congratulations to the winners and all the participants of this jam. The growth from last year to this year shows there’s still a massive interest in developing for our favourite handheld, and we’re excited to see if any of these jam games get developed further into larger releases! You can find all the submissions to the jam here: https://itch.io/jam/game-boy-showdown-2023/entries
Audio Engineer, Mac Technologist and Video Game Developer. Managing Editor of GBStudio Central. (he/him)