GB Compo 21 Spotlight

GB Compo 21 has come and gone. With 150 entries, so many the judging period needed to be extended, it’s clear the inaugural game jam has been a resounding success. There are simply too many fantastic entries to spotlight in a single article but the staff here at GB Studio Central have picked a few favourites to share with our readers. Without further ado, let’s take a look!

Pearacidic

Fix My Heart by Filipe Bianchin is a speed-running game… with heart. With a simple but impactful enough story about needing medicine for your mechanical heart and only having two hours left to get more, you set off within a cave to retrieve the ore to make it and end up falling down a long shaft. Knocked unconscious, you realize upon waking that you only have mere seconds left, bringing a sense of urgency to you locating the elusive substance.

Cave spelunking is not for the faint of heart…

Gameplay consists of running through the cave, grabbing bits of ore, and dodging spikes as you make your way from one area to the next. The slick, stylized 1-bit style will remind you of the old Intellivision games, but the gameplay is much faster than those old systems could muster. Multiple endings, a pumping soundtrack, and fast, frantic action make this title stand out as one of the greats. Test your luck and go for a zero-death run – if you dare.

The clock is ticking!

GumpyFunction

It’s rare to find a Game Boy title with controls that rival the good feels and feedback of 2D indie games on modern systems. But Sushi Nights by Zal0, Kirblue, MaikelOrtega_ and sergiodeprado is one such rarity.

The Sushi Nights title screen – a nod to Megaman II

You play as Hitsuji-kun, a slick sheep with one job – to deliver sushi to hungry city folk about Neo Sushi City. The sprite work and soundtrack are both convivial and charming. But what sets this platformer apart from others of its kind, is the main mechanic – the grappling hook!

No time to waste, sushi is best served fresh after all!

To swing, jump, reel yourself in and out and simply move about is an absolute joy, and when you feel confident to go for more advanced maneuvers, chaining your swings together to keep that momentum up can be a reward in it’s own right. There is much potential here. It’s a thrill to see such a nuanced and refined mechanic on a Game Boy screen. So much so, Sushi Nights even gives Bionic Commando a run for its money… Actually, I’m going to say it, when it comes to grappling mechanics, Sushi Nights has Bionic Commando beat!

Emi Paternostro

Jams are always a great way to explore a mechanic or technique without having to commit to a fully developed game. STUNNER focuses on a specific mechanic, but wow does it impress. Using a combination of clever background animation and sprite scaling and positioning, this game reminds me of the “3D” turbo tunnel levels in Earthworm Jim, only scaled down on the Game Boy. You can speed up and slow down and collect items as the tunnel twists and turns. There’s certainly enough to build a larger game out of it or incorporate it as a series of levels in another game, but just seeing it in action is enough to make your jaw drop and ask “HOW ON EARTH DID THEY DO THIS?!?” I showed one of my co-workers, and they exclaimed that if it came out during the Game Boy’s life cycle, it would have been a must play.

The graphical effects are stunning!

Veund

Rhythm Land was one of many games submitted to GB Compo 21. While there were many great games submitted, Rhythm Land blew me away!

Rhythm Land’s title screen starts the ball rolling with an absolute party when playing!

Rhythm land is a series of simple mini games that are mostly focused around music and sound, it even includes a nice little music player featuring tracks from the game. The part that blew me away was as you play the mini games, the audio gets manipulated and changes to perfectly align with your actions in-game. It’s definitely a great game to play if you enjoy the Wario Ware style packed into a game for the Game Boy. Martendo really did a great job on Rhythm Land and I’m looking forward to checking out the updates that have come out since GB Compo 21.

Four mini-games on offer in the jam version – with two more in the works!

Ember

I really loved my time with Star Piece. While 2D platforming with arena-style swordplay might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I was floored by the amazing art, world and character design, and gameplay loop.

A wild Rock Worm appears!

I’ll let the art and story speak for itself, but the gameplay I think really deserves appreciation. Star Piece embraces repetition by randomizing each encounter with theme-appropriate enemies and stage design. Each stage provides unique gameplay, and all enemies are designed to behave pretty well to each stage, presenting you with some excellent procedural challenges.

Unique boss encounters litter the road to victory…

If you’re no good at fighting a specific enemy or a specific stage, you can roll the dice again and play more carefully. Repeat battles never felt insurmountable, and it was actually super motivating to try a section again after reaching a boss only to die because I was careless with my hearts leading up to the fight. Did I mention a boss rush mode and multiple difficulty settings? And sure, while I think the combat felt a bit floaty, I couldn’t ask for anything more with everything surrounding it.

Dan Enders (Lazy Dev)

I may be biased, as this game combines the two things I was absolutely obsessed with growing up – Jurassic Park and Pokemon, but Jurassic Snap is the equivalent of extracting pure nostalgia from a gameboy cartridge found encased in amber.

Pure nostalgia indeed!

Howdy Riceball’s demo for GB Compo 21 shows a lot of promise, combining excellent dinosaur sprite work, charming character designs, and a solid attempt to bring Pokemon Snap’s rail photography to the Game Boy. Working within the limitations of the Game Boy, versus the freedom of the N64, photo freedom has been replaced with a quick mini-game, and although it’s still in conceptual stages, I can see this working very well. I’m looking forward to seeing more environments and alternate paths, and can’t wait to see this demo expanded.

Photo evidence that dinosaurs also love butterfree- er… butterflies.

Taylor May

I had a lot of fun with Bounty Land by Bad_Dad! I’ve been on a real “Old West” kick lately and Bounty Land managed to scratch that itch perfectly! You play as a bounty hunter with the goal of finding and taking out the various outlaws found on the Sheriffs wanted posters.

Bounty Land’s train station, just around the corner from Shonash Ravine… Or was it Clayton Ravine. No, that’s right, it’s Eastwood Ravine…

Considering the limitations of the Game Boy, the combat is impressive and very fun! Hunting an outlaw involves a side scrolling horse riding section where you have to jump over rivers and avoid obstacles, and then a shootout section with cover to hide behind, TNT crates to explode, and flying bullets to dodge. Once you find the outlaw, you chase them down until they’re caught!

Reach for the sky!

All this is paired with beautiful artwork, which really gives the game that Old West flavour. Cow skulls, cacti, and other classic western tropes really help set the scene! I’m really impressed with how detailed the tiny sprites are, especially the horse riding sprite, such fantastic art in just a few pixels! Bounty Land is still an unfinished beta, but I can’t wait to someday see a full version. It’s great fun and I highly recommend it!

Thank you to the team at gbdev.io for organizing the biggest Game Boy and Game Boy Color homebrew game jam yet!

The games mentioned here are just a small sample of GB Compo 21’s exceptional list of entries. There are many more engaging and innovative games to be found over on the GB Compo 21 submissions itch page! A big congratulations to all of those who submitted this year and to those who made the shortlist. All of us at GB Studio Central are excited to see what GB Compo 22 will have on offer next year!