GB Compo ’23 has come and passed, but with the judging period coming close to completion we thought we’d highlight some of our favourite submissions this year. The Jam provides 3 months for developers to make a Game Boy game using any tools at their disposal and provides prizes to the winners. With different categories to submit to, there’s a nice variety of experiences on display. Here are our picks in no particular order:
With Music Carts being one of the categories for GB Compo, we saw cool examples of works that range from graphically powerful pieces that border demoscenes, to compilations and albums. Re: Cycle wowed me with its ambitious premise, presenting what one would expect of a traditional music album complete with vocals and lyrics. While the vocals have that distinctive bitcrushed sound, they are still clear enough to understand and you can even hear some reverb in parts. It’s really impressive considering this cart mixes traditional Game Boy chiptune implementation with the vocals, keeping the full album just over 2 MBs. Plus the songs rock!
Pat Morita Team
Hermano is an impressive platformer with a fun mechanic — throwing your skull at enemies — that works well on the Game Boy. During the Day of the Dead, Nano seeks to rescue his dead brother from evil spirits that also rose that night. There are some unique mechanics, such as throwing bombs and a gravity-based section where you are flipping upside-down while enemies attack. The haunting music and cute graphics exude the charm of the holiday, and each level is filled to the brim with exciting challenges. Any game that reminds me of my childhood go-tos is great in my book.
Like a Mills & Boons buxom wench, the pirate metal rhythm adventure game Chantey truly did sweep me off my feet. The first part that warmed my cockles were the wonderfully rendered top down sprites that really nailed the top down perspective. Even boasting some impressive sprite layering on the roofs! If that wasn’t enough, shiver me timbers it’s got rhythm battle scenes (reminiscent of Guitar Hero or Beatmania) paired to fun GB renditions of pirate shanties!
I can only imagine the treasure trove of awesome pirate chiptunes in the full game.
Imperium Strike Force
Inspired by 1990’s “Mercenary Force”, Imperium Strike Force has you bring the wrath of the Emperor of Mankind down upon an invasion of Tyranids & Genestealer Cultists. While the demo is short, this game oozes 40K flavor. Games Workshop’s miniatures are perfectly rendered with immediately recognizable sprites, and the backgrounds are gloriously retro renderings of the game’s terrain kits. Imperium Strike Force blends retro gaming and classic 40k aesthetics into a perfect love letter to Warhammer. If I had pulled out an old copy of White Dwarf, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see this. A must play for 40K fans!
With a holy load of shotgun shells, you play as Nunya, a nun with a shotgun, and explore the dungeons underneath the town searching for treasures while transforming into a monster with the help of potions. This is a lovely dungeon crawler which delivers really well crafted pixel art on a level you wouldn’t expect from a Game Boy Color game. It has all the things you expect from a proper dungeon crawler, such as weapon upgrades, boss fights and some well placed checkpoints and fast respawns, which takes away the frustration from harder sections of dungeons or a challenging boss fights.
Ghost of the Arcade
A celebration of the competitive arcade experience. Brimming with dark humor, charismatic pixel art, a great little story and an OST featuring a thematically succinct mario-esque coin SFX built into one the tracks, Ghost of the Arcade is a thoughtfully crafted mini-game collection for the GBC. What surprised me was the significant depth of player choice built into some of the mini-games on offer. Whether spending points to repair your truck in Monster Truck Tour or buying mobility upgrades to out-pace your competitors in Nessi: Ocean Racer, using the score points as a currency introduces a rich risk/reward system that really elevates this title above what could otherwise have been a shallow collection of games.
Road Rage Simulator
Imagine if the notorious NES GhostBusters II driving levels crashed into Futurama’s Werecar with early 00s cartoon network angular art dipping with Newgrounds attitude. Play the driver so seething, that man and vehicle become a four wheeled demonic death machine, bloodlusting greater than any Carmageddon contestant. This belt scroller has you mowing down innocent (and less innocent) bystanders, avoiding traffic hazards and dry fuel tanks. Every kill extends your rampage with ever changing level themes and haunting lo-fi blood curls. Rack up vehicular murders to fully experience the cartoonishly evil story or chase high scores along the endless road. Succumb to the rage…
Feed It Souls
You… Yes, you! You are made to feed a mysterious hungry being. If you refuse… you will be destroyed! Feed it Souls is a new metroidvania with a creepy biomechanical theme brought to you by Gumpy Function. You must collect souls to feed your master, who uses beings like you in an endless cycle of awakening-servitude. The introduction really looks like a movie and the graphics are exceptional. As you collect new souls you get new abilities: jump, shoot, wall jumps… It also has a lot of additional content such as collecting items to unlock additional color palettes or speedrun scores to share with your teammates. Will you be a pawn in this selfish slavery or will you be the sheep that manages to escape the cycle?
Audio Engineer, Mac Technologist and Video Game Developer. Managing Editor of GBStudio Central. (he/him)