Train Jam 2018 came to a close last weekend, and I took some time this weekend to look at this year’s creations.
For those not in the know, Train Jam is a 2,500 mile trip from Chicago to San Francisco, all taking place on the Amtrak California Zephyr train line. Developers team up and are tasked with creating a game in the 52 +/- hour event. This year’s theme was Odyssey, and 84 games were created that went on display at GDC this week.
You can check out all of the entries from this years Train Jam here, but Iwanted to share a few of our favorites with our readers, and explain why we liked them so much. As always, my selection process is entirely subjective, so don’t consider these the five best, just the five that caught my attention the most. It’s well worth your time to browse through the collection and find your own favorites!
You are Odie – a magical circular cleaning device that has been gifted from the Greek gods to the family of Odysseus. (You’re not sure where you came from before that, but you heard rumors about a short fling Zeus had with a broom and dustpan a while back.) While Odysseus is on his adventures and trying to get back home, you are responsible for keeping everything tidy and clean for his wife Penelope and his son Prince Telemachus.
Billed as “The Untold Story of Book 22.5 of The Odyssey”, Meanwhile is in fact the story of a Grecian Roomba. I’m absolutely comfortable saying I’m biased in my love of this game, since I studied classics in University, and have read the Odyssey more times than I care to admit.
Meanwhile is first and foremost a game about timing. You move Odie around the palace by redirecting it at the correct moments as indicated by a blue arrow circling around it’s circular body. You’ll need to zip around cleaning up all the stains before the time runs out, grabbing different gifts from the Gods of Olympus (a.k.a. PowerUps) to help you.
Meanwhile is a fun game with solid mechanics and great sense of Classically-inclined humor
Be My Quest puts you in the seat of your everyday RPG quest giver. Make up well balanced fetch quests on the spot in order to obtain loot and new ideas for future quests.
Be My Quest had me from the first moments, poking fun at the classic Fantasy MMO Quest-Giver trope. The game’s gameplay loop is incredibly solid: You, a peasant woman quest-giver, need to give out quests to passing adventurers. You construct these quests from three parts: a Location, a Desired Item, and a Reward. Your given a chance to throw some flavor text on your quests, and then an exclamation point appears above your head.
That’s not it though, as you’ll have to balance the risks and the rewards of the quests, or adventurers will end up dead, and then you’ll have to send others after their bodies to recover the items.
Be My Quest also looks really good, with an art style that made me all nostalgic for the classic days of Runescape.
A tiny 2 player game about finding each other.
Found has an incredibly simple premise: find the other player, but executes this flawlessly. I’m incredibly impressed to see this as the product of a 72 hour game jam, as it not only plays perfectly, but also looks phenomenal. The art style is wistful and reminds me of a children’s story book, and despite being only colored triangles, I felt compelled by the two characters looking to reunite.
I’d be very surprised if Found wasn’t refined, expanded and released at a later point.
Avoid detection and overcome ancient Greek challenges in this stealthy vagabond’s voyage: Indie Odyssey, a modern retelling of the story of Odysseus. Our hero angers conductor Poseidon while stowing away on the Trident Rail, in a Trojan Horse-shaped pile of luggage seen in the Windy City. Outrun the captain, beware the Camera Crew Cyclops, and sneak your way to the front of the train with the help of mentor Ralph Baer, inventor of the Magnavox Odyssey!
Indie Odyssey went the literal rout with the Train Jam theme, making a short stealth game retelling of Homer’s Odyssey…on a Train headed to GDC. The mechanics of the game are fairly standard, but what I love about Indie Odyssey is the art style.
The team decided to portray everything in the striking style of Greek vase painting. It looks a bit like Apotheon, but they really doubled down on the aesthetic, and I think it’s rather striking.
Miss the days of family road trips? Want to relive the experience of children screaming in the back seat as you carefully navigate dangerous mountain terrain? Well now you can re-live that experience with Road Flip! Take control of your trusty car and drive, dig, and flip across country!
Road Flip was another game from this year’s Train Jam that really impressed me with just how polished it is. I honestly wouldn’t have batted an eye if someone had sent me a link to this game and told me it had just released.
The game revolves around you carving a path through a series of blocks of dirt to drive a rickety car through, often bouncing over rocks or onto platforms to collect postcards. All the while, cries of “Are We There Yet?!” and “I’ve Gotta PEE!” assault you from your digital passengers.
They’ve really captured that family car ride experience…
Any games we missed that you really liked? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter! We’d love to hear what you though or, if you’re one of the people that attended this year’s Train Jam, we’d love to hear what your experience was like.