I was ill for a few weeks recently, and Ludum Dare happened during it. As usual I wanted the challenge of thinking up an idea to fit the theme, but couldn’t spare the two days to actually make something. The theme was ‘an unconventional weapon’, so I wrote up an idea but didn’t get around to publishing it at the time. Here it is!
Side-on platformer style view, very stark orange and black art style, rusty, nasty.
Your character and one other are slave labourers in a big, dilapidated factory of extremely dangerous machines. In a short, wordless intro:
- A machine malfunctions and cuts your arm off
- The guards ignore you
- Your partner loses it and attacks a guard
- The guard beats them
- You try to help but collapse
- You’re both overpowered dragged away
- Your partner grabs something from the production line just as we fade to black
- The guard drags you both, throws you into a chamber with blackened walls
- Your stump is bandaged in a shirt but still bleeding
- Just before your cell door closes, your partner throws something into your cell that clatters on the floor.
- Your partner is thrown into a similar chamber opposite
- When the guard walks away, there’s a small green light stuck to him
- Faintly visible gas floods your partner’s cell with a hiss
- It suddenly ignites in dazzling orange flame, then fades: nothing is left
- When you pick up the object you get a prompt: “Right mouse: Switch”
- The same gas floods into your cell
- If you flick the switch, you and the guard instantly switch places: he’s incinerated and you’re free
- If you don’t it is a short game
The Switch is a slim metal cylinder with a simple lever switch on the end. It now has something attached to the bottom: the Tag, a thin disc with the feel of a fridge magnet.
Left click throws the Tag. It sticks to whatever it hits, but the Switch only works if it’s stuck to a human: the things it switches need to be similar in mass and composition. It’s light enough that they won’t feel anything if they didn’t see you throw it, and you don’t have to be nearby or in line of sight to press Right mouse and switch places with them.
Once the tag is thrown, Left clicking again teleports it back to you without switching.
So it’s a stealth puzzle game about quietly tagging enemies, then purposefully throwing or trapping yourself into fatal hazards and switching at the last minute. The factory is a complete deathtrap: you’ll stand under smashing pistons, throw yourself into grinding gears, jump onto rusty sawblades, lock yourself in trash compactors, drop onto conveyor belts too fast to run against, walk off sheer drops, and dive onto safety railings have decayed into javelins of rust. The idea is invert the idea of avoiding death, and to make you feel a little of what you’re about to inflict: that physical wince just before you die of something unsettlingly physical in a videogame, like a long fall or heavy object.
Your task is to escape, obviously, and along the way you’ll mostly be using the Switch to get guards out of your way. In some situations, though, guards can also double as ‘lives’: tag one before attempting to navigate a tricky part of the factory, and if you slip and fail you can Switch to put him in your place and get another go. In those situations and others, killing isn’t strictly necessary, and if you’re trying to minimise it you’ll have to decide whether you want to set up that murderous contingency plan in case it comes to it.
Obviously there are thematic similarities with The Swapper, but both the tech and usage are different: that game was about cloning yourself, the Switch is just a teleporter. It’s about doing horribly suicidal and reckless things to yourself and using your unconventional weapon to transfer the consequences to others. Which is also why it needs a nasty intro and a persistent reminder of your desperate circumstances.
Previously: I came up with ideas for 8 previous game jams, 3 of which I actually made – Scanno Domini, Jake and the Infinite Jerkbots, and Floating Point. You can read about them all and play those three by browsing the game jams tag here.