These last few years, there’s been a special crackle in the air as we roll into the latter half of the year. In Japan, since 2005 (as far as I can tell), there’s been an annual art show wherein participants create artwork for the case of imaginary Famicom games, called My Famicase Exhibition. In 2015, a gamejam would begin shortly after the showcase that would present game developers with these covers to develop what the game attached to the artwork would be. One of my absolute favorite gamejams, the A Game By Its Cover Jam, facilitates a strange reverse-engineering of game development that produces beautiful, unexpected work.
Like most jams, there’s a lot to sift through in the submissions. Below, I’ve listed a handful of games from the jam that stood out to me, and are worth giving an in-depth look.
Starting things off, we have a collection of several games featured in VR. In it, you can enjoy NEST, SMoL and the Fluffy Beast, and soon, MËTALQUEST. Its graphics are light and fluffy, offering unique takes on the artwork from these titles.
Like an inverted city-builder, you play as a demon in charge of colonizing Earth’s moon as the rich flee the planet. Of course, as a demon, you aren’t interested in creating a sustainable ecosystem or flourishing city. Instead, you must harvest their blood while avoiding the suspicions of the denizens and Church.
A top down action game with adorable Gameboy-esque graphics, Horo tasks you with clearing nine levels of the woods as you track down the Kirin Horn. The interesting twist here is that you gather food through each level, and can then cook it for buffs before taking on the next level.
Taking the form of something that could have very well been on the Famicom back in the day, this title is an arcade action side-scroller. You work your way upwards against bevies of beasties, throwing daggers and jumping around. It plays a lot like Kid Icarus, and has the wonderful art to match.
Perhaps one of the most technically impressive games out of the jam, this provides you with a music sequencer to create chunky beats. Above the studio interface is a cute graphical element that animates alongside your BPM and changes based on your computer’s clock. You can even export tracks for your friends to check out!
Exploring a stellar surface, buildings will appear around you, beckoning exploration. Once you reach the summit, you can leap off and soar about before awaiting the next structure to emerge for you to clamber up. Its art is slick and evocative, creating a very calm atmosphere.
It’s a chat client where you can talk to cats. This the pinnacle of games. Do I need to say more?
Okay, but, really, it’s got a super charming presentation that’s very fitting for its premise, and it has a surprising amount of content! If you plan to check out any of the games listed here, this is definitely the one most deserving of your attention.
While that’s only seven of the 68 entires on the itch page for the jam, don’t consider these the only ones worth checking out. There’s so much love and work put into all of these games, and more than a few are honestly gems. Peruse the submissions, and see what covers catch your eye: https://itch.io/jam/a-game-by-its-cover-2019/entries
Catherine Brinegar is a trans game developer and filmmaker who explores the surreal and abstract in her work. Beyond her creative endeavors she enjoys losing herself inside other worlds, interactive and not. Finding inspiration in everything, Catherine aims to see all the world has to offer, through the continual conversation of art. You can keep up with her on twitter @cathroon.