Sybil's Tail is a tiny, 15-30 minute long platformer made for PICO-8. Run, jump, slide, grab, and toss your way through 6 bite-sized areas as you search for a mysterious meteorite that fell nearby!
hi there!! after 4 months of working on it, I've finally finished my first PICO-8 game, Sybil's Tail! this project was a lot of fun to work on, and getting everything to fit into the 32k of cart space required a lot of tricks to make things work right. a large reason it took so long was all the rewriting and compressing it took to get in all in there. but! the result is exactly the game I set out to make! I hope y'all enjoy exploring this little 8-bit world I've made.
it's also on itch here, which includes native exports, and the soundtrack. speaking of, I would like to extend special thanks to @kitorchid, who made the incredible cover art for the soundtrack, and @osmoru, whose adorable artwork formed the basis of the cartridge label design. In addition to those commissions, I also received wonderful artwork of Sybil from @MarziManed and @_pexl, who are both very cool artists that you should check out as well! And of course, I would like to thank all testers and of course my friends, without them none of this would have been possible.
some statistics (from version 1.0):
number of songs: 9
number of music patterns: 33
number of SFX: 63
non-empty map tiles: 3180
sprite animation frames: 99 (computed at runtime)
bg animation pixels: 60
number of object types: 25
number of in-game objects: 734
code size prior to data interleaving: 19435 bytes
in other words! for PICO-8, it's a big game. sometime I'd like to write a blog post about all the tricks I did to squeeze everything in there, but for now, I'm just happy to finally have it out here. hope y'all enjoy it!
[UPDATE version 1.1]
The game now makes use of the "secret" pico-8 color palette-- the result is far more colorful, while still retaining the color contrast between the day and night segments. additionally, balloons and ribbons now respawn, making the game a tad less frustrating. a couple bugs have also been fixed, and several have been added.
for the record, this is intended to be the last non-bugfix release for the game-- so I hope y'all enjoy it!
[UPDATE version 1.1.1]
1.1.1 is primarily a bugfix release, and addresses the following issues:
- mobs can no longer kill sybil in cutscenes
- fixed issue where picking up mob and ribbon at the same time would cause mob to appear over sybil's head
- fixed an overflow bug that would cause credits screen to disappear after a while
- fixed issue where the sound effect for a hard post-jump landing was used for soft landings and vice versa
- fixed issue where sliding speed would not be reset when respawning
- fixed issue where respawn position would be noticeably offset while in fullscreen mode
- fixed issue where color of some signs would be inconsistent/flicker
- removed graphical distortion that appears when the final boss kills sybil. too many players mistook it for a genuine bug…
- color 2 is no longer mapped to secret color 4 during the daytime
- carrying a mob into the starting area during the day will no longer cause their colors to glitch out
- sybil's lighting now reverts to normal as she enters her house at the end of the game
This is quite nicely done overall!
The movement and core gameplay mechanics are pretty solid, and the character has some neat and charming animations. The way certain things (like the radishes and ending portion) re-contextualize how you have to deal with obstacles is cool, too.
The flower collection at the top is also a neat touch for showing progression (and mistakes).
A few notes:
- The music feels decidedly haphazard, oftentimes more like a barrage of notes than a cohesive song. This is true of pretty much all of the tracks (except perhaps the cove area and the battle theme).
- Having some acknowledgement for collecting every radish would be nice (and possible one for blooming a lot of flowers?)
- It seems a little odd to me that balloons don't respawn.
- Sometimes when you try to pick up an enemy (even when it feels like you're a safe distance away) you'll still get hit.
@Jusiv thank you so much for playing!!
the music sounds like a barrage of notes because it is lol, I have basically no music skills but wanted to push outside my comfort zone. all things considered I’m happy with how it sounds, but I’ll probably have a better understanding of music-making for my next project haha.
and yeah, earlier betas of the game had a counter showing how many flowers the player had got, but there are hundreds of them and so I removed it to discourage extreme completionism.
also, lots of players have commented that they think it’s odd the balloons don’t respawn, which is strange to me, because I saw the entire point of the balloons as being a reward for being able to traverse them on the first try. still, it’s enough people saying that that I think I should chalk it up as a gameplay element that didn’t quite come across the way I hoped it would.
anyway, thank you so much for the feedback and critique, this is my first project so I have a lot of room to improve, but I’m really happy people seem to be enjoying my first attempt!
Sol, there are a great many modern games out there today that use only music RIFFs. That is, they play music maybe for about 5- 10- seconds into the game and then fade out neatly leaving only sound effects.
When the player progresses, perhaps a new level in the game, a new musical RIFF is chosen, played, and then silent again. The player WINS the music, he must earn it, it is not just given to him and only one tune.
ZEP, if you're reading this, maybe have an option to not turn off all sound but just MUSIC and/or SOUND EFFECTS ? Two separate menu choices.
@sol With regards to the balloons, from a player's perspective I think their disappearance feels more like a punishment than their presence feels like a reward.
The game definitely has a sense of being intended to be run in a single attempt, and while that can feel impressive, if you're anything like me you'll wind up dying quite a bit playing through. As such, having the yarn and balloons vanish after the first attempt means that from a casual player's perspective they almost might as well not be there because you'll almost never get to use them on the run you actually complete a section with.
Personally I don't think it would detract from the game to have those items respawn. To the expert players trying to sprint through without dying, it doesn't make a difference whether they respawn or not if they perform well enough, but for everyone else they basically have to permanently retry the section in Hard Mode after they screw up once. It also makes it harder to practice the sections as a speedrunner if you only get one shot at them with the boost of balloons/yarn. As such, I'd argue that it's pretty much entirely a net negative to make them not respawn.
On top of that, you might even be able to do some cool platforming sections that rely solely on balloons if you made them able to respawn.
@Jusiv you make a very compelling case! it reminds me of how midway through development, there was a sort of karma system intended to discourage fighting enemies, but it just made players stress about incurring penalties— so even though the mechanic worked as intended, it made the game less fun to play, which is why I removed it.
I’ll add respawning ribbons & balloons to the list of things to implement if/when I do a 1.1 version
@sol Ah yeah, sometimes the effects of things just don't work out as intended like that. I do agree that having an explicit karma system would wind up feeling too punishing, unless perhaps you had a way to earn it back.
That said, I'd actually argue you still have a bit of a karma system built in as it is:
@Jusiv yeah, that was definitely an intentional choice on my part— I realized the problem with karma systems is that preaching morality doesn’t really do much. it’s far more effective, when possible, to trust the player to come to their own conclusions.
I’m actually really happy to hear that came across the way I hoped it would. thank you again for playing!!
@dw817 yeah, I wanted to get some experience making music though, and riffs wouldn’t really accomplish that. the soundtrack is a bit rough, but I’m glad I did it cause now I have a baseline to measure future improvement against.
I do agree though that having functions for toggling SFX/MUSIC on and off independently would be super useful.
hello @sol it's a really awesome "little" game you've made. I said little, but it's really huge in technicity, and full of witty things to do.
I'm not a professional gamer, I seldom finish games because they are either too complicated or too long. For Sybil's tail it is so well-made that it encouraged me to finish it until the end (and probably also because you can't save). There are numerous checkpoints, which make the game not too tedious to progress into. I was stuck in a few places (damn mushroom fields!), but never for too long.
I'll probably show your game to my kid, I'm sure he'll love it!
In my opinion it's not a problem if balloons don't respawn.
The boss was tough to kill but I managed to do it! I was so proud of myself!
@farvardin thanks for playing the game! from the start I wanted the game to be respectful of people’s time, and it makes me so so happy to hear that allowed you to play the game!
in keeping with the philosophy of respecting the player’s time, while there is a secret ending, I made it subtle so that players who don’t have the time or a desire to collect all the radishes still feel like they got a full experience. it’s more a reward for completionists, or for folks doing a second playthrough, rather than an essential “true” ending to the game.
and, while it is subtle, there is a hint that there is another ending to the game!
I hadn't collected all the radishes anyway. It makes me want to try a new playthrough! ;)
Oh, and I discovered a little bug, when you throw an enemy on a switchable item, after you switch the item, it is still on top of it:
@farvardin well, you'll find a few new changes if you do run it again, as I just uploaded v 1.1 earlier today! ;)
as for that bug, eheh, it's in the "known but no fix planned" bin. I'm so, so tight for code space on the cartridge, and I'm saving what tokens I have left for game breaking bugs. thanks for the feedback though!
@Skulhhead1924 thank you so much for playing the game and the kind words!!!
the chicken sprite is a leftover from earlier in development, when breaking walls would yield chicken-- like in castlevania, except these wall chickens were alive. I left the sprite in as an easter egg-- and that tile is still used to spawn breakable blocks, so if you see chickens in the map editor, it's a string of destructible blocks! (this is also why the object ID for breakable blocks is "CHK")
Completed the game with all golden radish :D.
Boss at first was challenging, but when you get the pattern, it was pretty easy ;).
I like it when you finally defeated the boss, you still have to return to home, subtly another next level ;).
Also, was that high jump sign a troll? Hahah, got me.
@NeithR thank you so much for playing! yeah, the boss has a very simple pattern, but that’s probably a good thing given how many folks seem to find it difficult still
At first I thought this was a demake of the Tails adventure for the GameGear, but after playing it it's very clearly a different game.
In my first playthrough I thought I caught all the golden radishes, but I didn't realize how to bank them. Then, when I figured that out, I was amazed how the return trip turned obstacles that previously were no problem into frustrating puzzles. I'm talking about the buttons if you don't leave them in the right state you have to do a lot of backtracking.
--Then I discovered that if you're carrying an enemy when you hit checkpoint something happens... and I don't know what exactly, so here I go for another play through.-- EDIT: Never mind. Carried the same enemy through the same checkpoint as last time and nothing happened. Apparently the color palate goes a little pink at the end and I attributed it to the fact that I was carrying a red enemy who also turned a little pink.
I'm still a little confused about the garden up top. If you hit a floating green dot, you get a flower. If die, you get a flower. If you kill an enemy you get a flower. If you sprout a flower on the ground... you get nothing. For a game where you're complaining that you don't have enough room to adda switch to turn off the music, you've got a mechanic here that seems to do nothing. What builds it up is inconsistent, so the only thing you could do with it is play misre, which means you'd have to have a dodging and weaving pacifistic perfect run to insure that you didn't get any flowers in it. Is that what you want? Is there a reward for not getting any flowers in the garden? I honestly don't see how that's even possible, as there are some green dots that are just in your way. Please clarify the need for the garden in this game. And if there is no need for it, may I suggest you free up a few tokens and remove it. Just sayin'.
the purpose of the garden is to create a unique output for each playthrough. everyone’s garden grows differently, and I wanted to convey there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to play the game. there’s no reward for it, it’s just a thing that exists.
I’m curious how far you had to backtrack with the switches, they were placed so you never have to go too far back to make progress in the daytime segment. also I’m unsure what you mean by “if you’re holding an enemy when touching a checkpoint, something happens”, I can’t really remember anything like that being in the game. (EDIT: oh yeah, the palette glitches out at the end if you bring an enemy in. I may fix that in the future, depending on how many tokens I can scrounge up)
all that said, I know the game is far from perfect, and I really do appreciate you playing it and leaving feedback! thank you!
@StrawberryFox aww, thank you so much, any fanart would be greatly appreciated! I’m glad you enjoyed the game!
I have a small cache of lore about the character, but personality-wise, she is a very curious (as in, easily distracted) fox. she grew up in the city, but feels most at home near nature, hence why she built her house in the middle of nowhere. her greatest weakness is that she’s no good at keeping a regular sleep schedule.
there are other things I could mention, but until the day comes that I have to write dialogue for the character, I want to leave most of her personality up to player interpretation.
and yes, the green creatures are frogs! though they are supposed to be blocky and weird looking, they aren’t like real world frogs in that sense.
@North_Wolf thank you so much for playing! I'm glad you found my little world interesting!
Plays fine here, @sol.
Not to toot my own horn but after I gave my original computer to my Godfather who only needed it for Email and Youtube, I went and got myself specifically a "GAMING PC."
I have never been happier. All the stuff I had earlier that slogged and hiccuped all over the place no longer does, and that includes Pico-8 either Online or Offline.
If you're thinking of getting a new computer, consider a GAMING PC, especially if you want to focus on graphics and audio quality.
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