At long last, the game is finally done!
Before you play: Dank Tomb is a pay-what-you-want title, which means that if you prefer to play it for free, it's perfectly okay to do so. But I'd really appreciate it a lot if you choose to pay for it through itch.io, or support my future work on Patreon! Supporters get bonus stuff as a thank-you from me: an expedition journal with additional story for Dank Tomb and access to unminified PICO-8 source code for the game ($5+).
Enjoy the game, and let me know what you think! A lot of blood, sweat, tears and elbow grease went into making this game, so I hope you'll have as much fun playing it as I had making it!
If you'd like to put the game down and return to it later, the game features a special room where you can save your progress. Once you see the "progress saved" message, it's safe to close the browser/console. To delete your progress (to get 100% completion on a new playthrough, maybe?), press Enter and select "delete progress" from the in-game menu. Warning: irreversible!
EDIT: updated to 1.1 - now with more generous jumps!
Donating for the amazing blogs alone. Incredibly impressive. A technical and visual masterpiece.
I've only played as far as the savepoint so far, but gameplay is promising so far. I fear I am going to be very bad at it by the time I get to more complicated rooms. I'm having a hard time jumping over even tiny gaps.
I love the X-to-interact prompts and the sparkle as you pick up an item. The level of polish here is delightful.
Thanks for the kind words, everyone! They mean a lot to me and it feels great to see people enjoy my work!
Scathe: Not at all, as long as you keep the link back to itch.io and Patreon :) Your site is a good resource for the PICO-8 community, I use it a lot to find new stuff.
Just fixed a save corruption issue - if you managed to finish the game already and then deleted your progress, you might be affected.
If strange things happen (items you haven't collected disappearing), you'll have to "delete progress" again, sorry. The bug is fixed in the new version (1.02).
I was expecting the action scenes to overwhelm me, but it's actually the puzzles that I've gotten stuck on. I finished one pillar-pushing puzzle with a somewhat unsatisfactory method of hanging off a 1-pixel ledge to push a pillar around a narrow corner, and I'm not sure if that was the intended solution.
Now I'm stuck on a room with a boulder, a pillar, and the need to get one or the other across a narrow web of platforms to the top right corner. It seems impossible to stand in the right places to push the boulder to the top-right, but similarly it seems impossible to get the boulder to come to rest on the button that raises the final bridge without leaving the pillar trapped. I'm stumped.
@weeble: Which room did you solve with the 1-pixel exploit, the room with the U-shaped platform? If so, you probably didn't get the wand, and you need that to solve the next room - which is why you're now stuck.
I'll see if I can reproduce/fix this alternate solution so that there is no more confusion like this, sorry.
If you want controllers to have proper layout, swap the inputs and change the title screen to advertise ZX. (or use the O and X glyphs if you want to be extra proper)
edit for proper gravitas: Seriously good work. The music is nice, the lighting is mind-blowing. This is, like, historic.
@weeble: Sorry for all the trouble. I have now fixed the collision boxes on a few things for 1.03, so the confusing solutions in the west wing should no longer be possible. You might have to restart from a saved position and re-do part of the west wing, since you're probably stuck because of the bugs, just like you said.
Thanks for telling me about these issues, hope you can enjoy the game now! :)
@tyroney: I show keyboard keys on the title screen because PICO-8 people usually know how the keys are mapped anyway. That doesn't hold if you only show random internet people which PICO-8 buttons to press ;)
You're using the wrong two keys. Based on your title screen, it appears you want the jump button on the right. (which I personally happen to agree with.) If I'm on a foreign keyboard, or I've rebound the keys, or if I'm using a controller, my experience will be the opposite.
ZX and CV are two alternate sets of keys that just happen to be next to each other on a qwerty keyboard. Your title screen suggests using one key from each set, and to have jump on the right side you have reversed the key bindings to make that work while messing it up for anyone using proper keys or buttons.
Didn't know there were "wrong" keys to use, must have missed the memo :)
XC is stable across international keyboards (at least the ones I'm familiar with, German and French). I learned my lesson when I released The Lair and got tons of comments saying that ZX doesn't work well in their country.
To be honest, the title screen instructions were only an attempt to find a pair of keys that works well internationally, not a conscious attempt to have the jump button on the right. I'm sorry you feel my choice of XC is wrong, but if it's any consolation, you're free to use the "proper" keys instead of XC. I get that it's going to be reversed, but there is no universal "finger standard" on where to put jump, so somebody is still going to be unhappy whichever ordering I choose.
So, obviously, excellent work on this cart. It is extremely polished and plays really really well.
I wanted to try and be a little more critical, since you are putting together a great portfolio of work. Mind you, these are just my views, so take with them with a grain of salt.
While the lighting definitely looks cool, I found that my eyes were hurting after 15 minutes or so. This might just be me, but I find extremely detailed, low res sprties to be hard on the eyes, especially when they are in a flickering light like you have put together. The lighting is arguably the cetnerpiece of this cart, so I am not sure how to address this, but just as an FYI I probably would not sit down to play a long game in this graphics style.
Also, man, the slightly-off-top-down-view. Again, I realize a big part of this game is looking down into this cool little tomb, but when I am squirreling around near a north-facing wall that is obscuring my view and I am squinting at 2 or 3 pixels of my character and a block he's trying to push... not my cup of tea. I have the same problems with Nuclear Throne - the walls look cool, but when they obscure your view it can be hugely frustrating.
I think this is a detail that Nintendo got right with Zelda on SNES. Even though that game also features the 'mostly' overhead view, north-facing walls actually still slope away from the camera. verticality is a major factor in that game, and although graphics move along the y axis to communicate z height (like your jump), they 'fib' a little bit with walls and doors for the sake of playability. This is a bit of a design choice, but I just wanted to point out that I, and probably other folks, found it frsutrating.
Lastly, some of your puzzles are a little labor-heavy. Specifically, there is one room in the west portion where you must repeatedly push a pillar to act as a blocker for a ball. This puzzle takes reaally long to execute, and having squirrely jumps in the middle makes it a bit of a trial. At a certain point, I feel less like I am solving a puzzle and more like I am doing busy work, and I began to dread upcoming rooms.
Anyways, I just wanted to give you some honest feedback. Again, this is a super sharp game, and I hope you keep pushing the envelope on pico8.
These "sprites" are actually parts of the map. The "2" and "3" tabs in the sprite editor shares memory space with the lower half of the map. I split it evenly - 192 sprites, 128x48 map space.
Minification was necessary to make it fit in the PNG format (P8 format lets you ignore the compressed size limit). Hand-made minifier, as there is some very specific tricks I use that require minification to work within strings.
Thank you, I love getting feedback, positive (which helps me keep motivation up) and negative (which helps me make better games).
I'm aware of the problems with the top-down view - I've been aware of them since the first play tests. It's counter-intuitive that there is a whole tile of space "under" a north-facing wall, and jumps along the Y axis are trickier than they should due to edges being less obvious. I consciously avoided relying on both these things in room designs. I also tried to alleviate the issues somewhat - for example, hitboxes give you more leeway when you're jumping vertically.
The 2D Zelda perspective has two problems - one, it's better suited for rooms than corridors, which look awkward if every wall is visible. Two, it (in my opinion) communicates verticality badly (wouldn't be a problem for DT, but in general). And three, it is tightly associated with Zelda to the point of any game using it being described as copying it's style from Zelda :)
Regarding the puzzles - this is something hard to get right in puzzle games in general. Making a puzzle more complex usually means it takes more time to execute the solution, which isn't fun when you already solved it. I even wrote about it in my puzzle design article as one of the pitfalls I tried to avoid - evidently, I wasn't entirely successful. I agree that the room you mention has one of the worst "fun/time" quotients - sorry to hear it soured you for the rest of the game. Interestingly, it was a room I changed very shortly before release (the previous version had a buggy solution) - tells you something about the value of playtests :).
There was an interesting article about the making of Head over Heels (I think - definitely one of the classic isometric ZX Spectrum games) where Jon Ritman described his creative process behind each rooms.
Rooms were categorised as either action room or puzzle rooms. Puzzle room had some trick to solve but didn't require any great physical skill to complete. Action rooms were obvious what you had to do but required precise platforming.
Initially he also had action-puzzle rooms which had a simple puzzle to solve that also required trickyish platforming to pull off but he discovered they weren't fun - if a player failed they didn't know why: had they failed at solving the puzzle or were there platforming skills not good enough?
I've always thought about that dichotomy when making my own games.
> if a player failed they didn't know why: had they failed at solving the puzzle or were there platforming skills not good enough?
Did you find that to be a problem in Dank Tomb? This as an honest question, not a dismissal.
I was very conscious of avoiding something I call "accidental difficulty" - when the room is meant to be a puzzle, but is only difficult for dexterity-related reasons (or the other way around). But I'm open to the idea that I missed some places.
Ritman presents an interesting viewpoint, but I'm not sure I agree with making the line this hard. Every room should be focused - it should be clear what the challenge is supposed to be and what tools should be used to overcome it. Enforcing a strict puzzle/action dichotomy is a way to achieve that, but it's only one way, and an extreme one.
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