Ludum Dare 43: Sacrifices Must Be Made

“Sacrifices Must Be Made” by Daniel Mullins.

“You find yourself in a dimly lit log cabin in the middle of the woods. You are starving to death. The stranger who resides there tells you that he will feed you if you defeat him in a game of cards.”

According to ancient myths, death is said to offer a deal to those who oppose it: if they beat it in a game – mostly chess – they may go back to the realm of the living. In these stories, death is portrayed as a fair player, but at the same time as a ruthless strategist. Every move is masterfully planned, and so human hope of escaping from the realm of the dead is often wiped out at the end.

The antagonist of the jam game “Sacrifices Must Be Made” strongly reminds me of this death figure. He offers to the player, who has not eaten for days and suffers agonizing hunger, to feed him, if he wins some games of a special card game. But a striking difference to the usual anthropomorphization of death remains: The opponent seems to have a warmer, more kind-hearted character at first, he even lets the player win the first round and explains all the rules and card types of the game, whenever the knowledge is needed. In this way, the tutorial is elegantly woven into the narration.

But after the second round, if you are behind, your opponent will make a very special offer. The player can buy an advantage, but not by money, but by sacrificing a body part. So it can happen that you lose an eye and thus only half of the field has completely in view. Or you lose your hand – and thus the ability to draw new cards.

The card game itself is based on a sacrificial mechanic. There are weak cards that can be put on the field without having to sacrifice another card. Then there are cards that need at least one, but no more than three offerings, so they can finally be played.

Mullis was able to incorporate the theme of the 43rd edition of the Ludum Dare (which is, as the game also is titled, “Sacrifices Must Be Made”) in two ways perfectly in his gameplay. But the most important sacrifice will only become clear at the end. A fantastic jam game in which ludonarrative harmony is a top priority. >>PLAY