Walking into Xsolla’s Bangsar South office, I expected to find a frigid environment where tensions were high and developers were rushing to finish their games.
After all, the Global Gam Jam (GGJ)—an event held worldwide where game creators come together to develop original video games in about two days—was in its final hour.
Yet, the “vibes” at Xsolla were chill, to say the least. A few participants were milling about the swanky new office of the video game commerce company, which was sponsoring the event. Some were sitting in the common area, while others were tucked away in different meeting rooms.
Yee I-Van, the regional organiser of GGJ Malaysia (and MDEC Head of Incubation, community manager of GAMESHQ as well as the creator behind HR: The Toxic Workplace Game), told me that the event isn’t so much a competition rather than just a gathering of the minds.
There are no winners and losers here, which might explain why the event was not as stressful as I imagined it to be.
Established in 2008, GGJ is 15 years old, and Malaysia has been participating every single year save for the very first one.
The theme this year is “roots”, which might sound simple enough at first. However, as I-Van explained to me, it could also revolve around not just literal plant roots, but also ancestral roots, root causes, and more.
Individual creators and pre-formed teams were invited, though the latter groups must choose between two additional challenges:
- Randomise three names from “Random Game Name Generator” and pick one to fulfil.
- Ask ChatGPT for a game suggestion.
With the theme and the added challenges in mind, I couldn’t wait to see how the Malaysian jammers would interpret the mission. Here’s what they managed to cook up within the two-day game jam, and we’ve provided links for those that can be played already.
1. Roots Quest
As a pre-formed team, Team Bingchill’s game follows a prompt from ChatGPT, which was as such:
Roots Quest – A puzzle-adventure game where players take on the role of a botanist exploring different environments to uncover the hidden roots and secrets of the plant kingdom.
The goal of the game is to collect samples of different plant species and study their roots to learn about their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Players must navigate through challenging puzzles, obstacles, and collect power-ups to progress to the next level and unlock new areas to explore.
The game will also have an educational aspect where players can learn about different plant species and the role they play in our ecosystem.
The final game followed the prompt rather closely, featuring a robot protagonist and a top-down perspective.
Play here: https://arifimran.itch.io/rootsquest
2. Carnage Business of Vengeance
Five-person team Tinder Tabbies built a 2.5D strategy puzzle game where players take on the role of a vigilante who aids others in exacting revenge.
To gather necessary items based on the client’s request, players must travel along lines on the ground to visit various locations throughout the city.
Players must choose between different risk levels while obtaining materials. The higher the risk, the higher the rewards, but you might also end up being apprehended by the police, who then block that path so players might not be able to return to the office.
Once the player has all the items, they can successfully complete the client’s request and take home the prize.
3. Subterranean Stick Anthology
Procaffeinate’s (which means procrastinating until you get coffee) game is a Metroidvania title with a stick-figure protagonist.
The player fights enemies underground while solving movement puzzles and has an objective of uncovering and beating the dark force that’s corrupting the roots of the world.
Dictionary time: Metroidvania, a portmanteau of popular games Metroid and Castlevania, is a game sub-genre focused on guided non-linearity and utility-gated exploration and progression.
The game title, Subterranean Stick Anthology, was created by a random name generator. A prompt from ChatGPT as followed was also used:
Subterranean Stick Anthology – A side-scrolling action-adventure game where players take on the role of a stick figure exploring the roots of the earth. The game is set in a world where a powerful force is threatening the stability of the earth’s crust, causing massive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
The player’s goal is to navigate through underground caves and tunnels, fighting off monsters, solving puzzles, and collecting power-ups to uncover the source of the disturbances and put an end to the chaos.
The game features multiple levels, each with unique challenges, environments, and enemies. The game can be played solo or co-op with friends. The game’s story is told through stick figure animations, and the soundtrack is inspired by classic video game music.
The team originally intended to create multiple levels, but due to the time constraint, decided to focus on the boss fight.
4. Melinda the Herbalist
Perhaps the game that garnered the most applause was Melinda the Herbalist, created by a one-person team called Team Church of Saint Godot (Godot being the game engine used to create the game).
Set in a post-apocalyptic world overtaken by robots, this game follows Melinda, a green-haired herbalist who is taking back the “root of the server” by using her plants to root into corrupted robots.
A 2D platformer game, Melinda the Herbalist shows great promise in terms of the premise, art, as well as game mechanics.
5. Roots of Power
In Roots of Power by Akirassassin, players must defend themselves and their homeland from enemies by shooting at them. Players can only shoot while rooted and can unroot themselves to dodge attacks.
After levelling up, players can choose between a few options for a new tile that grants power-ups.
The game was inspired by a ChatGPT prompt:
Roots of Power – A fast-paced action game where players take on the role of a powerful warrior who must defend their homeland from an invading army.
The player is equipped with a magic weapon that is rooted in the earth, and the player’s power increases as they collect the roots of ancient trees scattered throughout the game world. The player must battle against the enemy army, using their weapon and magic abilities to defeat the enemies and protect their home.
The game features a variety of weapons and magic abilities, each with unique strengths and weaknesses, and players can choose the path they take through the game world.
The game can be played solo or with friends in a cooperative multiplayer mode. The game features vibrant, fast-paced action and a thrilling storyline that will keep players engaged from beginning to end.
Roots of Power looks to be a rather challenging but fun game to play and master, and the level-up system is a great addition to the original prompt.
Play here: https://akirassasin.itch.io/roots-of-power
6. Furry Gopher Farmer
If you can’t already tell from the names of both the team as well as their game, Team Research is Pain’s Furry Gopher Farmer is quite the humorous title. Of course, the game title itself was randomly generated as the team was a pre-formed one.
In this game, players are furry gopher farmers (a gopher who is also a farmer, not a farmer of gophers, mind you) who must find the precious figurine they lost. They can attack enemies by chucking carrots, an ability that has a cooldown.
7. Roots of Terror
Team Cope Bros’ Roots of Terror is a 2D horror game following a young boy who enters a dark forest in search of a missing person. Exploring a haunted forest with nothing but a trusty flashlight, the player must locate batteries to keep their flashlights powered.
The beam of light also acts as a weapon that can kill frightening creatures. With Roots of Terror being a game that’s literally and metaphorically dark, these creatures come in the form of babies with spidery legs. *shudder*
Spoiler alert: At the end of the game, the terrifying mystery of the forest is revealed—the missing person has been swallowed by a tree, which will only do the same to the player.
The ChatGPT prompt was:
Roots of Terror – A 2D horror game where players explore a haunted forest in search of a missing person. The forest is plagued by strange and frightening creatures that emerge from the roots of the trees.
The player must navigate through the dark and creepy forest, using only their flashlight to light the way and their wits to avoid the dangers lurking in the shadows.
The player must collect items, solve puzzles, and use their quick reflexes to outwit the creepy creatures and unravel the mystery behind the missing person and the sinister forces that control the forest.
The game features atmospheric visuals and sound effects, creating a tense and suspenseful atmosphere. The game can be played solo or with a friend in local co-op mode.
Play here: https://eres12day.itch.io/roots-of-terror
8. Power Root
Created by Team Borger, which includes I-Van as a team member, Power Root is a quirky 2D puzzle platformer where you play as Rootpert, a potato-looking character.
Set in a strange world filled with bizarrely cute enemies such as Ant-hony and Bee-linda, Rootpert has a few abilities that let the potato grapple onto the platforms.
The game features cute sound effects voiced by one of the creators. The premise of the game was prompted by ChatGPT, though it originally had a different name:
Roots of the Bizarre – A quirky 2D puzzle-platformer where players take on the role of a plant-like creature exploring a strange world filled with bizarre creatures and obstacles. The player’s goal is to collect the roots of other plants scattered throughout the game world, using them to grow and evolve their own abilities.
The player can stretch their roots to grapple onto platforms, extend their branches to reach far-off places, and even use their roots to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. The game features a whimsical art style, quirky sound effects, and a strange and surreal world that will keep players on their toes.
The game can be played solo or with a friend in local co-op mode. With its bizarre and unpredictable challenges, “Roots of the Bizarre” is a fun and funky adventure that will have players thinking and laughing at the same time.
Play here: https://alchymy.itch.io/power-root
9. Root of Power
The only tabletop roleplay game (TTRPG) was by a solo game creator, Nik.
Set in Nusantara, the objective of Root of Power is to retrieve the rare and powerful Root of Power, AKA Tongkat Ali (a plant known as a traditional Asian remedy for male sexual performance).
In this world, the Root of Power is said to hold not just immense strength but also the power to grant immortality.
This TTRPG can be played by individuals or groups and does not require a game master, as the rulebook and character sheets suffice.
Created by Justin Oon, Tetrees is a puzzle game that takes inspiration from Tetris, but instead of stacking up, it spreads downwards.
The blocks are essentially roots, and there’s a health bar indicating the amount of water your tree has. You must reach the next droplet of water to replenish the health bar.
Play here: https://justinooncx.itch.io/tetrees
In Rootbender, players can control a root of a tree, using it to kill bats that will harm the tree.
For added difficulty, the root has a limited length and must fully retract first before players can control it again.
i_am_rooted is a game by Jonathan Tang, also known as Magthylius. The game is reminiscent of Dorfromantik what with the usage of hexagonal tiles. Roots intuitively form along the tiles, connecting all the way back to the tree.
Submitting his game a full day and 10 hours before the deadline, Jonathan is also the site organiser and International Game Developers Association (IGDA) coordinator.
Play here: https://magthylius.itch.io/i-am-rooted
13. Tangled Memori
Team Revival, a group that consists of first-time jammers (save for one), created a short narrative-driven puzzle mystery game.
Players play as Frank, a recently deceased spirit who can’t remember how he died. Through the game, we are able to relive the last moments of his life, uncovering clues as to who killed him.
A side-scroller game, Tangled Memori features themes of horror, humorous dialogue, and an interesting plot to boot. As a fan of great narratives, Tangled Memori was one of my favourites from the jam and a game I hope will continue to be developed.
Play here: https://alacz.itch.io/tangled-memori
14. Ah Long Dentist
Team Bytesized’s game, Ah Long Dentist, has a pretty kooky but interesting premise.
The player is an “Ah Long” (loanshark) dentist who has a family history of magic. After the player’s great-grandma passes, he coerces the rest of his family members to get their magical teeth extracted so he can use them to bring his great-grandma back to life.
Inspired by Surgeon Simulator, this first-person game lets you pluck out teeth with your right hand while blocking attacks from the patients with your left.
The three self-explanatory attacks are Chomp, Cough, and Bad Breath.
Watch the demo here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoocyKIWPGE
Play here: https://sillee.itch.io/ah-long-dentists
15. Root For You!
In the rhythm game Root For You!, you get to control a group of fans who cheer on the main “player” of the game.
By accurately copying the cheers of the enemy, fans can essentially tell the “player” the opponent’s moves. You can start your cheers at any time, but once you start, you need to follow the rhythm of the opponent’s pattern.
Although the game wasn’t very fleshed out yet by the end of the event, the developers had worked to include some colour-blindness accessibility options.
This is a game created by FunGuys, which features the youngest participants at the ages of 12 and 14.
Mikael Wong, the dad, is the programmer, while 14-year-old Adrian is the game director and sound designer. 12-year-old sister Maisarah also participated as the 2D/UI Artist.
Another Metroidvania game, CorROOTion features a corrupted politician by the name of TUNEP (turnip).
Cronyism, bribery, and embezzlement fight back in a form of root vegetables (who represent the good politicians). Players must win against the corruption to stop the entire ROOT vegetable kingdom from being turned into soup.
Play here: https://hjcina.itch.io/corrootion
17. Golden Roots
Golden Roots is a top-down, local multiplayer game where players compete to dig out valuable roots to gain points in a limited time.
By using the shovel, players can hit and stun each other, making Golden Roots quite a fun competitive game.
Watch the gameplay here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmG6M7oFYf0
Play here: https://realpotatocat.itch.io/golden-root
18. Elven Roots
Consisting of four creators, Team Skill Issue’s Elven Roots is a 2D side-scroller platformer. Players take on the role of a femme fatale who’s on a quest to investigate the dark runic arts and stop the evil roots that are terrorising the peace of her elven village.
Watch the gameplay here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSBMOYXCfM0
Play here: https://s34nn.itch.io/elven-roots
Created by Reiyx, /Root_ is centred around a virus deployed by a hacker, tasked to navigate through a complex, maze-like server system to reach the “/root” directory.
The server is guarded by firewalls that slowly encroach upon the player, who is constantly rolling forward without pause. Players can control their mouse horizontally as well as adjust the speed at which they are rolling, but be careful—the faster you roll, the trickier the handling becomes.
To avoid falling into the void areas of the system, you must also pay attention to the mini map of the maze in the top corner of the screen.
The “hacker” concept of the game is rather refreshing. Aesthetics aside, players must input /start to begin the game and type in /help to access the settings.
Play here: https://reiyx.itch.io/root
20. Haunted Flatulence Universe
Created by Team 8hours (who joined the game jam with only eight hours left), Haunted Flatulence Universe is a game where players are presented with two images—one drawn by a real person, and one generated by AI.
Select the right answer and your tree’s roots will diverge in two paths, allowing you to reach more coins. Players who get more than half right will pass the game, securing their identities as humans.
The premise is that humans are now haunted by the dominance of AI in our lives, so must survive or be deported to a very dark and lonely flatulent universe.
To stick to the randomly generated name, the game has a classy fart sound when the player loses.
While I-Van was giving me a tour of the space, he mentioned that one of the goals of the event is to show that Malaysians can jam just as well as anyone else.
Watching the presentations, I realised that these game jams are not only opportunities for local talents to put their capabilities to the test, but a great way for the community to assure each other of the great potential in Malaysia, regardless of age or professional experience. Networking, connections, and exposure are a definite plus, too.
At the time of writing, not all the games that were presented have been uploaded to itch.io, but a dedicated page has been made for them. If any of the games sound interesting to you, be sure to bookmark the page.