Leaf Me Alone (Expanded)
Though, of course, the ideal for games submitted to game jams such as Ludum Dare is that they be complete, satisfying works in themselves, some ideas just beg to be expanded upon. Leaf Me Alone, a charming, minimalist, metroidvania platformer by Mark Foster and David Fenn, was one such concept, and now the two have released Leaf Me Alone (Expanded) a work built on the structure of the retro original, that greatly broadens the scope of both gameplay and the quirky world in which it takes place. As before you'll be moving your-and-my-favorite brown-blobby seed guy with the [arrow] keys, jumping with [Z], picking up and throwing items with [X], and using [C] to summon... well, you'll see. The emphasis here is, of course, on exploration, but throughout you'll come into contact with another traveler who seems quite similar to you, and puzzling out his deal will have you traipsing the entire world and every season in it.
Half a remake, half a sequel, the expanded edition of Leaf Me Alone is the Metal Gear Solid to the original's Metal Gear. The mechanics, setting, and some of the puzzles will be instantly familiar, but the developers have definitely managed the balance of adding nuance and intricacy (not to mention a host of secrets references and Easter eggs!) without sacrificing the natural minimalism at its core. Comparisons to Fez and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker are obvious, but this muted organic world, filled with fascinating creatures that may not ever notice you, calls to mind the world of Samorost if created by a deity who enjoyed low-rez platformers to pointer-and-clickers. Like most Metroidvanias, it could use a few more gentle nudges in the early stage (especially since it's sometimes difficult to tell if a jump you keep barely missing is supposed to be one you're not supposed to be making yet), but overall this is the refined experience any fan of the original could have hoped for. With its gorgeous pixel art and subtly enchanting soundtrack, and Leaf Me Alone is poetry for the senses, and definitely shows how games made on a dare, in a jam, can flourish into something tall and astounding.