PICO-8 is a game fantasy console that gives a retro style to the games created in it. It is defined as “like a real-world console, but without the inconvenience of actual hardware.”
The engine has everything that makes a console a console, except physical cartridges. Instead, programs made for the engine are distributed on png images that look similar to cartridges.
There are lots of interesting and tiny but super fun games made on the PICO-8 console. PICO-8 games tend to have a simple amount of controls; normally two buttons (Z & X) as well as the arrow keys. Below, I am going to cover a few of my favorites.
#Celeste is an elegantly made hardcore platformer set on a cold mountain climb. You play a character with pink hair. You are able to jump, including wall jumping, and you can activate a boost ability to get around the level. Once you use the boost, your hair will turn blue until you touch back down on a surface, then it will go back to pink.
Sometimes there are pink balloons floating in levels. You can jump or boost into these to get an additional boost to use right then. This will be crucial to finishing the levels that the balloons are in. There are also keys, chests, and strawberries in various levels. You can collect the keys to open the chest and gather strawberries, as they will provide bonus points.
Instead of different levels in Celeste, you go up in altitude, which is a very nice feature. This game has quite a bit of challenge in it, with new mechanics dotted along the mountain.
#Spaceman8 is a really nice space game that has you working at a mining colony in space for a week. It is your job to search through the caves of asteroids for gems and bring them back to company collection areas.
There are several types of machines that float around the cave collecting the resources. Each one has a number on it, one through three, which works as a multiplier for the amount of money you will receive for collecting the gems. There are also four types of gems that you can collect; small blue ones that instantly give you cash, a small green gem, a medium red gem, and a large yellow gem — each of those need to be brought to a collector.
Once you pick up a gem, it will hang by a rope from your character. You will be weighed down by this gem, and it can get caught on the walls.
At the end of the day, you will run out of oxygen, so you must make it to the red collector to either go back to your home, or, to take your lunch break. You can use the money you earn to buy upgrades to make your job easier!
This game has some challenge, especially in regards to not letting gems weigh you down and making it back to your designated machine before your oxygen runs out!
#DuskChild is a mysterious platformer that challenges you to figure out what you need to do to explore this strange world. You are in a world full of secrets and places for you to explore. You must explore around the level, reading signs and solving puzzles.
There are several areas in this world, some blocked off while others are available to explore. There are large, looming statues around — these seem to have something to do with your goal. You will need to pick up strange objects like orbs, gems, and a broken bucket. This bucket is quite interesting — it can be filled by waterfalls, but it leaks slowly as you walk around.
You will need to use objects to weigh down levers and unlock areas. I do not want to spoil this beautiful game, but do pay attention to the signs and environments around you!
Balls of the same color can collide to create a new, brighter colored ball. If you create multiples of the new colors on the board, you can bounce those balls into each other to continue to make more colors!
Your goal is to shoot out as many balls as you can while combining them to new colors. There is a bar at the top of the screen that will warn you when the board is getting overloaded. If there are too many balls (or if you don’t make enough combos) you will lose! Try to get the high score in this very fun color colliding game!
#Marballs2 is a marble rolling game where you must get your ball to the white area of the level. You control the movement of the ball, but also its ability to jump! You will need to jump to platforms that are higher up to get to the end.
Sometimes platforms that are lit will help you jump higher by way of increasing your jump height. In many levels there are other floating white balls that need to be collected before the exit will animate. These levels do get challenging quickly!
There are ways to fall off these platforms, jumps that take real precision, and sometimes even towers that block off your vision partially. You might need to retry some levels before you can complete it. Marballs 2 also has a level editor so you can create your own levels in the game and share them with your friends.
One Room Dungeon
#OneRoomDungeon, a Ludum Dare 37 submission, has you running around a series of rooms (arms flailing) and activating white tiles. When activated, the white tiles then change color. Once all of the tiles are turned, the room around you starts to shake, and you can bash your character straight into any of the four walls to shift to a different room and change all of the tiles within it.
As you run through room after room, monsters and bombs will start appearing, as well as special tiles to mess you up. These monsters will chip away at your health if they touch you, so be on the lookout for health tiles to slide over. The rooms will increase in both challenge and intensity as you play! Try it out!
#TinyParkour is the best micro-parkour you will ever find. Each of these long levels are filled with tiny platforms, stairways, and different routes to get to the end. The title screen is even a parkour course to get you used to the game, though it's not as long as the normal courses!
To keep you going the right way, there are animated markers that you can follow and collect. Sometimes these serve as checkpoints for very challenging points in the game. You can play Tiny Parkour zoomed out, seeing the entirety of the level, or zoomed in on your character and the direct areas around you. This will help for more precision jumping.
Though these levels may be overwhelming at first, following the markers and taking your time to plot out where you are going really helps! This tiny parkour course is no joke.
PICO-8 games, though similar in style, cover a large variety of genres of games. These are only a taste of games I have seen floating around. You can also find just beautiful animated pixel art from time to time on this console.