veldstar1.jpgAs a game developer, Porpentine is best known for her groundbreaking works in Twine, like How to Speak Atlantean and Ultra Business Tycoon III, but her competition entry for Ludum Dare 27, The Grassfires of Veldstar, is a graphical action game. It's so quirky, interesting, and compulsively playable that I would have enjoyed it regardless of who made it. But maybe "enjoyed" is the wrong word, because the game's plot is a tale of genocide.

You are one of a peaceful race of eyeball creatures that tend powerful time-crystals and live in harmony with the world. Life is beautiful until one day when planes swoop down from the sky and start dropping bombs. The grasslands catch fire and the village burns. All you can do is run, dodging the spreading flames. In addition, you only have 10 seconds to reach each level's exit gate. Pick a safe path through the devastation and use the arrow keys to run, collecting crystals along the way to give you a few more precious seconds.

There are other obstacles as well, like gun turrets and a giant monster. All you can do is avoid them and their attacks (which can start even more fires). The gameplay is primarily reflex-based, but there are some tactics involved. Different types of grass burn at different rates, and some things don't burn, so you can learn to predict the general behavior of the blaze.

Running through the burning grasses, being singed and shot and watching your life meter slowly dwindling can get almost unbearably tense. The game also features some eerie music and unsettling voice work to add to the anxious, alien atmosphere. Survival can be pretty challenging in this game, so a "Friendly" difficulty mode is selectable on the main menu. The Grassfires of Veldstar is a Windows-only download.