I find the harsh time limit and theme of a game jam provide me with inspiration. This jam didn't particularly have either but I still wanted to participate and knew I wanted to make another PICO-8 project. I decided to treat the resolution as the theme, but 64x64 pixels is actually a lot of space; it doesn't particularly limit what kinds of games you can make. It occurred to me that I could split the screen into a set of 9 20x20 cells with a 1-pixel border around each. This was promising, since 20x20 is restrictive enough that it inspires creativity to work within - exactly what I was looking for! In trying to think of mechanics I could fit into a 20x20 screen I had plenty of tiny throwaway ideas and realised I could make a microgame collection in the vein of WarioWare. I liked the challenge of trying to make one tiny game every day, which also gave me a harsher time limit to force yet more creative decision making. I set to it.
Because this project wasn't stupidly ambitious enough, I figured I'd have a go at maze generation (something I've not done before). I chose a very simple type of maze generation, the binary tree algorithm, because you don't need to store anything during generation.
To try and tie everything together into a cohesive whole, the framework of the game requires you to win at least 4 out of 9 games. If you do you'll be given a new set of 9 at a higher difficulty. Eventually you'll lose and your score is the total number of games you passed. This was directly inspired by WarioWare and works nicely, but balancing the difficulty progression of 14 games is a very time-consuming affair and not something I was able to properly commit to. As it stands the games are mostly balanced up to around level 4, beyond which many of them become literally impossible.
In terms of the game jam I did pretty well. Since I was using a screen mode hack to force the PICO-8's resolution from 128x128 to 64x64, it was impossible for me to break the rules of the resolution. As a result I came joint 1st out of 392 entries for 'authenticity'. Far more relevant though are my overall rating and the ratings for enjoyment, feel and aesthetics. I placed pretty well in all categories, including top 20 for enjoyment and overall game, which is fantastic.
Overall this was an extremely enjoyable project and I have a new-found love for making tiny, single-mechanic microgames. I think I'd really enjoy building silly minigames and games-within-games as part of a large project. Hopefully I'll get to do that in the future.