With the premise “You are the monster”, Ludum Dare 33 saw many interesting entries. The Mammoth: A Cave Painting tells a short and simple, yet tear-jerking story, with a very distinctive (and beautiful) visual style.
You are mother mammoth, doing your best to protect your small children from human hunters while trying to rejoin with your herd. As a giant behemoth, you can ram to kill them as well as call up to rejoin your family your children, however, are small and fragile, so hunters are after them every second (think Pikmin but you are the one doing the work).
You need to survive and do your best to keep the little creatures safe. You are not invincible, and with enough time, all there will be left is either the corpses of the culprits next to each of your children, or you will be the one accompanying your progeny to the afterlife.
Whatever the outcome, the game takes about 5 minutes, and uses just a couple buttons to tackle and call your family.
Graphics stand out for setting the mood of the whole game: the beautiful hand-drawn, cave-like paintings and simplistic animations drive home the idea that you are not controlling the events in real time, but you take part in a memory long past, brought back to life.
There is very little more to say about them apart than they are perfect for the story they are telling (so much that the game won Ludum Dare 33’s 6th spot in the “Mood” category, while being a fair competitor in others).
While the drawings look a bit too good to be considered realistic caveman paintings, it’s a very small price to pay for such polished art (made in 3 days along the rest of the game, no less).
The sight of the big, strong mother comes to a stark contrast with your children who, out of your negligence or just bad luck, end up getting killed, one by one. The advantage of such small games is that you can focus on a specific thing and have the strictly necessary everything else to accomplish that single message.
The Mammoth is a short story about grief, demise, and monsters – remember, you are controlling the mammoth defending her children, but each one of those hunters also have families waiting for them and children that could die from hunger should their fathers fail.
The game is a strong start for the team behind it, inbetweengames, whose members formerly worked in the cancelled Dead Island 2 and other games at YAGER. If you like The Mammoth, remember to stay tuned to their blog, they promise similar small works that’ll explore various visual styles in the future.
For now, I’ll just leave this here…