PUNKCAKE Delicieoux are an incredible gamedev duo with a remarkable business model. Benjamin Soulé and Rémy Devaux built their own game engine, Sugar, and with it their goal is to pump out a new game every month. They’ve been able to cheat this a little bit as they have already produced several games on PICO-8 or for Ludum Dare which they’ve been able to upgrade into and re-release as premium versions using their new engine but they are also coming up with brand new ideas all the time. The games are predominantly sold in itch.io but their bigger-hitting games are available on Steam and they also offer a patreon subscription that works well with their monthly release schedule. PUNKCAKE’s games cover an array of genres – shooters, tactics, sim, pong, cards, puzzle – and they’re only getting started. They do have a few things in common though: Incredible pixel art graphics (spanning a range of styles), some absolute bangin’ chiptunes by Pentadrangle, and they would all make amazing arcade games – they’re all designed to be playable with a two-button controller or just your mouse. Another quirk they all share is that many PUNKCAKE games are normally the lovechild of two unlikely genres mashed together. All of their games are obviously “small” by nature – pumping out “large” games on a month basis would be an impossibility – but they all feature a range of game modes, difficulties, roguelike-style unlocks, or are otherwise built for maximum replayability. They’re all high quality and value for money.
Five Fast Facts!
With Rémy Devaux
What's your favourite dinosaur?
Triceratops, they're cool as hell.
Can you touch your elbow with your tongue?
No but I can lick my own foot though.
Who was your go-to character in Streetfighter?
The Street for sure.
How tall are you in apples?
You'd need a billion apples to measure me because I keep throwing them at doctors on-sight.
Who would win in a fight? A hundred duck-sized horses or a single horse-sized duck?
A hundred duck-sized horses but only as long as they're united against the giant duck, and that's also how we defeat capitalism btw.
Genre: Bullet hell with innovative aiming.
Theme: Computer anti-virus
Released: June 2021
Antecrypt is PUNKCAKE’s debut release using Sugar, and my introduction to their work. It’s a top-down twinstick shooter that’s borderline bullet hell. Where it differs from other games in the genre is that you can’t control your aiming point. No, that thing bounces around the screen with a mind of its own. Your job is to position yourself so that there are targets between you and the marker when you pull the trigger. To make things a tad tricker, your gun has limited energy and you have to stand near your aim marker to charge it. This prevents you from simply walking around the screen in a circle on the opposite side of the bouncing marker and also adds an element of strategy where you have to try to manage your ammunition and try to sneak in charges where you can. It’s a bloody amazing little game and got me hooked on PUNKCAKE immediately.
Genre: Minesweeper meets top-down shooter.
Theme: Vaccine killing viruses in human cells
Released: July 2021
Metavaxx is another top-down shooter but this one’s mashed with Minesweeper. You play as the vaccine, flying around maps based on human body parts. The map’s broken up into “cells” and each is marked with a number identifying how many adjacent cells are infected; just like Minesweeper, you need to try to shoot all the “clean” cells. If you clear all the clean cells so that only the infection remains, you win. Unlike Minesweeper, however, if you accidentally hit an infected cell, it isn’t game over. Instead, the virus attacks you by flying at or shooting you or by leaving pox clouds. To add replayability, PUNKCAKE have also added a range of upgrades to select from and the virus spreads and proliferates between each level.
Genre: Time-based Tactical
Theme: Dungeon Keeper
Released: August 2021
The Wratch's Den
I was starting to think PUNKCAKE were just going to keep pumping out shooters but their third game, Wratch’s Den, shot that theory out of the water (see what I did there?). The graphics, clearly inspired by Dungeon Keeper (a favourite game from my youth), also threw me off – Wratch’s Den is not a builder. Instead, it’s a tactical game. Everything you do – moving a creature, digging a wall, building a room, attacking – takes an action. And for every action you take, time ticks down; your enemies draw closer and closer to your dungeon heart and new, more challenging opponents, spawn. Wratch’s Den may not have been what I expected but that doesn’t mean I was disappointed!!
Genre: Twinstick shooter
Theme: 1-Bit, Tarot
Released: September 2021
Back to shooters! Totally different aesthetic this time though; detailed 1-bit graphics, which I totally love. It also features a nifty tarot theme that involves selecting a card at the start of each game, which comes with a range of benefits and penalties that make big changes to the gameplay. Another key point of difference: Each run only goes for 12 minutes; this prevents you from carefully moving around each map trying to snipe the enemy from safety, instead forcing you into the action. It gets frantic!
Genre: Side-scrolling shooter
Theme: Robotech... maybe?
Released: October 2021
Another twist, another turn; where the last game was monochrome, this one's the complete opposite. And while Spectrum Forces is another shooter, this one's a side-scroller harking back to games like R-Type and Robotech: Macross Saga. Spectrum Forces features similar weapon arrays to R-Type but you control three ships simultaneously instead of one and the weapons are spread across them. There are nine characters (ships) to choose from; some have strong shots forward, some have angled shots that go in all directions, some have homing shots, some shoot backwards, and in addition they each have different special abilities and armour. This is where the game gains its replayability. Like other PUNKCAKE games, Spectrum Forces is very compact. There are only three levels (worlds) to play on but they're fairly lengthy and each features a boss fight. The trick is that to win the game you need to beat all three in sequence - but when your ships are destroyed, they don't come back when you reach the next level so you need to find effective combinations when you select your ships.
Genre: Match-3 with a twist
Theme: Dunomini (Spectrum Forces)
Released: December 2021
Scavenger of Dunomini
Dunomini is one of the worlds that featured in Spectrum Forces and I love that we get to revisit it in Scavenger. That's the extent of the similarities between the two titles though. Scavenger is actually a Match-3 game (a term I only recently learned but think games like Columns) but that would be too boring for PUNKCAKE so they sent a bunch of robots out to steal your precious scrap. You have to fend them off by using the scrap to craft turrets and other defences - while playing a game of Match-3 because if the columns get too high and hit the laser, it's game over. It's pretty gnarly.
Released: February 2022
Shroomchitect's my least favourite title in PUNKCAKE's portfolio, but that doesn't mean you won't love it. It's nothing like any of the other PUNKCAKE titles - it's not an arcade game, it's not a shooter, it's not fast-paced and intense. No, this one's a building sim where you manage these cute little mushroom creatures who live in giant toadstools. There are no challenges, nor even a goal or end-state; you simply build your critters a happy little paradise, decorating the toadstool house and building little gardens. When you're satisfied, you can always go and start again in a new toadstool house (which unlock as you progress). Shroomchitect also includes a camera function so you can get in and take happy snappies of your work.
Released: April 2022
Rush for the Ages
And now for something completely different: A card game! This one really grabbed my attention hard; Civilization is one of my favourite games of all time and its inspiration is abundantly clear in the artwork. PUNKCAKE are back to their roguelike roots with this one. Central to the gameplay is the Ages timeline on the right, an interesting pile because anyone can add cards into it - and anyone can draw cards out of it, so it becomes a sort of discard pile as well as a common draw pile. It also controls progression of the game as you can only play cards that match the age you are in. Runs are short; each game ends whenever a player plays their seventh card, after which victory points are tallied. There are a number of ways to gain victory points but ultimately you're aiming to maximise your points by creating synergy. There are also lots of ways for players to interact with each other (trade, battle, leader abilities). And, as expected, you unlock new civilizations as you play through and each come with unique stats. The layers of complexity in Rush for the Ages really is impressive.
Genre: Turn-based tactical
Released: May 2022
Shotgun King is so much fun. It looks like chess and the pieces move like chess but it is literally you playing as the black king on a quest to massacre the entire white army... with a shotgun! As King you can move one space in any direction. Your shotgun can reach most of the way across the board but of course it does more damage at close range but also spreads fire at longer range. Also, it only holds two rounds at a time so you have to carefully position yourself and time your reloads. Your enemies take turns moving according to their chess piece type so it doesn't take much to find yourself out-manoeuvred or ambushed if you aren't careful. Level progression is interesting because every level you get to pick the next level's bonus from two randomised options. Both include a significant perk; better firepower or range, or more often some powerful but conditional bonus - and also a significant challenge, such as adding extra enemy spawns or upgrading enemy pawns to knights or bishops in future levels, or powerful but conditional penalties. Makes for superb replayability.
Genre: Bullet Hell
Released: June 2022
A top-down shooter again, although more of a bullet hell this time. At first glance it may look a little like Antecrypt but it plays very differently. This one has your mouse doing everything - wherever your cursor points, your spider moves. But you also need to use your mouse to aim and fire at the enemies. Can you see how that might get tricky? What makes this one interesting is the random power-ups that drop periodically through the game; they're all of a simple upgrade nature but have such a profound impact that you'll find yourself adapting your gameplay to make the most of them. This has the added benefit of making every run feel drastically different so it never feels repetitive.
Released: August 2022
Pong! Except in a circle (well, close enough). This one's a solo player game though; instead of trying to get your ball in your opponent's goal, the middle of the circle's full of enemies you need to kill to progress to the next level. The enemies don't attack you directly but they can spin and shoot and otherwise affect your ball in an erratic manner, and of course if you drop the ball you lose a life. Even without the enemies, the circular playing field creates an interesting challenge; gravity exists outside the circle, not in the centre, which means your ball will usually follow a curved trajectory. However, you have more control over the ball the ball than in regular pong; you control the power by holding and releasing the mouse button, working like a spring. And your paddle is curved, making it easier to control the bounce. In between each level you can visit the shop and spend money purchasing upgrades, and there are even bosses to fight. A supremely refreshing take on a classic game.
Genre: No idea
Theme: Fruit & paint
Released: September 2022
I couldn't work out what genre this one fits into - I've played games that are kinda similar? But not really. Anyway, you play as a fruit, and you need to zip around the map painting in as many tiles as you can. Trouble is, there's a bunch of circular saws bouncing the map and if they touch you, you die. Your goal is to paint as much of the room as you can before dying (this is your score). It's simple but fun - and in terms of replayability, there are quite a few fruits to unlock through high scores and each of them comes with different attributes and a special ability that changes the gameplay more than you would expect. Each fruit you unlock also opens up a new level. The best feature, though, is the battle mode, which pits you against the other fruit across a variety of levels in a challenge to be the ultimate winner.
Released: October 2022
The Turgenev Study
The Turgenev Study's an interesting bullet hell variant in that there's no bullets. Primarily, you have to avoid being hit by any of the cells, which spawn in waves. Cells aren't removed between waves, so it gets busy pretty quickly. The cells hunt you in different ways. You have four defences: The first is harvesting, which you can only do once every ten seconds. This lets you remove as many cells as you can fit into your harvesting circle - but this means getting close to and surrounding yourself with the thing you're trying to avoid. Second, when you've harvested enough to level up, you can then assimilate one of the cells, which also provides you with a bonus (which differs for each cell type). Finally, you have a "shield" of sorts, and can create a temporary repellent, although both of these require work to recharge. The main aim of the game is to rack up the highest score possible but for additional replayability you're provided with a set of objectives each run, the completion of which unlock new game features. It's a fantastic little game, and one of my favourites - so far!