Just Add Water

Just Add Water (aka: Shrunk in the Wash) is a Nintendo 64 homebrew game by Joeldipops and released on 13 December 2020. This game has you hanging clothes out to dry in an ever-changing climate. This game was made for the 64brew game jam 2020.

You can download the ROM and source code from the download page for this homebrew game by using the password wetjoeldipops or see the source code on Github and download from Drive.

Just Add Water style and gameplay

Just Add Water has a fairly simple presentation. It has basic text, grid-like movement and pixel graphics. It’s all quite basic, but everything is clear enough to represent what it needs to be.

The objective of the game is to place clothes on the clothesline until they are completely dry. Every time you pick something that has been dried, you get a bunch of points. Get a high score above everyone else to win.

The gameplay is designed a bit more complexly than it appears on first sight. You play the game as two hands, one controlled by the left hand on the controller (D-pad +L button) and the other by the right hand (C-buttons + R + A). The left hand is in charge of placing clothes on the clothesline, and the right hand picks them up for points or for changing their position, so it’s important to be able to multitask if you want to make it far.

This is where it gets interesting – Clothes change size depending on how dry they are, and not all clothes expand the same way. Clothes have a wetness level, from 0-4 drops, where 0 is completely dry and 4 is completely wet. There’s an indicator on the right showing either an arrow or a number which shows how much the garment will grow by each amount of drops dried (an arrow counts a 1).

The outdoors (top half) dries clothes by 2 drops per turn, and indoors dries them by just one. However, if you leave clothes out during rainfall, they will soak up to the maximum 4 drops and leaving them out during a thunderstorm will have them destroyed.

The game carries on until you are overloaded with clothes in the left-side basket and the game is over.

‘Size’ Theme

Joeldipops interpreted the theme of the game as the size of the clothes changing. It’s what it says on the tin, pretty much.

Credits

Just Add Water was made by Joeldipops. He does mention that the sprites for the hands and some font were borrowed from a public source.

Conclusion and review

Just Add Water is fairly reminiscent of independently-developed PC games from the mid 80’s, think of the ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64. The silent sound, the blocky square sprites and the pointer makes me feel like this game was loaded off of a cassette deck.

The gameplay itself is in the vein of micromanagement simulators like Diner Dash: You have a whole lot of menial tasks to do and the pressure is on to not let them all before they bunch up and overwhelm you. The setting almost reminds me of the Washing Machine Emulator from Burnt Face Man 7.

I think that it’s a rather fun game with an interesting premise and good execution. It does what it sets itself out to do and delivers a game that’s basic but fun.

The only thing that I think holds Just Add Water back is the dual-handed controls. It’s not really possible to control both hands at the same time, so you have to take turns in order to make some sense out of your movements. I think it works well as a 2-player co-op with one player placing the clothes and the other picking them up, so it would have done better with an option of using two controller for this.

Joeldipops did say that the reason for this was that the N64 made little use out of the D-pad and even less out of the L button, so he wanted to make a game that incorporated that into the control.

I force myself to do something original, even over maybe what’s good. […] I liked the chaos of trying to manage two things at once. I wasn’t very good at the game myself but I thought “someone could be really good at this” and it would be quite an impressive feeling.

Joeldipops

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Just Add Water is a homebrew game for the N64 made by Joeldipops where you manage drying and expanding clothes in the ever-changing weather.
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