Solar Descent - A Zelda-like Game Made in Pulp

I've been working on a Zelda-like game in Pulp for a few months now. It's nowhere near done, since I've been focusing on the underlying systems and making sure the built-in behaviour of Pulp won't break anything.

Anyway, there is a demo for anyone interested in trying it. It contains a fully playable test dungeon complete with an end boss. You can find it for free on Be sure to read the control scheme. I'm quite proud about how many different actions I've managed to get out of two face-buttons and a crank.

Have fun! If you like what you're seeing, leave a few encouraging words to keep me motivated.



SOLAR DESCENT is a WIP action-adventure game (playable tech demo available below) for the Playdate handheld console in the vein of classic The Legend of Zelda games combined with modern ideas found in e.g. Dark Souls and Hollow Knight.

SOLAR DESCENT features real-time combat, two attack buttons, on the fly switching of abilities, clever combat integration of the crank, elaborate menus and map systems.

  • Explore the world and dungeons to gain new abilities
  • Fight monsters and bosses
  • Solve puzzles and navigate through traps and obstacles
  • Use abilities to progress and discover new areas
  • Find and equip relics to enhance your abilities
  • Use XP to upgrade your stats

Despite being made in Pulp, a simple but heavily limited game engine for uncomplicated adventure games, SOLAR DESCENT manages to squeeze a lot of gamey gameplay into a tiny, yellow package.






Looks really cool! I like that little cranking to move the bridge puzzle.

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Thanks! The starting position of the bridge is actually higher up than in the gif. It's supposed to teach you that you can control it both ways. Who knows, maybe that's useful to know later in the dungeon. :slight_smile:

Fixed a few bug and added an Accessibility Menu. The demo should be pretty solid now and be a good representation of a vertical slice of the full game. Don't think there should be any issues with using old save files, but I would recommend starting a new game anyway.

Grab the new version on


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this is such a cool use of all the different inputs. Can't wait to see what you do with this

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Thanks! Considering the limited number of inputs, you have to make the most out of what's available. :slight_smile:

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To Crank or Not to Crank
The most intriguing part of the Playdate is the crank. When I decided to make a game for the Playdate, I naturally began thinking of interesting ways to use it. In the end, most of the control design choices in SOLAR DESCENT, once the decision of what to do with the crank was made, followed somewhat naturally.

Don't agree with some of the design choices? There will be options to substitute the crank or bypass it entirely, e.g. a passive stamina regen or turning off the stamina system entirely.

Stamina System

The first idea was to use the crank as an attack input and use the angle of the crank for direction, kinda like the analog stick that controls aiming in a twin-stick shooter. That idea never reached the prototype stage because I felt it would be awkward to go from holding the crank to pressing the face buttons for secondary actions. Furthermore, the attack would be too powerful if the hitbox was active all the time, or too unreliable if it had a cooldown.

I settled on using the crank to refill a stamina meter. This adds another dimension to the combat since you can't stand in one place and spam the attack button. It encourages well-timed attacks and careful resource management.

Pause Menu

Since the crank should be in the undocked position while playing the game, I figured docking and undocking the crank could be used as inputs to enter and exit a pause menu.

Cranking State

If every turn of the crank restored stamina, the player would be able to more or less crank and run, which would defeat the purpose of a stamina system to begin with. In order to prevent this, the first turn of the crank puts the player in a cranking state while subsequent turns refill the stamina meter. Moving while in the cranking state exits the cranking state.

Switching Sub Weapon

Implementing a cranking state opened up a second set of possible actions for the face buttons while in this state. This allows the player to switch sub weapon on the fly without the need of pausing the game and entering a menu. Simply crank to enter the cranking state and then press the face buttons to cycle through your unlocked sub weapons.

Healing System

Inspired by Dark Souls and Hollow Knight, I wanted a healing system with charges that refilled when hitting enemies. Initially, I planned to have a face button while in the cranking state be the healing button. I then realised that the motion of cranking backwards kind of reminded of taking a sip from a flask. This allows the face buttons to cycle through sub weapons backwards and forwards and won't result in accidents in the heat of battle such as switching weapon instead of healing.

The End of the Beginning

I'm amazed at what a complex system you can build with only two buttons and a crank. With that figured out, now I have to build the rest of the game. That should be easy... right?

Roughly 50 % of the dungeons are either completely done or planned out. An updated demo with a new dungeon serving as a tutorial in addition to the one in the current demo should be out Soon™.


That was a good read, especially around control scheme choices, thanks for sharing!

I played the initial demo and found it impressively complex, if a little fiddly. I think I'd get on with the controls more having read the logic behind them! Having the assist options around stamina is great :slight_smile:

(If I remember right I got stuck in the demo by the bridge I seemingly needed to crank, but I couldn't work out how to activate it)

I think the tutorial dungeon will ease players into the basic control scheme (instead of just being dropped into a playground with lots of options available).

You might've been stuck on the bridge because:

a) you hadn't found the item that allows you to operate the bridge or

b) you cranked too slowly.

The crank input only triggers at certain angles. For a forward crank it's around degree 0 angle and for backwards crank it's around 180 degree angle. In order to prevent players to just wiggle the crank around these values a can_crank flag is activated a few degrees before that (and deactivated when the crank input is activated) + you have to hit the activation angle with a certain speed. That speed was a bit too high in the first demo.

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Looking as great as ever. Excited to play this.

oooh - this looks so GOOD!!

I wish I could show more of the stuff I've been working on, but I don't want to spoil too much.

Juiced up the title screen "outro". It ties into the scripted intro for new games. Also spiced up the appear and disappear animation for the boss in the demo.

New demo should be out in a few days. :slight_smile:



Oh, hey! I just played through the demo for this game yesterday! My girlfriend was looking through lists of games and said "wow, this looks like a game you'd like" and BOY was she right. The combat took a little bit of time to get used to, but the stressfulness of trying to time everything well really pulled me in. Really excited to see more, great job!

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I'm glad you liked it. I want the combat to be more involved than just sword-to-win.

New demo is out. :slightly_smiling_face:

New: Added a starting area and dungeon.
New: Added a proper dialogue system.
Tweak: Raised AP regenerated.
Tweak: Lowered speed required to make a crank turn register.
Tweak: Polish, e.g. proper boss animations and basic scripted cutscenes.
Fix: Spinning disc hazards cannot be manipulated by bomb, fire and blasts.
... and lots of under the hood additions reserved for the full game. :slightly_smiling_face:

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My intention was to have a finished game by now, but life got in the way. There are only so many hours in a day. Even less when your energy level is low due to an intense period at work and at home. The good news is that things are a bit less hectic right now, and I have time and energy to do game dev again. Not nearly enough as I want, but enough to make good progress.

New demo is out today. Been working on polishing up the game. The demo now contains more or less the first part of the game, complete with first pass music, dialogue, sfx etc.

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