Free games of the week
It’s the start of a new year, for some of us, and that means only thing: doing largely the same things we did the previous year, while feeling guilty about not going to the gym. A large part of my 2015 involved free games, so I’ll start as I mean to go on: by recommending some good ones that have come out over the last week or thereabouts.
You get your first playthrough of The Eldrich Teller for free—interestingly, the game flat-out refuses to run afterwards unless you stump up $2 to access story replays. Once through might be enough, but like most of the games I feature here, you can choose to support the artist with a few quid if you like what you’ve played. The game itself is a Twilight Zoney story about a very important phone call, and the presentation of this visual novel is pretty fab.
A prototype/side-story to the long-anticipated Night in the Woods, Longest Night invites you to draw constellations as you sit around a campfire with your chums. The game originally came out way back in 2013, but it’s just been expanded with new and alternate dialogue—now “canon” dialogue that should provide a few hints about Night in the Woods, which is now scheduled for a 2016 release.
The two themes of Ludum Dare 34 were “growing” and “two button controls”, and hey, this fits that brief exceptionally well. A bit like in World of Goo, you’re trying to climb up the side of a building here, in your (possibly doomed) quest to kiss the sky. Oh yeah: and you’re a plant. Like most plants, you’re not known for your athletic prowess, and as such, controlling your planty tendrils is a cumbersome affair. You’ll rely on washing lines, fire escapes, security cameras and so on, in a game with delightfully springy physics.
I particularly like how the passage of time is represented. Plants obviously move quite slowly in the real world, so to illustrate that here, everything around you jumps about at high speed.
Aitch suggests a rough price of $4 for this Scottish adventure, so consider ponying up if you like what you’ve played. Raik’s central joke is a strong one that carries this fantasy-ish visual novel a long way, and I don’t want to spoil it too much. The idea is that you can switch between English and Scottish descriptions at nearly any time, something that transforms the entire text, but keeps the gist of what’s happening intact. The English descriptions are fanciful, airy and flowery, while the Scottish…well, I’ll let you discover that for yourself. But it’s essentially two sides of a mind: one seeking escape in fantasy, the other mired in the mundanity of everyday life.
Spend New Year’s Eve…7016 in the company of some glowing balls of light, and in the only place worth visiting: a space station on the edge of eternity. Stick around for the performance, then take a look at Sherlock’s patreon if you’d like to play more of his cryptic walking sims.
Click through for recommendations from previous weeks.
Dig your own grave, and when you’ve finished, perhaps give this gorgeous browser game a play. There’s a cool thing about it I won’t spoil, but I will say it’s a sort of score attack game where you have until sundown to dig as far down as you can. I don’t think it’s a fair game, given that your spade will (seemingly randomly) ping off the ground rather than break the soil, but it’s a lovely idea, and Dyg looks just smashing.
Do art in the best way possible: not with paintbrushes or pens, but with a load of colourful guns. Each gun has its own painting method, or adds a different colour, and you’re given a bunch of canvases with which to create your masterworks. If you like what you’ve made, you can save the images externally—though I personally found it difficult to create things I liked, given that I had no idea what the procedural paint guns would contribute to each piece. Still, a cool idea.
There’s not much to this, and the Itch.io description oversells the game massively, but it is nice to fly around as a bird for a bit. Grow your flock by clicking on other birds, then watch as the world morphs around you.
Any week with a new Daniel Linssen game is a good one, and true to that, here’s an inventive new survival game about surviving on a mysterious archipelago. You can chop down trees, then use the logs to build bridges or rafts. You can dig soil, plant turnips, harvest those turnips, then shove them into your fat gob. You can find maps of the vast procedurally generated world, and other, more mysterious trinkets. The best bit is the sun, which physically increases the size of the game world as it rotates around the screen—or indeed shrinks it as night approaches, and you can’t see as far. Wonderful.
A two-button space trading game about an enterprising triangle, and a smart way to make something special under strict limitations. Left and Right turn your ship..left and right, while holding both moves your plucky vessel forward. Navigate into stations to trade, then swap your cargo for lovely space-cash; collide with an asteroid, an enemy, or the side of a station, and you’ll be reborn as a clone at your last port of call. Don’t skip the dialogue: it’s pretty funny.
This week, we enter a book, we fight more skellingtons, we battle a great big fire-breathing dragon, we battle the damn keyboard, and we pay one final visit to the shard. Enjoy!
Locamalito makes free games with the sort of care, attention and time most would reserve for those sporting a price tag, and true to that, The Curse of Issyos is a big, wonderful thing that’s been in development, on and off, for the past five years. You’re a fisherman trying to save your daughter from eternal torment in Hades, and in a remarkable coincidence, you also play as such a character in this game. It’s an old-fashioned, vaguely NES-y, Castlevania-style platformer, this, and it’s pretty great.
Ditto does Ludum Dare 34 (themes: ‘two button controls’, and ‘growing’). If you know of Ditto, you’ll know that Ditto favours colours, cool visual effects, and damn good ‘gamefeel’, and Trosor has these things in spades. You can shoot, and you can jump in one direction—to switch sides you’ll need to make contact with a wall. There’s the skeleton of something really interesting here.
Another dragon? But I’ve only just cleaned up after the last one! Yes but this dragon is the star of a fairly gorgeous, short adventure inspired by Eric Chahi’s visually cromulent Another World. It’s an easy game, but worth the few minutes you’ll spend with it—I do like entertainment that doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Oleomingus’ games are just resplendent with texture, something many devs ignore when constructing their glossy, shallow, frictionless worlds. The latest slice of their mythical larger game is a fascinating little storybook, rife with rich, fictional history from a world that exists Somewhere near our own.
Connor Sherlock’s latest walking sim deposits you in a stark, crystalline landscape, home to oddly tilted structures, tantalisingly distant buildings, and various secret little things. It’s a place to just be in for a while: a place that envelopes you in atmosphere and with a comforting, shadowy mood.
I like games where you poke around in authentic-feeling old computers, so here is a game where you poke around in an authentic-feeling old computer. You’re investigating the desktop of a particularly paranoid individual, who had his own investigation into a mysterious fire. His PC is littered with notes, images and videos about this, and things get a little spooky in this brief game as you piece everything together.
This is a very early demo that only contains a few rooms, and that can’t be completed, but I like much of Backterria’s skeletal metroidvania so far. The art is very nice, the skellingtons are amusing, and you can zoom the camera way out to view the entire level at once. Which is fab.
A rhythm game with a difference—that difference being all the anteaters in tutus, who are competing to be the best opera singers they can reasonably be. Play against your friends to see who’s the best at following musical orders while wearing a frilly pink dress, like you do in the real world every Wednesday. (Via Warp Door)
If you can get past the title screen in Quirkaglitch without assistance, then I’m not convinced you’re a human being, but good on you. I’m going to spoil things a bit, for us mere mortals, so look away if you’d rather bash away at Quirkaglitch solo.
OK. That (randomly picked) code on the title screen? It relates to this colour chart, and to enter the code you have to bash into the correctly coloured enemies. The eventual platformer is like a messed-up ZX Spectrum game, and visually it’s pretty damned impressive.
Left Click (hold Left Click) to move your army; Right Click (at the prompts) to add that wandering troop you’ve just defeated to your roving crew. How do you do this, if you’ve just chopped them to bits? With the power of necromancy, naturally. It’s a simple game, but with some strategy behind it: you have to avoid larger armies, and that big cyclops thing, until you’ve built up your forces a bit.
We all know that wizards rule, a position they’ve held ever since Wizards of Wor came out in the early ’80s. This is a Pico-8 remake, and it’s pretty authentic and fun.
Every day after school, a girl walks by a boy’s house and tries to pluck up the courage to talk to him. I won’t spoil whether she does or not, but this a lovely, sweet short story about longing, presented with extraordinary watercolour art.
Who Must Die by Antoine Gargasson, Elouan Harmand, Quentin Thevenard, Joachim Hansott, EIllan Le Corre
I don’t think the execution quite lives up to the idea here, but what an idea. Three patients are locked up in separate rooms, one infected with a mystery virus, and you have to determine who that is and shoot them dead for some reason. You’ll fathom your randomly generated suspect by observing their behaviour through TV screens, which display loomed FMV footage of the three patients. You can release ‘calm’ or ‘angry’ gas, change the music, or send a guy in to bash them about a bit, and though I don’t quite understand how all that correlates to the virus, the room around you offers a few badly translated hints. If the pressure of the decision gets to you, or you can’t find the quit button, you can choose to off yourself instead.
Well it’s XCOM, but in Excel. And it’s surprisingly fully featured, boasting destructible terrain, a level editor and more. Creator Crruzi says that he “wanted to create something in VBA to practice coding in that language and I like XCOM – so why not make an XCOM game? EXLCOM works just like any other XCOM game – you know, shoot aliens, save the world, that kinda stuff.” He’s underselling it a fair bit—I mean, just look at it.
A wonderful, wonderful game about a crashed astronaut with only minutes left to live. How you spend them is up to you, but you should probably walk around a bit and explore the alien landscape, which is home to oases, rolling desert…and what are those things on the ground? This is sort of a multiplayer game, but I’ll leave it to you to figure out how.
In the absence of an official PC port of Super Bomberman, I’ll take this: it’s Bomberman recreated in Pico-8. Do you want to play Bomberman recreated in Pico-8? Of course you do, because Bomberman is one of the best local multiplayer games ever made.
You are the monster that eats carrots in a bowl with cream in this freebie, made for that recent Asylum Jam. The game infuses horror into ordinary things: gardening, grating, and accidentally (?) digging into worms. And, in at least one area, it’s surprisingly tense.
“6 remain” is a beautifully economic way to begin a game, immediately setting you on a course of exploring, collecting and reading. If you’ve not played a Kitty Horrorshow game before, they’re first-person wandering games where oblique story is projected across the environment after you pick up scattered crystals. They’re moody, personal and poetic things, and Actias is no different.
“A collection of levels I made over the course of about a month, strung together into a game.” hellojed, of this weird fox-based game fame, really should have turned off the player’s shadow—which reveals the player character to be distractingly lozenge-shaped—but that’s about the only fault I can find with this atmospheric game of looking up at the sky and going “ooooh”. Head to the glowing thingies, and occasionally talk to the fox thingies, as you appreciate a series of wonderfully abstract worlds.
You are the world’s worst bartender, and also in the game, and you have a few minutes of time in which to demonstrate that indisputable fact. Fling pints at your patrons, trying not to smash the glasses or to punt them at their heads, and as physics are involved of course this is much, much easier said than done. If you end up with your tips in the positive, then you are some sort of bartending god.
“Kill the god. Be free.” With your one bullet, and a neat visor effect that reminds of Metroid Prime and Halo. Really, you’ll explore. You’ll conjure a story from the various details in the environment, including this Easter Island statue-y thing, and some interesting piles of little stones. When you find the god, you can choose to shoot the god dead, inciting one of three endings, I’m told.
This weekend, you briefly put down Fallout 4 to take a look at the best free games of the week. INCLUDING: a move-limited match-3, Porpentine meets Myst, flyin’ a plane around a weird place, call waiting, and look at this cool world I just made. Enjoy!
Increpare’s latest (well, I’m not actually sure it is his latest; he’s probably released a dozen games since I played this yesterday) is a seemingly simple match-3…with a twist. That twist is the big number at the top, which ticks down every time you make a move. Your goal, I assume, is to clear the board before that counter hits zero, and you can no longer input any moves. The cursor, by the way, swaps one block for another; match three or more to remove them from the board.
Bellular Hexatosis has everything you’d expect from a Porpentine game: garish, neony colours, some wonderful words, and some fantastic world-building. But all that has escaped the confines of the Twine format and been whacked into a Myst-style adventure game. In your quest to cure your sister’s illness, you’ll explore a weirdly beautiful 3D world, rich with atmosphere and neat little details, and supported with a lovely dreamy soundtrack.
I don’t think this quite lives up to the intention expressed on the ending title card, but it’s a fun little toybox worth messing around with for a few minutes—a wibbly wobbly, mushroomy game-thing, soundtracked by the inimitable Calum Bowen.
A meta first-person adventure set in a stripy labyrinth, one home to a bunch of occasionally ringing phones. Where are you? Who is the person on the other end of the phone? Well, that one isn’t a total mystery: he’s a dissident who, like you, has been thrown into this virtual telephone prison.
Mirror Lake randomly generates worlds in a bowl; a new world every couple of minutes, after it’s finished evolving the previous one, by growing those trees, and all that fauna, etc etc. These are not worlds you’ll interact with in any way, shape or form, but I loved watching them grow before my eyes. This is a beautiful thing, and I wish these worlds would stick around a little longer. Although maybe that’s the point.
The controls are a bit weird in this arcadey space game, so you might want to use a controller. It’s a nice, clean-looking shoot-’em-up with a tough difficulty level, and a very hyperactive soundtrack you’ll maybe want to mute. It’s always good being in a spaceship in a galaxy full of space-baddies, and Star Raptor fulfils that brief pretty well.
The original Chalk is one of my favourite freeware games, and out of the blue its creator Konjak has released this unfinished ‘HD’ sequel, which he was working on before starting Iconoclasts. Compared to the original, it’s a more developed drawing-based shmup that introduces a few new mechanics, and I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve played of it so far. As with its predecessor, you clear obstacles by drawing lines with the mouse, and defeat enemies by drawing lines from their projectiles back to them. Several years later, it’s still a winning idea.
Created for Asylum Jam, Tourist is a short room-escape (sorta) adventure game with some nice art, a palpable atmosphere, and a strong (warning: pretty dark and unsettling) ending. There’s a lot of story contained in the item descriptions, so I suggest right-clicking on everything you possibly can.
Fallow developer Rook made this for the Kitty Horrorshow clone jam, and like many of Kitty’s games it’s a lonely wandering game with a story relayed through strewn crystal fragments. The difference here is voice acting, which mingles with the atmospheric music, and the mysterious, abstract setting, to pipe an intriguing short story into your head.
Another Asylum Jam entry, Reunition is a puzzle-horror game featuring scrumptious pixel art, and an odd central mechanic I never quite figured out. It’s something to do with mirrors, and your handy lantern, which you can dim to avoid the various hazards that want to do you in. You’re trying to find your son, who’s run off and gotten swallowed up by a creepy magic mirror. Or something. This has a bloomin’ lovely atmosphere though. (Via Warp Door)
Return to your creepy hometown in the aptly named Homesickened, an authentically retro first-person adventure that hasn’t even heard of the words ‘mouselook’ or ‘WASD’. (Alright, WASD isn’t a word, but you know what I mean.) It’s a sluggish, awkward game to control, but strangely all the better for it, the old-fashioned movement system complementing the moody pixel art remarkably well. I particularly like the soft whirs and clicks that sound as you walk around, suggesting an old computer struggling to render such a complex world.
You’re a crow what runs a hotel, and Sink’s game ‘Crowtel’ has gone and ripped off your life. So yes this is a very silly, lovely, vaguely Metroidvania-y platformer, about a crow trying to clean up his enormous hotel before the health inspectors are let loose on his property. It’s Fawlty Towers meets Cave Story, basically, and if that doesn’t make you curious then you are a husk, a husk, Madam/Sir.
Birdland is a funny and wondrous piece of interactive fiction about a girl trying to get through summer camp. Half of the game is dedicated to the camp experience, featuring all the forced outdoor activities and awkward social interactions I’ve come to expect from American films. The other is dedicated to your dreams, which are invariably located in a world populated entirely by bird-people, and where you are the only human. Interestingly, it’s also something of an RPG. You have stats, which will go up or down depending on your dream-choices, and that open or limit your dialogue options in the real world. Imaginative, and often hilarious stuff.
Grab sweets in your flying car in I am dead, which like Undertale takes place in its own weird, wonderful universe where skeletons are some of the funniest people around. Finding the sweets won’t take too long, but I just liked being in this world, listening to the deeply soothing soundtrack and chatting with the big floating skull at the centre of town.
Monsters have arses too, and the green creature at the heart of Monster Streaking is determined to bear theirs for all the world to see. It’s a cute and compelling auto-runner where you hold the left mouse button to advance, and release it to fall back, and you’ll need to do both to avoid the various human obstacles on the bustling city streets. You acquire points by briefly pausing for photographs, and as you play you’ll unlock additional creatures including Frankenstein’s monster, a mummy, and Pinhead.
GameJolt has started organising jams dedicated to specific developers, encouraging others to make games in their (as it turns out) eminently imitable style. Attic is an entry in the Kitty Horrorshow Clone Jam, and it captures the spirit of Kitty’s first-person mood-and-poetry pieces remarkably well.
Here’s the full Clone Jam schedule. I can’t wait to see what else comes out of this.
A pretty innovative Metroidvania, featuring a range of unique powers including a dive move, and the ability to roll your head under tiny gaps. I love the look of this platformer too; each area has its own one-colour palette, segmenting the strange little world in a clean, clear way.
As far as I can tell, there’s no fail state in Morse, despite the enemy planes, people and submarines constantly advancing on your plucky troops. Your job is to order attacks on your opponents, something you can only achieve by taking note of their coordinates and inputting morse code with a cursor key to target them. It’s a wonderful control scheme, in a well-illustrated and atmospheric game with effective sound design, but I could have done with a reason to stick around once I’d figured out how to play.
Well, this is a first. I try not to feature two games by the same developer in the same week, but I only noticed as I was putting this together that Alex Johansson made the funny Flotate as well. No matter. It’s a silly local multiplayer game about some dudes in a pool, who are attempting to claim the sole rubber ring and emerge victorious. Using only two keys (four people can play using the same keyboard), you need to head for the ring, diving under to claim it in your name. Inventive, amusing stuff.
Escape the (beautiful) room in this challenging sci-fi puzzler, which deposits you by a series of terminals with no apparent clue how to manipulate them to your advantage. What do all these symbols mean? Why are some red, and some green? You’re allowed to make one move in each, before the computer shuts the frosty glass and opens up another, rotating back to the first eventually. qwerty’s supplied a little help in the Itch.io page description:
“An experimental memory-type game. Find a way out of the room. Prepare a piece of paper and a pen.”
A wonderfully presented and authentically written adventure game set in an MSN-style messenger client. The look of this early-2000s-set piece of interactive fiction is spot-on, mimicking Windows XP, and Microsoft’s popular chat program, in a pretty nostalgic way. The game itself plays out like a more hands-on Digital: A Love Story, but with added Telltale-style “Emily will remember that”, and with branching dialogue.
There’s no ending that I can find, and no challenge really in this cutely dark gardening game, but I enjoyed the repetitious nature of Good Luck Gardener enough to see it through to its non-conclusion. To spoil pretty much everything—oh yeah, spoiler warning—you’re a helpful gardening ghost, except you’re not helpful at all, you’re a spectral jerk. Plant cards, dice and coins in the expanding graveyard, then feed them to some happy humans. Some worried humans. Some ill-looking humans oh they’re all dead.
Man, ghosts are assholes.
Wander around a couple of swampy locations in this sludgy, atmospheric game from Jake Clover. You can move right, and you can use your binoculars to look at a scene that resembles the one you’re in. Look at all the little details, lose yourself in the weird scene. I love his clip-art-looking pixel art so much.
Similar to Emily is Away, or a lot of modern adventure games, Loren Schmidt’s Skeleton Flower gives you control over a fake operating system. You’re looking at photos from someone’s life that have been compressed into 1×1 resolution images—not much to go on, perhaps, but the accompanying capture date and description text help to illuminate things a bit.
A bit. It’s still a very cryptic game, but a masterfully fake-glitchy one with it.
This is basically Where’s Wally, but with a cat. Bart Bonte worked with his kids to make this—they drew a lot of the objects, came up with the story, and made the artwork you can see above—and the result is one of the loveliest hidden object games I’ve played. It’s possibly the funniest, too, capturing the greedy, mysterious, and cute nature of real cats everywhere.
Whiting describes Knossu is a “non-euclidean horror game”, a Lovecraftian term that tends to describe geometrically weird places—and so this is. It’s a game about exploring a tricksy maze that loops back on itself, that warps you around with apparent abandon, that feels expansive and claustrophobic at the same time. I desperately want to talk about this labyrinth’s innovative monster, but I don’t want to spoil the monster—so I’ll just implore you again to play Knossu immediately. Man.
A Metroidvania about a mother searching for her teenage son. Like most mothers searching for their teenage children, she battles monsters, destroys blocks, and evades spikes as she explores a lovely desert island. It’s like a fast-paced, smaller Treasure Adventure Game, this, not quite as good but then few exploratory platformers are.
I’ve not played the first Capsule, but I don’t feel like I missed anything in playing PaperBlurt’s funny, dark and gripping sci-fi sequel. You’re a cryogenically unfrozen caretaker, aboard an ark carrying humanity through a handy space-hole, and you first have to contend with your own boredom, then your own madness, then…well, I’m not going to spoil this one either. But it’s a bit horrific.
A very short piece of interactive fiction that’s quite enormously overwritten, but that hints at an interesting diversion for IF. Sonam uses UnityTwine to, um, install Twine in Unity, and the result is nothing short of beautiful. It feels pretty weird to click on hyperlinks in a 3D space, but it works with the game’s lovely low-poly background, and with the The American Dollar’s soundtrack, to create an IF of great atmosphere.
An eminently playable arcade-style game that mashes up Pac-Man, Mario Bros, Space Invaders, Breakout, and probably some other games I didn’t recognise. And it works. Hooray! As one or two players, you’re trying to protect the ghosts from Pac-Man—which essentially act as your extra lives—by shooting monsters before they climb down to their hidey-hole.
This gets more difficult in later stages, as the number and speed of enemies increases, but your main opponent is the big Breakout paddle that seeks out and blocks many of your bullets. You’ll need to team up—the AI is surprisingly good in single-player—with one player distracting the evil Breakout block, giving the other’s shots a chance to get through. Marvellous stuff.
You don’t have to be psychic to work at my psychic detective agency, but it helps. You also don’t have to be psychic to play the very strange Psychic Cat, the very poetic Summit, the very chickeny Super Poulet Poulet and more. Enjoy!
A Trine-like platformer—a very good-looking Trine-like platformer—made in nine months by students at Isart Digital Paris. You’re a bard, and like all bards in fantasy these days you’re a bit of a pompous dick, albeit a pompus dick quite good at battling monsters. As in Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath, or Overlord, you use creatures as ammo here—I just love the way to cling to your character after you’ve picked them up. This is accomplished, interesting, and cute.
Well it’s Trials innit, but done in the elegant, beautiful Pico-8. And it’s really good! Capturing the physics and feel of that bastard series extraordinarily well. I like the strange, alien world you’re biking around in, which is nigh impossible to pinpoint (I think it’s a desert?) I like the addition of collectibles, which tempt you to stray from the (slightly safer) path. And I’m still trying to figure out if the rider is in the buff. It kinda looks like it, doesn’t it?
This minimalist, puzzle-less Puzzlescript game kind of got to me, and I’m not sure why. It’s a short, loopy game about exploring a world, activating a thing, and then having the experience suddenly end just as you’re getting interested in learning more. It’s inscrutable: the kind of inscrutable that demands scrutiny, and offers absolutely nothing in return.
Speaking of inscrutable, what the hell is this? It’s a “journey across a blasted psychosphere”, obviously, and it’s one where you play as a cat lost in a neon wonderland patrolled by stompy naked green men.
So yeah, it’s a load of nonsense. But it’s strangely self-serious and coherent nonsense, and that makes it quite enjoyable to explore. (Via Warp Door)
Sometimes you just need a good platformer, and here is a good platformer with a fun chicken theme. You are said chicken, and you’re able to take an extra hit by wearing a woolly hat, and slam into enemies for big poulet points. Slather your delicious frame in hot sauce and you can also burn enemies to a crisp. OK, so it’s nothing revolutionary, but the controls feel nice, the sprites are cute, and the music is pretty damned catchy.
The 2015 Interactive Fiction Competition is ongoing at the moment, and some great stuff has been uploaded to the site. Including Summit, a Porpentiney (but not by Porpentine) game about leaving your home to ascend a tantalising mountain. I chose the life of a strange fishpersonthing, in this rambling (in a good way) philosophical trek featuring good words and great graphic design. (Via Emily Short)
D.S.A. has been in development for five years, and the result is a big, fun, enjoyably scrappy adventure game set in a bizarre world. You’ll play as all three members of a separated girl group, solving puzzles by exploring and interacting with stuff, rather than trying every inventory item on every other inventory item ad nauseum. I like the “Low-Quality MSPaint Graphics” quite a lot; this feels like a lost game from before indie gaming exploded, something like Treasure Adventure Game or Eternal Daughter. (i.e. it’s huge and fully featured, and rather ambitious.)
I’ve been a bit lax in finding interactive fiction lately, so here’s a good one from one of the genre’s best writers, Richard Goodness. It’s a joyously silly game set in a smallish dungeon, but one where you’ll want to try every option to see what wonderfully bonkers endings you can uncover. TOMBs of Reschette is genuinely funny, something few games manage, and it makes great use of Twine. (Via Gnome)
A Yume Nikki fangame from Electric Highways developer Zykov Eddy, with a standalone expansion available in the same folder. What a moody world (well, worlds) to explore, from a novel, almost second-person perspective that constantly reminds us whose subconscious it is we’re traipsing through. But mostly I like this because I like seeing pixel art in 3D games; Yume Nikki 3D is damned good at delivering that. (Via Warp Door)
I like art creation games, not because I personally get much out of them, but because I know people are going to make some wonderful stuff. Artners gives you a subject, some time, and a set of tools with which to slop paint on your canvas; in a neat touch, another player can join in using the other side of the keyboard.
I’ve not been to Glasgow, so for all I know it looks exactly like this strange, stationary trip through its streets, rivers, shops, parks, and other things I thought I saw in Niall Moody’s “broken audiovisual radio”. You move the mouse (I don’t think you need to move the mouse, but it does speed things up) and the landscape contorts around you, taking you on a dreamlike/nightmarish journey around an urban place.
You awake amid a pile of videotapes, hundreds and hundreds of tapes with names that suggest so much, and that result in a different set of coloured wavy lines when fed into one of three TV-VHS units. Experiment with different tape combos to create alternately weird environments, and to generate a different string of disjointed nonsense from the figure overseeing your exploration. A wonderfully tactile exhibit.
Square off against Michael Jackson as his arch-nemesis, Michael Jackson, in this funny two-player local multiplayer game, created for Itch.io’s Duplicade jam. Michael can punch, Michael can of course fire lasers, and most vitally of all Michael can dance. Man, can he dance. Michael’s dancing, as it did in real life, creates an army of mini-clones. Look at them go.
Another Duplicade entry, Fire Dance With Me lets you “pick your favorite Twin Peaks character and Dance Dance with Leland Palmer”. Obviously I picked the Log Lady’s Log, and that sharp-suited guy from the Red Lodge. This is such a beautifully inappropriate rhythm game, with great sprites and an apt choice of music.
Rescue stranded mammoth-lings, and attempt to defend them from nasty human hunters, in this lovely-lookin’ short adventure set in prehistoric times. In the vast, endless sea that is indie games in 2015, I’m a big fan of short, polished, pointed games like this.
I missed this back in August, and that’s almost as criminal as the wrong-doings you’re dispatched to investigate, as the hotshot, box-headed Detective Buh. Notice Me Detective is a fun first-person comedy/mystery game, recalling Jazzpunk, set in a series of crime scenes that you can contaminate with your invisible hands if you desire. The controls felt a bit off, but this is a big, well-detailed world that’s fun to explore, either as yourself or a handy animal partner.
Well it’s basically Tag (or Tig, if you live in a different part of the UK, where they name everything wrongly). The rules of Tag being that if you touch someone, they become ‘It’, and therefore temporarily infectious to children everywhere. Here, It gets to wear a cool wolf mask, while the mechanics of Tag have been expanded in a gamey way. You can now earn more points (and indeed, earn points at all) by hovering near It in a dangerous, playing-with-fire way.
I wish that It (when it’s being controlled by the AI) would chase other children once in a while, but that little issue aside there’s something wonderfully innocent about Loup.
Eight Bit’s freeware Adventure Game Studio game is a “collection of short stories”, concerned with the fates of three characters: the Cosmonaut, the Prisoner, and the Martyr. I’m not sure about the art, but the animation is very nice, bringing a colourful and interesting science fiction world to life.
Remember that bit in Close Encounters when humans conversed with Johnny Alien through a series of musical notes? This is that, but with aliens that don’t want to hear everything they say parroted back to them—and who can blame them? Instead, to earn the most points, you’ll ‘remix’ their notes by repeating them in a different order, something they seem to enjoy. This really needs a proper time limit, and more scope for creativity, but what’s here is fun. (Via Warp Door)
“Escape an infinite array of vectorized spaces before time runs out.” Or, to put it slightly more simply, find the exit point in each grid-based first-person level to advance to the next. The time limit you have to work with is punishingly tiny, and while you annoyingly have to restart the entire game after failing too many times (argh!), you can mitigate this somewhat by collecting credits along the way. I couldn’t find a solution to level 4; perhaps you’ll fare better? Which is to say, of course you will.
Andreas Johansen has mated Snake with Pong, naming the resulting ungodly abomination ‘Snong’. let’s just appreciate that perfectly ugly portmanteau for a moment.
Wonderful stuff. Anyway, Snong is a two-player Ponglike that lets you move around like the snake from Snake, collecting bits to increase your size and make a you a better, more efficient Pong bat. It’s a fun idea, the presentation is cute, and the mechanics mash together surprisingly well.
Developer Stew Hogarth sadly died this week—you might remember his wonderful I Am Level from The Free Webgame Round-Up back in 2013. Now seems like a good time to return to that accomplished pinball platformer, or to play some of his other games.
Electric Highways is an exploration and puzzle-focused wanderer, with a first-person-but-with-pixels art style that recalls the original System Shock, Ultima Underworld, games like that. It’s a fun place to explore: ten levels of moods, skies, lights and things to press, in 2072’s version of the virtual reality web. There’s a mite more interaction, and a lot more level design going on than in most walking simulators, so I’m going to call this genre ‘Doomlike, But Without Any Guns’. More of those please, developers.
“Slam City Oracles is a rambunctious, riot grrrl, Katamari-meets-Grand Theft Auto physics game, in which you and a friend slam onto the world around you to cause as much chaos as possible in two minutes.”
I found the slamming mechanic a little inconsistent and mildly infuriating (alternatively: I’m terrible and didn’t understand it), but I do love a good physics-heavy sandbox game. it’s almost a shame that the camera soon zooms out to accommodate both players, as there’s some cute, happy art in this game about smashing a vertical settlement to bits.
Explore a mine full of treasure, traps, spikes and exploding things, while trying to escape your nemesis: a vertically scrolling screen that will do you in should you find yourself caught in its invisible grip. This is a wonderfully polished, attractive and hectic arcade game, and one that greatly benefits from that added time pressure, which causes you to make snap decisions and horrible mistakes as you descend further into this deadly, trappy mine.
You Are The Monster, again, in this gorgeous point and click, which asks you to escape from the room you’ve been imprisoned in. You’re a scientific experiment, deemed a failure by your creator (you can see why you want to get the hell out of there). I do enjoy a good room escape, and here’s one with scrumptious art and a brilliant premise.
The Fly meets Hotline Miami in this blisteringly quick, gory platformer about a half-woman, half-bug that has to kill a bunch of scientists before they can kill her. As is typical with these sorts of things, I’m no good at it at all, meaning LadyBug requires skill, patience, and a tolerance for repetition. I do love the pixel art—the scampering wall-running of the titular ladybug is my favourite animation of the week.
I wanted to include this last week, but because I’m an idiot—and because the very first screen of Alan Hazelden’s latest Puzzlescript game had me stumped—it’s taken me this long to get past the first island. I’m now on island 3, and it’s not letting up.
Skipping Stones is a game about punting rocks across the water, rocks that will disturb lily pads you can use to cross from island to island. Lily pads follow water currents. Stones do not. There’s your basis for a beautifully pure puzzler that will really get under your skin.
Tom’s follow-up to the wonderful Red Amazon is the silly, fun Meeuw, a game about a psychotic seagull. Like all seagulls, the one you play as in Meeuw can breath fire, and you’ll use it here to immolate pedestrians, to ruin the scenery, and to blow up cars. This is what happens when you give seagulls chips, people.
I’m not entirely sure that developer Flynn’s Arcade is being serious when it describes Laraan as a game that “bridges the gap between Cinema and Action/Adventure games with a completely old style of fluid, cinematic storytelling.” That’s because it’s a nice-looking walking simulator with painfully slow movement and a lovely big jump button, although it is a particularly good one of those. The colour palette evokes the immortal Moebius, which is the best thing a colour palette can do. I don’t like the feeling of movement much, but Laraan offers an interesting place to explore.
Linssen’s latest puts you in a seemingly procedurally generated tower that sometimes generates in a way that doesn’t let you proceed. Still, it’s worth a restart when that happens, as this one of the more original You Are The Monster games. As the monster, you’ll drop between platforms in a turn-based stylee, trying to fight or avoid archers and other soldiers even as you hunger after their yummy, yummy souls. You’ll need to master your timing to dodge arrows, and gauge your jumps so that you don’t fall too far and injure your lichy self.
The talented Scriptwelder leaves room escape behind for the involved Excavation!, a game about conducting an archaeological dig. After assembling a crew with hopefully varying skill sets, and after buying a few tools, you’ll survey, test, and dig up clumps up of earth, in your search for rare finds from long ago.
At a basic level this is Minesweeper, with each of those little numbers above indicating where mines (or, in this case, treasure) might be buried. That concept’s embellished with the need to preserve priceless artefacts, and to manage your funds and stamina. You only have so many days on this dig site, so you’d better make them count. This is a smart and accomplished Minesweeper re-imagining.
Dullahan is a Castlevania-like that will really make you *cheeky wink* lose your head, which is to say that it’s a GameBoy-styled platformer that allows you to plonk things like keys and bombs into your gaping neckhole. This is a neat mechanic, once you realise that Up and Attack uses keys, and the aesthetic feels quite authentic to the era, but it is stupid and frustrating to have to restart the entire thing upon death.
Wow. If you’re using Chrome you’ll need to download Telepath to play it, but it’s worth it for the extraordinary way it uses shaders to create multiple worlds within the same space. The world’s default state is blank and featureless, and to see it how others see it (or, I guess, for a window into their minds), you have to pass through them like a ghost. Each entity houses a world, of nature or numbers or skyscrapers, but you can only witness it while you’re passing through their form. This is seriously smart stuff, from the developer of Ultimate Pate and The World Beneath.
A pretty literal interpretation of You Are The Monster, Totem is a mechanically simple game about a big rockperson that walks out of the sea. Smash all the island’s inhabitants with your big rock bum to trigger an ending, while appreciating some truly bloody lovely artwork, and trying to tolerate some horrible bagpipey music.
Speaking of lovely artwork, would you just look at Labyrinth of Loneliness. It’s another Ludum Dare game, and one where you chase nicely sketched and animated people into fiery deathpits. Every time you do so, some cringeworthy text appears to insinuate some deeper meaning, but it’s worth putting up with that for the fun chase sequences (the chasees look behind them sometimes, it’s kind of cute), and of course for the striking visual style.
It’s a new Stephen Lavelle/Increpare game—need we say more? OK, some more. It’s a massive subway network filled with very strange stops expressed in a variety of colours and art styles, with roaming NPCs, and signs to click that may help you map the game world. You’ll visit a range of odd, funny, glitchy stops in Subway Adventure, or you will if its juddering pedestrians will let you enter and exit your train. A lovely slice of digital tourism, in a land ripe for exploration and photo-taking.
My excitement for Gloome (a new version of id-engine modding tool GZDoom, that allows modders to release commercial games) is only slightly tempered by the fact that I have no clue how to set the damned thing up. Other people have, however, including TerminusEst13, who has made the fun Gothic shooter Nocturne In Yellow. It’s a bit like Castlevania, and a lot like Heretic/Doom etc, meaning you’ll stab up zombies, spiders and vampires using a gory spear, and a bow with infinite arrows. Man, I’ve missed the ridiculously fast movement speed of id-engine games.
This is one of the most beautiful free games I’ve played for ages: a clean, low-poly first-person story from one of indie gaming’s best and brightest, Tom van den Boogaart. I love his stylised take on the wilderness, I love the quirky movement system (no default Unity FPS controls here, thankfully), and I love the fact that Red Amazon actually features an animated entity, unlike almost every first-person indie game I’ve played recently. The only thing I don’t like is Boogaart’s relative obscurity: he deserves to be a much bigger name.
Explore a weird world from your rotatable porthole, as you try to figure out where you are, and what the bally, slimey, clustery things in front of you could possibly be. “Follow the compass,” proclaims the Itch.io page, and “seek the depths”. That compass looks a bit like a Stargate chevron.
A short choose-your-own-adventure made for the GameBoy jam (and now I’m imagining what GameBoy jam would look and taste like – probably Greengage). The pixel art is scrumptious, the sound is just discordant and shrill enough to convince, and the story is open-ended enough to make you want to replay immediately. “Three friends embark on a two-day camping trip before their last year of school begins. A trip they never want to end.” A cute, sweet, very green game.
A wonderful puzzle-platformer made using Lexaloffle’s increasingly impressive Pico-8. Fathom your way around a mysterious location, examining objects with the Z button and ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the gorgeous pixel art with your mouth. One of the best uses of Pico-8 yet—I’m also greatly looking forward to Terry Cavanagh’s first-person shooter made for the console.
A sidescrolling shmup that prioritises atmosphere over score-chasing, featuring music by Beeswing’s Jack King-Spooner. I love Jake Clover’s sprites, the strange alien universe that all his games seem to take place in. graynold runner gives you two ships, then when they’re on fire and you jettison to safety, it gives you two little astronauts, who can hijack passing vehicles. A serene little anti-shoot-’em-up (maybe the world’s first?)
A digital wishing well that lets you cast a word, a phrase, a string of nonsense into space. That’s part of it: the fun part is looking at what other people have chucked out before you. The terms they dared scrawl on the game’s galactic messageboard, the words they typed when they thought nobody else was looking. When you’re done, Wish Fishing prescribes you a sort of horoscope, which you can try to decipher at the linked glossary page.
This short, stylish story was made for the A Game By Its Cover jam, in which developers made titles based on fake cartridge art. The rushed development period has resulted in plenty of spelling errors and straightforward dialogue that kinda undermines the experience, but you can’t fault the lovely pixel art and and palpable atmosphere in UNTERwELT.
“In a world where everyone is Jimi Hendrix, only Jimi Hendrix can solve the murder and find out who killed Jimi Hendrix.” So begins a point-and-click adventure with gorgeous pixel art and funny dialogue, where you actually get to use your gun. I’ve loved that in adventure games since Blade Runner, and despite (or perhaps because of) its short length, The Jimi Hendrix Case is one of the few to make full use of its shooting system. (Via Warp Door)
Zineth/Bubsy 3D/Room of 1000 Snakes developers Arcane Kids are back with another brilliant piece of freeware, this one pretending to be a collection of lost Sonic demos and prototypes from the mid to late ’90s. They’ve got the Dreamcast look down pat by now, and if it weren’t for the sight of Sonic and pals engaging in an orgy in Sonic Movie Maker, this could be pretty convincing. There are four little games included here: Make My Sonic, Eggman Origin, Sonic Movie Maker, and My Roommate Sonic, AKA stretch a Sonic character, try to play a non-functioning MMO, film seedy Sonic shenanigans with a movie camera, and romance Sonic the Hedgehog in VR. A disturbing and hilarious game about fandom, from some of the best comedians in the business.
Banned Memories turns the restrictions of PS1 hardware into a stylistic choice, and why not? Restrictions are great, giving a project a framework to rail against, or to comfortably fit within as you see fit. While the game seems to relish in the low-poly models and texture warping of the early 32-bit days, developer GamingEngineer is pushing against the restrictions of Game Maker: Studio, making probably the most impressive 3D game I’ve seen with it yet.
Engine aside, this is an atmospheric horror game that stacks up nicely against the likes of Silent Hill and Overblood, even if it’s obviously several shades behind those games on account of it being made by one person, rather than a whole team of seasoned professionals. This is an early look at the game, containing a part of a haunted school to explore, and I’m really digging what I’ve played of it so far. (Via IndieGames)
The remarkable Zzzz-Zzzz-Zzzz is set in a dream world, and fittingly its rules have no consistency from one screen to the next. It’s called that not only because you’re asleep, but because you’ll be pressing Z a lot. Z to go through a door. Z to go to sleep. Z to do an interaction, though you’re never quite sure what that interaction will be. Because of this, because each new screen feels strange and unfamiliar, Zzzz-Zzzz-Zzzz is one of the few games to really get what dreams are about. It’s a delightful, constantly surprising thing—fans of Fez are going to fall in love with it, I reckon.
A simple platformer embellished with a pleasant art style and premise, about a keytar-wielding robot thing that shoots colours at baddies. (He also has a shield, and a nifty lateral dash move.) The basic jumping and spike-avoiding could feel slicker, but Liberation, My Love’s unique setting and look go a long way.
It’s a bit like Remember Me, this, specifically those bits in Remember Me where you have to reprogram people’s memories (because you’re a jerk). You’re a woman with dymnesia trying to recover lost memories with the aid of a psychiatrist here, something you achieve by pivoting from one interactible object to the next, in a series of frozen moments from your past. You can examine each object for a bit of background detail, or combine the various sights and smells and sounds and other senses to bring the central memory to life. Writing and UI-wise, this is slightly clumsy, but I think the premise is a strong one. It’s a bold and stylistically impressive game too.
There’s not much to Disposable yet, but I did enjoy the look of the world, and the dashy jumping ability I never managed to master. As your little robot explores a facility, looking for terminals to hack in order to open a central door, you’ll occasionally need to rely on a tricksy dash-jump-thing that hurtles you through the air at a fixed distance. It’s a fun, challenging few minutes of platforming, that Martin Cohen will hopefully return to at a later date.
Source: Curated from: http://www.pcgamer.com
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