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Following Freeware: March 2012 releases header image
feature: Following Freeware: March 2012 releases

This month you can be a caveman hunting for big game or a ninja searching for a way into a secure temple. Perhaps you’d prefer to visit strange creatures in their own fantasy realm, or be surrounded by odd beings in our own world. Alternatively, you can join a private investigator on a case of stolen antiquities, or find that the life of an assassin is rarely a simple one. All these await you in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.


Unga needs Mumba

Unga be good caveman. Hunt plenty tasty Kaffla for him woman, Nonga. But Nonga no want Kaffla, Nonga want Mumba. Hunt Mumba, no easy task for Unga. Him need companions on hunt. Him also need great sacrifice to mighty god Mota Raganu to win favour for hunt. Him speak to wise man, Araakalo. Seek knowledge of spirit world. Find what please Mota Raganu. Get god to help. Easier task than change mind of him woman.

Knoodn’s prehistoric adventure takes a humorous approach to our ancient ancestors. The graphics are a detailed cartoon style reminiscent of Day of the Tentacle-era LucasArts. Unga is a chunky individual, with spindly arms and legs, a bald head and a heavily protruding eyebrow. Other cave dwellers each have their own distinctive look, with some female characters sporting stylish hairdos and jewellery. These characters are all fully animated, with speaking motions in particular matching the tone of the words used. There are also numerous background animations, such as a small cavechild running around the main campground. The opening includes a suitably caveman-like tune with a quieter background piece during play that is also reminiscent of '90s LucasArts. The game is fully voiced to a good standard, with voices well matched to the characters they portray.

As Mumba is a caveman hunting for a woolly elephant, players face a mammoth task in this game. Control is simple point-and-click, with a right-click to look and left-click to interact. The type of interaction available is shown on-screen when you point at a hotspot, including such actions as “worship” for the idol of Mota Raganu. Your first stop will be the village wise man, who will send you to the spirit world. Some surreal but simple puzzling gives you three abstract clues to the sacrifice needed to please the tribe’s god. After this you must travel to various locations, including a high cliff and the river separating you from a neighbouring tribe. Your aim is to locate objects that match the cryptic clues and persuade your fellow tribesmen to assist you in the hunt. Inventory use and dialogue both play their part, with obstacles including a fierce bird guarding its nest and a neighbouring tribesman on a similar quest. The whole adventure is presented in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, especially in the content and delivery of the dialogue.

Unga needs Mumba can be downloaded from the AGS website.

Sara & The Sarcastic Creatures: Episode 4 – Weirdos on a Train

For some time now, coffee shop owner Sara has seen strange creatures wherever she goes. Whilst they seem harmless, their odd sense of humour and tendency to keep her awake at night have proved most annoying. Then her cat, Wasabi, was stolen by goblins and the creatures finally provided some help, guiding her on the catnappers trail. Reunited with her feline companion, she was most surprised to find that it could talk. Now under its direction, Sara sets out on an odd train journey to meet a mysterious stranger. Possessing only a ticket for the cheapest carriage, however, ingenuity will be needed to reach the high-end compartment she seeks.

After two non-adventuring episodes to begin the series, this game from Tucker continues the story started in the third episode. The train setting is presented in a semi-realistic first-person view in shades of black and white, with movement executed in smooth transitions. Against this drab background, the characters and interactive objects are drawn in brighter colours. For humans, these drawings are done in a simplified realistic style, with fully expressive faces. The eponymous sarcastic creatures are by contrast a strange bunch, including monocular octo-blobs and a lion-headed snake. Animation is almost entirely limited to interactions, though there are many such interactions that are not vital to your quest. The train itself provides the main audio backdrop to the journey. Sound effects include victory trills for solving puzzles, plus location-specific sounds such the “music” of a group of instrument-playing creatures in one of the luggage racks.

The over-arching quest is to reach the front of the train and the person you seek. Each carriage requires a different coloured ticket, with each carriage forming a largely self-contained puzzle to obtain the next ticket. Only occasionally is backtracking necessary, the need becoming obvious if the current carriage has been thoroughly inspected. Using simple point-and-click, you will gather and combine items, as well as perform tasks for others in exchange for the required pass. The various creatures sometimes give aid, including a hint for a lock combination, though they are more inclined to mock your efforts. They also form part of some puzzles, such as the musical band keeping a passenger awake. The game also includes a hint system in the form of your cat, who will provide a single clue to the current challenge.

Sara & The Sarcastic Creatures: Episode 4 – Weirdos on a Train can be played online at Addicting Games. Links to all episodes can be found at the developer’s website.

Anaksha Mini Adventures 2: A New Threat

In Santa Lina, Anaksha is a name to be feared among the criminal fraternity. She is an assassin for hire, determined to bring down the criminal scum that threaten the stability of the city. But success in the assassin business requires more than a gun and a scope. Reliable communication is a must, and her old cellphone just won’t cut it anymore. But getting a secure replacement is not as simple as it seems.

This spin-off from Arif Games’ sniping simulation series features a retro look. Control is handled through keyboard, using the cursor keys or WASD for movement and the spacebar to interact with the object or person immediately in front of you. The graphics are done in a classic 8-bit style, with blocky characters and locations. Whilst this can make objects hard to identify from time to time, a quick use of the interact button will usually result in a description of any given item. Your quest will take you to a seedy hotel, a local bar and a XXX cinema. Conversations are conducted by text at the base of the screen, with still character portraits for each line of dialogue that are detailed enough to show expression. The background music is a series of mellow tunes, suited to the noir setting. The game also includes limited sound effects, though unlike the music, these match the retro visual style.

The previous two episodes, Sea of Fire and Quick Stop , represented experiments with the engine rather than full-fledged adventures, but this third episode provides a meaty experience. From simply acquiring a new secure phone, Anaksha will go on to investigate Pixie Dust, a new and deadly drug on the streets. Conversation, exploration and a healthy dose of inventory combination are required if her investigation is to bear fruit. At any given time you will have a single main quest, such as locating the supplier of your new phone. To achieve these you must accomplish a number of sub-quests, usually involving finding and assisting the various locals. Many of these objectives vary from game to game, providing a large amount of replay value. The online save system was not working correctly at time of writing, so I recommend using the manual alternative described in-game. Whilst having some humour, the overall tone of is dark. There is also significant adult content, making this game unsuitable for children.

Anaksha Mini Adventures 2: A New Threat can be played online at the developer’s website. The other episodes, as well as the shooting games in the same series, can be found on the same site.

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