Following Freeware: December 2010 releases
This month you can venture out into the dark or try to free yourself from the darkness that can lurk in your memories. You could also experience varying futures where Earth has fallen to an alien race, being a genetic engineer for the police is not a happy job and vast spaceships are full of amazing equipment. Or you might find some people getting a little too much into Facebook, thwart a mad scientist’s death ray plans and see how a single chance to make crucial decisions affects the fate of everyone around you. You can even take on a city of zombies as the President of the USA. All these await you in this month’s roundup of freeware releases.
Dacey in the Park: Prelude
Dacey is 21 years old but still lives with her father, who is in denial over the loss of her mother. When she finds out that he has thrown away her precious childhood teddy bear, she decides enough is enough and the time has come to leave home. Heading out into the dark of the night, she meets a strange glowing moth unlike any she has seen before. But whilst this moth assists her in finding what she needs to get away, it may not entirely have her best interests at heart.
Originally made for the monthly AGS competition in November 2010, this game from Alexander Klingenbeck, aka mode7, is a fairly short one. However, there is promise for a larger story to follow, with the ending hinting at a greater adventure to come. The backdrop is a distant cityscape at night, lit by a diffuse glow of streetlamps. The foreground, where the action takes place, is almost entirely presented in silhouette, the only colour coming from the windows of the house and the glowing moth. The silhouettes all form easily recognisable shapes and the animation of the lead character is performed smoothly. Keyboard control is used, with left and right arrows moving the character while up, down and space interact with the environment in various ways. The puzzling comes from a small inventory with a little bit of environmental interaction. The moth homes in on objects as you approach them, giving you an indication of available hotspots, and the inventory can be called up with Tab once it’s obtained. Meanwhile, background noises appropriate to the night setting, such as the chirping of insects, set the scene well.
Dacey in the Dark: Prelude can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Echoes of Terra
For a thousand years the Terran empire ruled the stars in a golden age of power, influence and prosperity for the human race. All that came to an end eight hundred years ago, when a mysterious alien race attacked the empire. Two hundred and fifty years of conflict took down the human worlds one by one, until Earth itself was laid waste. Fleeing in vast colony ships, one made it to its destination, the planet Exodus. Now, after centuries of struggle, the Exodus colony is once again able to reach out to the stars. As a psychically trained agent of this colony, you are tasked with patrolling the edge of human space. There you come across an outpost relic of the old empire. With others also after its secrets, can you unlock the mysteries within?
The presentation offers a dark sci-fi future, with the outpost initially appearing as a run-down metallic construction, though more esoteric architecture waits below. Whilst moderately low-resolution, the graphics are clear and reasonably well animated. The background music is an ambient piece that suits the desolate nature of the station. A traditional point-and-click interface is used, but with an additional psychic action cursor. This allows you to use your mental abilities to pick up psychic impressions from characters and environments, and is vital to solving some of the game’s puzzles. There is one scene near the start where you need to act quickly to survive and other points where the wrong action can result in death, so regular saving is advisable. Whilst this game is fairly short, acting more as a taster for the setting, it clearly shows promise for a future series.
Echoes of Terra can be downloaded from the website of the developer, Wolfmage.
Technobabylon Part 2: The Weight of the World
For Dr Charlie Regis, scientific member of the law enforcement agency CEL, this is not proving to be a good day. The man who killed his wife 20 years ago has been released from rehabilitation, pronounced cured of his antisocial tendencies. Then his visit to the tree he genetically engineered in her memory was marred by a woman trying to hang herself from it. Now an unknown person is threatening to destroy the embryos that are his last connection to his wife unless he removes a mysterious device from a crime scene. A tough choice awaits Dr Regis, unless a biobomber gets him first.
This is a further adventure in the dystopian future Technocrat originally introduced in Technobabylon Part 1: The Prisoner of Fate. In this instalment, we get to see much more than the single room we were presented with before and learn about the society of this science-fiction setting. The graphics are once again low-res but highly effective with good use of shading to give depth and detail. This time around, we get full-screen external vistas as well as a luxury apartment that is much larger than the cramped quarters depicted in the first game. The soundtrack is simple but effective, such as the single-instrument Japanese piece that perfectly fits the opening garden scene. This episode is much more substantial than the first part, with dialogue, inventory and careful examination of the environment all playing their part in puzzles. The setting is dark and the crime scene is fairly gruesome, so this is not a game suited to the young or squeamish.
Technobabylon Part 2 can be downloaded from the AGS website.
...But That Was (Yesterday)
Our memories and experiences, good and bad, make us what we are, but dwelling on them can prevent us from moving on. For the unnamed protagonist, this dilemma manifests itself physically in the form of a dark bubbling wall, whose touch brings a confusing kaleidoscope of images. With the guidance of his friends and acquaintances, he must work through his memories and find a way to get past this block.
An entry by Michael Molinari, aka OneMrBean, in the 9th Jayisgames Casual Gameplay Design Competition, this unusual game went on to place first. At times more of an interactive piece of art than a full-on gaming experience, this is not something that will appeal to all, but those willing to give it a try will find an interesting and unusual experience. Whilst the characters are properly shaped and clothed, with realistic animations, they are all entirely featureless, their differing colours being their main distinguishing feature. None of the characters speak, with dialogue shown solely as pictorial speech bubbles. These characters are complemented by soft backgrounds with delicate shading and varied colour palettes that give each scene its own distinctive feel. A winter scene is all cold whites and blues whilst an autumn scene has a range of gentle browns. These scenes are well served by a gentle soundtrack mainly featuring a guitar, which suits the feel of the game nicely. The minimalist gameplay is keyboard controlled, with instructions provided as part of the ongoing narrative.
...But That Was (Yesterday) can be played on the Jayisgames website.
After having to explain his tardiness in Johnny, Why Are You Late?!, today our eponymous hero is overjoyed to get to work without problems. His wife and son didn’t hamper him at home and even his boss isn’t around at the office. Taking advantage of his boss’s absence to log onto Facebook, Johnny discovers why no-one has been bothering him. They have all been sucked into Facebook itself and it’s up to Johnny to get them all out.
Another entry in the Casual Gameplay Design competition, this is a lightly comedic adventure from keybol. Rather than rushing around in third-person, this time the game plays in first-person with you jumping between Facebook application spoofs like Mafia Wares that your family and colleagues are trapped in. This jumping around is key, as you will usually need items and information from one application to solve a problem in another. There is also a side quest to find 17 cigarette butts hidden throughout the game to unlock an ending bonus. The graphics are the same simple unshaded cartoon style used in the previous instalment and all screens are static, with any changes made by the player updated without animation. The background music is a simple double bass piece that suits the Mafia game but seems out of place when you move into other sections like Farmit.
JohnnyWhy 2 can be played online at Games Butler.
Professor Neely and the Death Ray of Doom
Professor Neely is a retired college professor and inventor of such marvellous devices as the Z-22 Vacuum Tube. Unfortunately, this vacuum tube is the very thing a former student, now a mad scientist, needs to complete his Death Ray. Using a fake awards ceremony to lure the professor to his house, he steals the vacuum tube and locks the professor up. Can Professor Neely escape and thwart the dastardly plan?
This is a comedic adventure from Nathaniel Oliveira, aka Sonicrumpets. The graphics have a nice cartoon look that is reminiscent of Day of the Tentacle with its slightly distorted architecture. A purple tentacle even makes an appearance as a leech on a particularly unpleasant boil. Whilst mostly presented in a 2D side view, the graphics switch to an isometric view for the central hallway of the house. The soundtrack consists of a variety of tunes from public sources, which although reasonable are not always an ideal fit for the setting. The game also features decent sound effects, including a grunting noise to indicate speech that can be turned off independently of other sound if desired. The interface is point-and-click, with actions selected by clicking one of four coloured quarters on a Professor Neely head icon or cycled by right-clicking. The cursor changes colour to match the appropriate head colour, but is otherwise uniform throughout, making it difficult to tell what action is selected at a glance. Puzzle advancement is mainly through use of inventory, though there is also some dialogue and a bug-squashing challenge that will require a little dexterity.
Professor Neely and the Death Ray of Doom can be downloaded from the AGS website.
It should have been a time for celebrating. After much hard work, your research team discovered a treatment that destroys cancer cells. The jubilation was short-lived, however, when you found that it starts destroying every other living cell once finished with the cancer cells. Worse, the “cure” exists in a gaseous form and has escaped into the environment at large. In six days, every living cell on Earth will be dead. With so little time to work with, is even trying to find a way to stop it worthwhile? That is the decision you must make. You have one chance.
Given the premise, this game from AwkwardSilenceGames naturally has a very down-beat feel to it. The graphics are blocky but serviceable, with animation kept to the bare minimum necessary to convey such activities as walking. The music consists of a single basic but haunting piece that works well with the game’s theme. Control is simple left and right arrows for movement and space to interact or choose an action. Whilst some actions can be made freely, most represent choices that determine how the six days play out, ultimately leading you to one of the game’s multiple endings. What sets this game apart from others is that “one chance” applies to the player as well as the game characters. There is no replay button, and reloading the webpage after completion simply shows the ending screen you reached. With that in mind, the decisions you make over these six days take on a greater weight, as each one closes off other options until you reach your final, permanent solution. Do you work flat out to try to find a cure or spend precious time with your family? Would any time with your family spell the difference between survival and death? Should you simply run away with a work colleague instead? Unless you have the technical know-how to circumvent the single play limit then choose carefully, as you really do only have one chance.
One Chance can be played online at Newgrounds.
On a vast spaceship, designated Phoenix 1, Criss awakes with no idea of who or where he is. Identified as Technician 203 by the on-board AI, he is assigned to make repairs to the strange machinery of this huge structure. As he sets out to perform a task beyond his comprehension, can he find the truth behind this spaceship and his presence on-board? And is he really all alone on such a colossal vessel?
Weighing in at an eye-popping 1GB download, this first game from julius is quite a hefty download. The main reason for the file size is that this is an FMV game with extensive cutscenes that individually are larger than some entire games. The background graphics are highly detailed, giving a good impression of a enormous ship full of fantastic technology such as liquid walls that part to let you through. The blending of these backdrops with the live-action player character is reasonably done, though the walking animation occasionally doesn’t quite fit with the distance travelled. There is a background hum of a vast unseen engine and suitable sound effects for interaction with the environment. The cinematics are fully voiced, albeit in Hebrew with English subtitles. All door labels are in English, but these only appear when you actually try to use a door, making navigation a little tricky at times. Control is point-and-click, with a small inventory and the strange controls of the on-board machinery providing puzzle challenges.
Phoenix 1 can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Obama Resident Evil
Dr Wesker, head of the Umbrella Corporation, has kidnapped the First Family and is holding them hostage in Raccoon City. Being a hands-on sort of President, Obama doesn’t send in Special Forces but instead parachutes into the city himself. Can he get through the zombie-infested city and rescue his wife and children?
Whilst not a laugh-out-loud comedy, this is a lighthearted game from inkagames that casts the US President as an action hero who still wears a shirt and tie when out on a mission. The graphics are a crisp cartoon style with clear black outlines and simplistic shading for shadows. Obama and other familiar faces in the game are drawn in a recognisable light caricature style with facial expressions to reflect annoyance or happiness at appropriate moments. The backgrounds are sharp, with bright red arrows giving an indication of available exits from each scene. The music is appropriate for the Resident Evil theme but is on so short a loop that the mute option is invaluable. Control is point-and-click and labels appear when you mouse over hotspots, though some items are still tricky to spot. Despite the action game scenario, this is definitely an adventure game using wits rather than quick fingers to progress. You’ll talk to the handful of still-living residents, use your inventory and keep an eye out for important clues in the background. You can fall foul of zombies, but if you do there is an option that puts you right back in the same position as when you made your fatal error.
Obama Resident Evil can be played online at Kongregate.
Other new releases
Not all games are created equal, and freeware games especially come in all shapes and sizes. Not to be overlooked, the following list might also be of interest, though these games may be significantly shorter or less polished, more experimental titles than those detailed above, some perhaps only borderline adventures to begin with.
Fallen from the Moon by gamystar – When the lady who lives on the moon falls to Earth, it will take a lot of puzzling for her to get back.
Mystic Asylum by Selfdefiant – Cleanse a run-down asylum of the negative energies from its past.
Demon Room by WeMaG – When a demon summoning goes wrong, Joe the exorcist is called in for a live-action banishing.
You Find Yourself in a Room by ZDArray – Find yourself in a text adventure that “slowly realises it hates you and everything you stand for.” Contains strong language.
Old Girl by rejoin – Search the creepy town of Gerville for your missing girlfriend Jane.
That’s it for this month. Think we’ve missed a gem or want to tell us about your own game? Then pop in to our Adventure forum and tell us about it!