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Originally made for the monthly AGS competition in November 2010, this game from Alexander Klingenbeck, aka mode7, is a fairly short one.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.Continued on the next page...