Following Freeware: January 2011 releases
This month you can play a gang of 19th century French thieves, a demon seeking to release the power within him, or a pop star famous for her unusual clothing choices. You could also see what happens when poetry and zombies collide, experience an unusual approach to plot construction and help a young girl overcome her fears. Or you can simply try to spend some time in the company of a lovely lady, if you can get rid of your unexpected house guests first. All these opportunities await you in this round-up of the January 2011 releases from the freeware adventure scene.
Once upon a midnight dreary, Ed composed an e-mail query, sorrowing for his lost Lenore. But the departed Lenore is standing right outside, with a new lease on un-life and a hankering for some tasty brains. With his erstwhile beloved planning to turn him into a snack, Eddie needs to have his wits about him if he is to defeat her and escape his besieged home. Quoth the raven “Grab your gun.”
This game from Hamumu owes not so much a debt as a good-natured apology to Edgar Allan Poe’s classic gothic poem “The Raven”. Every action you take, including ones that lead to your demise, is presented in the form of an on-screen verse whose style and layout mimic that of the original. These are all also spoken in a deep and gravelly voice that suits the feel of the original poem well. The actual content of the lines is far less faithful to Poe’s work, being largely comic in tone – all the more so for being read in a serious voice. The graphical presentation is a first-person slideshow format with high resolution photographic stills depicting the various locations. The soundtrack is a slow, disturbing tune, reminiscent of old zombie films. The relatively simple puzzles are based around a small inventory, the contents of which also have text-only rhyming couplets as descriptions. The death scenes are worth finding for the related verse, as a single click will undo your fatal action.
Eddie’s Lament can be played online at Kongregate.
Tales of Otubania
On the world of Otubania lives Aciducer. He normally works as an assistant, but sometimes he has to save the world and other times he has to perform complete nonsense. Today is definitely one of the latter days. When he woke up this morning, he knew with absolute certainty that he must put a frame on a barrel. So our hero bravely sets out to perform a plethora of unrelated tasks in order to achieve this worthy goal.
To describe Tales of Otubania as surreal is an enormous understatement. You could even suspect the plot had been created randomly, and you’d be right. TomatosInTheHead used his own tool, the Silly Story Maker, to generate the basic plot. This simple program randomly uses text lists to create a lead character, an ultimate goal and a list of tasks you need to perform to reach it. The tasks include most standard adventuring fare, such as talking to Non Player Characters and gathering and combining items. The outright silliness of the story here has been wholeheartedly embraced, making this a highly amusing adventure that even pokes fun at some genre conventions. The graphics are colourful but very simplistic, with detail consisting of liberal use of the Paint spray tool. However, everything is easily recognisable and this style actually fits the tone of the game well. A different tune plays in each location, an organ in the cathedral particularly standing out. The game is fully voiced, and whilst the acting is not necessarily of stellar quality, the feeling put into the lines enhances the on-screen subtitles. These voiceovers are a major addition, since nearly every possible interaction has its own unique dialogue.
The Three Thieves
The year is 1892 and master thief Rob finds himself incarcerated in a Parisian prison. Fortunately, his skills at breaking in are also useful in breaking out, and he is soon back on the streets. Putting together his old gang, Meaty the powerful boxer and Slim the beanpole, he is eager to return to his life of crime. But someone has been keeping an eye on these three thieves and has other plans for how their skills can be best employed.
This point-and-click game from 2Dplay features a detailed, if slightly stylised, rendition of 19th century Paris as its backdrop. The city is mainly coloured in shades of brown and grey, reflecting both the setting in the less salubrious parts of town and the fact that the game takes place at night. The characters are much more exaggerated, as Meaty is completely round and Slim is impossibly thin with a strange, gangly walk. All three the thieves are smoothly animated, as are the other characters and moving objects in game. A French accordion piece plays over the opening, but the in-game sound is limited to sound effects only, such as the rattling of trains on the Metro. The game adopts a comedic tone, with the character text written to reflect a spoof French accent. On-screen buttons allow you to change the active character at any time, and each of the protagonists has a unique ability to aid in your quest. Rob can make himself invisible at will, Meaty can move large objects by punching and Slim can slide himself through thin pipes. The puzzles are relatively simple, revolving around these abilities and standard inventory use.
The Three Thieves can be played online at 2D Play.
Belial: Chapter 2.5 – The Beast Within
At the end of Belial: Chapter 1, the son of Lucifer was offered two choices on how to execute his plan to overthrow Satan. The first, passage back from Earth to Hell to raise an army, was played out in Chapter 2 – Throne of Chaos. The second, staying on Earth and unleashing his true form, Baal, is played out in this new game. Here Belial must travel deep into his own psyche to unlock the gargantuan monster sealed within. Sent in with the bewitching demoness, Lilith, as his guide, he soon finds his supernatural powers are unusable in this setting, which means it’s time to apply diabolical cunning to the obstacles that bar him from his goal.
This game is predictably similar to the previous games by keybol in the way its looks and plays. The graphics adopt the same cartoon style with bright colours and simple but effective animation. Control is point-and-click, with drag-and-drop used to combine inventory or apply items to the environment. Despite the fiendish backdrop, the game is actually light in tone, featuring such locations as a film studio where Belial’s dreams are recorded rather than horror-filled vistas. A xylophone and string pieces back up the action, creating a suitable underworld feel. Although fairly short, a variety of puzzles are crammed in, ranging from basic inventory use to standalone logic puzzles. The latter come with a button for hints, which can be purchased using soul essences found scattered throughout the game. There is also a dialogue puzzle in which it is important to remember who the player character is.
Belial : Chapter 2.5 – The Beast Within can be played online at Kongregate.
Sharon is an eight year old girl who fears the dark. When her rose night lights fail, something from under the bed snatches her favourite doll, Becky. With her toy companion kidnapped, will Sharon dare to venture under the bed and into the realm of her imagination? Can a little girl face up to her deepest fears?
This game was made by Tamanegi for the MAGS December 2010 competition at AGS, where developers have only a month to build a game based around a specific theme. In this case the theme was “Discovery”, and Don’t Look covers its topic well. There is a mild horror tone as Sharon descends into the world under her bed, but this is based around the fears of children rather than gory scenes. The graphics are moderately low resolution, but effectively drawn and animated, with shadows on Sharon’s nightdress shifting as she walks. Interaction is handled via a verb coin called up with a right-click, which includes the small number of inventory items you find. The game is fairly short and its puzzles are relatively simple, though the final puzzle is cleverly thought out and implemented. The only real disappointment is that that game is entirely lacking in sound, but Tamanegi has considered the possibility of adding this in a refined “special edition” now the competition is over.
Don’t Look can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Lady Gaga Saw Game
Lady Gaga’s reputation for odd behaviour and apparel has attracted the attention of a psycho fan, the villainous Pigsaw. Kidnapping the singer from her dressing room after a concert, he has placed her in an old motel with only one exit. Scattered throughout the rooms of the hotel, Pigsaw has recruited the aid of some of the craziest villains from cartoons and comic books. As the queen of pop, can you outwit this nefarious crew and escape this complex trap?
This is another title from Inkagames that combines a real-world personality with a fictional setting. Unlike Obama: Resident Evil, the inspiration this time is a sequence of movies, namely the gory Saw horror series. Whilst adopting the convoluted trap premise of the films and modelling Pigsaw after the similarly-named villain, this game does not copy the more gruesome elements. Instead, the villains you must face are comic ones such as The Riddler from Batman and Kang the Martian from The Simpsons. The graphics adopt a cartoon style with a decent caricature of Lady Gaga herself and the villains all instantly recognisable. The soundtrack fits the Saw theme, but proves too short a loop for constant listening. Puzzles mainly involve inventory, though there is a jigsaw puzzle and combination sequence. Initially you will often come across villains unprepared, but a mouse-click will restore you back to before you entered the room where you met your demise. These death sequences are all family-friendly and come with hints on how you might defeat that particular opponent.
Lady Gaga Saw Game can be played online at Kongregate.
Sociotown: Uninvited Guests
After his date with the lovely Veronica, Toby just wanted to show her his luxury apartment and see where things might lead. Unfortunately, someone has managed to get into his apartment and is holding a large party there. Not only is his home full of uninvited guests, but paper plates and other party debris are scattered all over the place. If he wants to get any alone time with his lady, it’s up to Toby to find a way to get rid of these unwanted interlopers and their rubbish.
This game by Chris Evans is based on the Sociotown online social MMO. Pre-rendered 3D is used throughout, with slightly cartoon-like models used for all the human characters. These are animated well, though the non-player characters tend to stay in one place, thus needing only limited animation to mimic dancing. The apartment and its contents are nicely detailed with good use of shading. Music varies from room to room but mostly consists of generic party-style tunes, with only the occasional more interesting piece. You move Toby and Veronica around using WASD or the arrow keys, with a simple mouse-operated menu appearing at the bottom of the screen when you approach anything interactive. With most party guests, this will immediately give two options, Punch and Toss, but many will require something from you before you can eject them. The majority of these are fetch quests requiring you to search the furniture, though some need limited environmental action as well. There is also a simple arcade challenge to beat in order to get rid of one of the guests. Often completing one of these trials grants you a key, giving you access to new rooms.
Sociotown: Uninvited Guests 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.
The Sagittarian by Hyptosis – Try to survive the zombie apocalypse in this grim choose-your-own-path adventure.
Halo & Pixy by Pastel Games – Help Pixy rescue a cat from a tree in a brightly-coloured game ideal for children.
Runeseekers 2 by Hyptosis – When the balance of magic is disturbed, it’s up to you to appease the spirits causing the disturbance.
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!