This month you can become an incompetent magician, an independent radio DJ or an emergency repair drone. Alternatively, you might choose to fly high in a balloon, struggle to survive in the depths of the ocean, or simply try to combat a raging hangover. Dark family secrets may also await you, and the death of a brother could prove to be not all that it seems. Plus there are two new opportunities to enjoy an old classic series, in both an enhanced remake and a new fan-made episode. All these await you in February’s round-up of freeware releases.
King’s Quest III Redux: To Heir is Human
Turning 18 is always a difficult time in a young man’s life. For Gwydion, servant of the evil wizard Manannan, it is more stressful than most. His master is in the habit of killing his servants on their 18th birthday, before they become too troublesome for him to deal with. Faced with this nasty fate, Gwydion sets about plotting his escape. It is a quest that will require him to learn the ways of magic himself, as he tries to beat the wizard at his own game.
Rather than a straight remake of the original Sierra classic, this Redux edition from AGD Interactive expands on the additional story elements introduced in their previous update of King’s Quest II, offering something new even for series veterans. The graphics have had a significant overhaul, with detailed SVGA graphics replacing the more lurid original look. From the Stygian cave that is Mannanan’s lab to sunny woodlands, these environments all have their own distinctive look and feel. New character dialogue portraits have also been created which synchronise with the full voice work that has been added to the game. The smoothness of these animations are carried through to the rest of the game, as even the various action cursors are fully animated. The challenge level of the puzzles is retained, so players will need a keen eye, a sharp brain and likely a notepad in hand to get through. The soundtrack is also well done, ranging from a light medieval tune to Mannanan’s dark and sinister theme. As is the norm for the King’s Quest series, death sequences abound and players are advised to save regularly.
King’s Quest III Redux: To Heir is Human can be downloaded from the developer's website. Downloads for both PC and Mac are available.
The Silver Lining: Episode 3 – My Only Love Sprung from My Only Hate
If you’ve had your fill of original King’s Quests, a new adventure is available in The Silver Lining's ongoing saga. Things are not getting any easier for King Graham, as strange happenings beset the Isles, his Queen appears to have reached breaking point and Graham himself is afflicted by disturbing visions. The mysterious Isle of Mists may hold what he seeks, but untold dangers also await the unwary traveller there.
Phoenix Online’s all-new adventure reaches its mid-point in this instalment. A chunky piece of adventuring is on offer to mark that milestone, proving longer than each of the previous episodes, with a major new location, the Isle of Mists, featuring heavily. The game is once more fully voiced, and continues to display the attractive 3D graphics that have been used in previous episodes. In addition to the standard adventure puzzling found in its predecessors, this game also includes an action sequence where you must dodge attacks by foul monsters as you race upon your horse. The game also features many death sequences, so the usual saving advice applies as always.
Both this episode and the previous ones can be downloaded from the developer’s website (registration is required, but is free and carries no obligation).
~airwave~: I Fought the Law, and the Law One
Elodie Major is one of two DJs at the independent radio station Airwave, based in the town of Wave. Coming off a shift at the station, she just wants to kick back at the Ometa bar and listen to live music from father and daughter duo, Audrey and Rasputin. But a rep from a mainstream record label has managed to get a signed order, apparently from the mayor, banning unregistered acts from playing in town. If Elodie is to get the chance to enjoy her live gig, it is up to her to find a way to deal with this corporate flunky and his nefarious schemes.
The first game in a proposed series from Ben304, this is a very positive start. The graphics feature a cartoon style reminiscent of Full Throttle, with both architecture and characters drawn in a moderately realistic manner. The only oddities are the characters’ eyes, which are luminously bright-coloured ovals. Character animation is fluid and background animations, such as a flickering letter in the neon Ometa sign, add to the atmosphere. The tone of the game is lighthearted, with some peculiar characters dotting the area, such as Damon, the demented genius trying to collect pure rainwater by standing outside with a jug in each hand. Control is simple, with left-clicks for interaction and right to look. Every hotspot has a reaction to both, often involving Elodie reminiscing about the odd activities of various fictitious bands. A modest inventory and dialogue provide the puzzling element. The soundtrack is provided by Airwave radio, taken over by Elodie’s partner, Zak, when her shift ended. This is a pleasing mix of indie rock and jazz, interspersed with well-voiced DJ chatter from Zak himself. This plays throughout town, achieved in-game by having radios tuned into Airwave at every location. Any player finding the soundtrack not to their taste can mute it by the simple act of turning the radios off.
~airwave~: I Fought the Law, and the Law One can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Most mature adults (and all immature ones) know that it’s good to let your hair down and have a party every now and then. But partying hard can have its consequences, as the hero of Crazy Hangover discovers to his detriment. Waking up with a huge hangover, all he wants to do is go outside to get some fresh air. The aftermath of the party makes this a less than easy task, however, as various bizarre obstacles bar the way to his desired goal.
Adopting a comedic tone throughout, this game presents a house that has been host to what must have been a truly spectacular party. The toilet is on the ceiling, dogs are playing poker in the hall and one semi-comatose partygoer has an octopus on his head. This is all presented in a bright and detailed cartoon style, with slightly exaggerated characters, like the hangdog protagonist and the beefy bouncer guarding the back door. These graphics are also well-animated, with nice background touches like the octopus intermittently squirting ink. The interface is point-and-click, with inventory puzzles being the order of the day, often through satisfying requests of various house residents. Whilst there is also on-screen text, the game is fully voiced, the lead character in particular sounding quite unwell. There are also a variety of other sounds, including a vacuum cleaner and the rap music the dogs are listening to. As a result, this is a game not to be played when you actually have a hangover, and the content generally is unsuitable for children.
Crazy Hangover from Pyrozen can be played online at Gamesfree.
LaSol is a luxury man-made holiday resort, standing on stilts in the middle of the ocean. When an explosion occurs, part of the resort breaks off and falls into the water. Now janitor Stan Winston finds himself underwater, in a structure that was never designed with that environment in mind. With water slowly making its way in, Stan has to act fast if his erstwhile workplace is not to become his tomb.
WHAM’s entry in the February 2011 MAGS competition is a race against time to escape the upside-down corridor where Stan finds himself trapped. As the player hunts for a way out, the initially dry corridor starts filling with water. This creates a number of hazards for our hero, starting with exposed wiring and ultimately leading to the sealed doors giving in, filling the corridor completely. As the water grows higher, moving around becomes harder and the lights dim, giving a real sense of urgency to proceedings. With the sole location being a single maintenance corridor, the graphics adopt a functional look, and the hallway only takes up the horizontal centre of the screen, providing a claustrophobic feel. The character of Stan is well-drawn and animated, as is the newsreader whose reports on the disaster serve as the introduction and epilogue. Puzzling is inventory-based and acting fast is key for such tasks as shutting off the electricity before the exposed wires are submerged. Failing to address problems in time will result in a death scene, which makes regular saving advisable, though the fairly short game length makes this less a requirement than normal. The game is also fully voiced, with at least one use of strong language. The music is a subtle ominous tune, which allows the effects, such as breaking pipes and sloshing water, to take precedence.
Submerged: LaSol can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Whilst travelling across a foreign land in your hot air balloon, a mishap results in a crash landing in the grey, smooth depths of an area known as Dark Valley, leaving your balloon deflated and unusable. Fortunately, a local native proves willing to help you in your quest to find material to effect repairs. Together you set out in his own small balloon to search this strange land for the patches you need.
This game from Jake Elliott, also known as Cardboard Computer, has been made using the 3D Unity engine. Whilst this results in some slightly angular forms, most notably the natives, it allows a fully 3D environment that the player traverses via node-based movement. The setting feels strange and foreign, with the character angularity actually serving to enhance this sensation of otherworldliness. Your journey will take you from the deep grooves of the Dark Valley up to the precarious pathways of the Three Spires. It’s an enchanting land, viewed by moonlight and the various lanterns being carried around. Interaction is simple point-and-click and the puzzles are simple, based on satisfying requests from natives so they will supply you with the cloth you need for patches. An interesting feature of the conversations is that they often involve talking about your place in the fictional world. Whilst different choices do not change your ability to complete the game, they do allow you to create an entire backstory that will vary from player to player. Subsequent conversations reflect this background as you discuss such things as your homeland. A haunting soundtrack, which can also be downloaded separately, provides a suitable backdrop to your nighttime exploits.
Balloon Diaspora can be downloaded from the developer’s website.
Cosmonaut Valentin Petrostrat is on the re-entry phase of a mission when an explosion knocks out his instruments. Out of control, his capsule plunges into the sea, disabling the radio transponder and incapacitating Valentin himself. With the capsule already buckling under pressure it was never designed to withstand, things look bleak. Fortunately, his capsule is fitted with an automated repair and EVA drone. If this plucky little device can deploy the emergency beacon in time, Valentin could still be saved.
In this February 2011 MAGS entry from pinback, you take the role of the small repair drone. The radio isn’t the only piece of equipment damaged in the crash, so some inventory-based improvisation will be necessary to get the beacon operational again, placed outside the capsule where its signal can be heard. You will also need to deduce the password for an on-board storage compartment, a tricky task given the only person likely to know the password is unconscious. The look of the capsule is grim and functional, with grey and brown tones dominating. There are also signs of damage from the impact, as water leaks drip in various places. This overall look is highly effective in conveying the seriousness of the situation. The animations are also nicely done, whether Valentin’s limited movement before his collapse or the unfolding of the drone’s robotic arm. The game is fully voiced in radio communications just prior to the crash and a convincingly artificial voice the drone uses for all actions. The backing musical piece adds the final touch to the atmosphere, with its slow deep tones reflecting the ocean floor setting.
Beacon can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Death on Stage
At the Little Piddle magician’s competition, Stanley Biscuit dreams of stardom. Sadly, his skills at sleight-of-hand do not quite match up to his vision, and he is ignominiously booed off stage. Taking pity on the poor fellow, the theatre manager advises him of three things that could turn his disastrous performance into a successful act. With the offer of a chance to try again if he can achieve these three changes, Stanley sets off to consult his fellow contestants in the hope of achieving mystic fame.
Duncan “DuncanFx” Frowde’s winning entry in the January 2011 MAGS contest takes a figurative approach to the “death” theme; that of an act dying on stage. This approach allows for a comedy adventure in which our hapless hero interacts with his decidedly peculiar competition in his quest for glory. Getting help from such luminaries as “THE GREAT TROMBONO!” (as he always announces himself) requires cunning use of inventory to distract, confuse and persuade. The standard four-action point-and-click cursor is used, and most interactions result in a unique and often humorous response. Settings range from the cheery corridors of the theatre to the disreputable back alley, and the graphics are a bright cartoon style reminiscent of Day of the Tentacle, as are the gameplay and humour. Despite the low resolution, there are also decent animations, such as a dove escaping early in Stanley’s fumbling first magic attempt. A jaunty tune provides the musical backdrop to proceedings.
Death on Stage can be downloaded from the AGS website.
The Experiment: Part 2 – Menacing Darkness
Having been led to an underground laboratory, David Caldwell chooses to join the disparate group of individuals working there. Like him, they all lost a relative in the accident at the Western Institute of Physics, an accident that may not be all it originally seemed. They are not the only ones interested in the incident, though, as an organisation known as Dacron is also investigating it – and them. When the main power goes down, it appears a mole might be at work. Can David work his way through the abandoned lower levels and restore power before it’s too late?
In Pilcz Studios’ Part 1 – The Laboratory, we learned how David came to find the laboratory. Whilst playing that instalment will provide the full background, a brief synopsis is included at the start of this game. The graphics are the same style, with backgrounds drawn in a semi-realistic look and characters appearing slightly more cartoonish. As the laboratory is an old facility co-opted to new research, dark decrepit corridors are common, though the refurbished rooms in use are better decorated. Control is point-and-click for the most part, though the keyboard is used for a reaction-based challenge later in the game. This results in death on repeated failure, but an autosave at the start of the sequence avoids setting the player back too far. The puzzles have been scaled back from the sometimes brutal difficulty of the first chapter, though they are certainly not simple. As well as inventory-based puzzling, you will operate various mechanisms, each providing a unique challenge. The game has a full range of sound effects, and is also fully voiced in Hungarian. Full English text, largely free of the translation problems that sometimes affected the first game, is also available. It is important to check the speech/text settings prior to starting, as there is no opportunity to change them in-game and saved games retain the settings used at the time of save. The game has a serous dramatic tone and ends on a cliffhanger that will leave players wanting more.
The Experiment: Part 2 – Menacing Darkness can be downloaded from the AGS website.
The Secret of Hildegards
Abigail, the young lady Hildegard, receives a letter from her father. Her family hides a terrible secret and it seems that Talbot, her uncle, is intent on unleashing the darkness they have contained so long. Charged with taking her place as head of the household and preventing this disaster, Abigail must return to her family home. Her only clue to what she must do is the final line of the letter: “The time has come to awake Adalar from his dream.”
This Komar Games production is predominantly hidden object-based, though there are also a couple of jigsaws, a slider puzzle and some combination challenges. The hidden object gameplay is varied somewhat, using word lists, silhouettes and the occasional requirement to find multiples of the same item. In the latter case they are usually light sources; these sections performed by the beam of a torch centred on the cursor. A recharging hint button highlights one object at a time and some puzzles are skippable, allowing for easy progress. The graphics are an attractive painterly style with enough detail to make objects recognisable, if not necessarily easy to spot, as you search the ransacked study or the dark tombs of the family pile. These are presented in slideshow format, the only animation being a slightly faster progression through a sequence of stills. A haunting piano melody provides suitable backing, though the transition to the start of the loop is mildly jarring.
The Secret of Hildegards 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.
Focality by Drew Wellman – A profoundly disturbing interactive narrative.
The Premature Death of Christopher Combe by Narwhal Games – On the anniversary of his death, a graveyard visit by Mrs Combe finds the residents restless in this survival horror-style adventure.
You Shall Know the Truth by Jonas Kyratzes – Take the role of a secret agent gathering evidence in this hidden object adventure with a thought-provoking message.
Neil the Nail by FastGames – Guide Neil the Nail in his rebellion against the oppressive regime of the hammers.
Groping in the Dark by Far Beyond the Game – Experience a kidnapped girl’s disorientation in this stylised IndieCade award winner.
Johnny Finder 2 by Abroy – Help an Indiana Jones-type adventurer bypass some puzzling tomb traps.
Adam and Eve by FastGames – Reunite caveman Adam with his lost beloved, Eve.
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!