Following Freeware: October 2011 releases
This month you can travel to the stars in pursuit of snack food or delve the depths of the ocean as a zombie pirate captain. If you prefer psychological adventures, you might wish to meet the new patient at a most unusual asylum or help a man delve deep into his own psyche. Perhaps you’d rather hunt a dark version of Red Riding Hood or rescue a hapless vampire from military experimentation. Or you could just take a film crew to the frozen north to find the life of a Yeti isn’t exactly as you expected it to be. All these await you in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
The Asylum: Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys
When the troubles of the world weigh us down, there is one group of friends that will always be there to listen to our woes, our faithful cuddly toys. Unfortunately for our plushie friends, this loyalty also means that they will be there when we need some outlet for our frustrations in life. It is little wonder that many of those so cruelly abused descend into some form of insanity. But there is hope for our stuffed companions. The Asylum, run by Dr Kinderman, specialises in dealing with the psychiatric issues of toys. Now he is away on a research project, so it is up to you to nurse these widely varied patients back to health.
This long-standing surreal but thought-provoking game from Parapluesch has expanded again with a new patient this month. The graphics continue to be done in the same cartoon-like but semi-realistic style as before. The institute itself is a bright, clean-looking place with white linen on the examination bed and a potted plant against the wall. The imagery in dream analyses is often altogether stranger, reflecting the warped state of mind of the patients. Animations are fluid throughout, from the glove puppet used for psychiatric interviews to the twitches of the troubled inmates. Sound effects are appropriate to the on-screen action, including mumbling sounds for conversation. Some dream sequences also include music such as “The Blue Danube”.
What has always been impressive about this game is that once you accept cuddly toys have thoughts and feelings, the traumas they suffer flow logically from this concept. There are now six patients altogether, each having their own storyline. Treatment involves selecting from a list of available therapies and carefully considering the results and what they mean. Actions include the psychiatric interview, administration of drugs and motivation therapy. The main tool you use over and over is dream therapy. Using this results in a short cutscene showing the patient’s interior world. These sequences start surreal and get closer to the actual events causing the problem as treatment progresses. A meter on your therapy list tracks your progress. This can go into decline if incorrect treatments are chosen, leading to a failure and restart if things go really badly. The new patient, a bird called Dr Wood, proves an especially difficult case. As the first toy psychiatrist, he knows the tricks of the trade and will brook no nonsense from you.
The Asylum: Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys can be played online at the developer’s website.
Keys of a Gamespace
Whilst he still calls her Princess, it has been a long time since Sebastien paid serious attention to his lady love. Video games are his job, and too many nights of him sitting in front of a computer have taken their toll. When she issues an ultimatum and storms out, he realises that the time has come to sort his life out. Delving into his own psyche and the past events that have shaped him, Sebastien must come to a decision about his future. But this may not prove an easy task, as dark secrets await in the lower recesses of his mind.
Expressive have created a game which, whilst relatively short, is still highly thought-provoking. The graphical style is that of pastel drawing, with the otherwise normal human characters completely devoid of facial characteristics. This artistic style is carried further in some of the inner flashback scenes, including one that is reminiscent of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”. Despite their lack of faces, all characters move around smoothly. Meanwhile, dramatic music plays in the background, suiting the gravitas of the story being played out.
Your descent into Sebastien’s inner mind is represented by groups of doors. In each case, one of the doors will lead you further on, the other doors taking you to events in Sebastien’s past life. Controlled entirely through point-and-click, the handful of puzzles in the game involve taking things from one era into another. In some cases this is a physical object but in others they are pieces of knowledge that open up new lines of dialogue with other characters. Solving the last puzzle in an area gives you the means to open the final door and continue onwards. The story has some dark adult themes, making it unsuitable for young children, and ultimately you will find yourself making choices that determine Sebastien’s future.
Keys of a Gamespace can be downloaded from the developer’s website.
Bamba Snack Quest 3
Aliens are here, and they want to steal our snack food! One victim of these nefarious other-worldly burglars is Bamba, an innocent baby. Not only have these extra-terrestrial fiends stolen a bag of his favourite snack food, they have also kidnapped his faithful squirrel companion who tried to recover it. Setting off in hot pursuit, our diminutive hero aims to retrieve both food and friend in a space-spanning escapade.
Mitoza’s third episode in this advertising series proves that promotional content is no bar to a good game. The art style combines real elements with detailed hand-drawn items to create a cohesive whole. The game starts in a suburban back garden but soon progresses to an airborne UFO and ultimately the alien’s mountain fortress. These locations are all rendered with striking amounts of detail, including well-animated characters and machines. Sound consists of effects appropriate to the location, such as the whoosh of air past the low-flying UFO, and character dialogue comprised mostly of noises with the occasional Hebrew phrase.
Whilst the protagonist is a small child, this is definitely not a simple game. Even though each of the six chapters only consists of two or three locations, a wealth of puzzling awaits. You’ll operate alien machinery, decipher complex lock mechanisms and use a variety of objects. Having only a nappy to his name, the baby protagonist does not have an inventory, instead holding one object at a time for use in the environment. In two chapters you will also get to control the squirrel, the actions of both characters being vital to success. There are a couple of timing puzzles, though nothing that requires lightning quick reactions. Completing a chapter unlocks the next part, allowing players to return to the game at a later date if desired.
Bamba Snack Quest 3 can be played online at Jayisgames.
Draculator 2: Byte of the Draculator
When Captain Merrick met up with the gorgeous vampire twins, he thought it would be a good idea to let them turn him into a vampire. Unfortunately for him, his military superiors saw great weapon potential in his undead state. Now, imprisoned in a secret facility with bionic implants grafted to his body, Merrick dreams only of escape. His vampire powers should assist in this endeavour but his vampire weaknesses could prove a problem.
Thirty-nine AGS developers combined as SWARMAGS to make this darkly humorous game. The basic graphics feature a classic low-res style with more than enough detail to set the scene of a dark underground base. These graphics are also nicely animated, and cutscene conversations treat us to more detailed close-ups of the characters, which are equally well animated. The game is fully voiced, from the mock Transylvanian accent of Merrick himself to the wonderfully over-the-top mad English scientist experimenting on him. A rocking vampire movie-theme tune rounds out the package.
This is a comedy horror game that sets its tone early with poodle blood being fed to Merrick to make him as docile as the dog. This idea that the blood he drinks has some effect on his vampire nature is key to many of the puzzles in the game, though clever inventory use and some military technology also plays a part. Point-and-click controls are used, with right-click to look and left-click to interact, calling up the menu and inventory if used on yourself. Everything from the voice acting to the obstacles you face are very much tongue-in-cheek, including the title referring to a prior episode that does not exist. The ending leaves the possibility of future adventures for this character, and I hope this team will collaborate again to bring us more tales of the cyborg bloodsucker.
Draculator 2: Byte of the Draculator can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Pirates of the Undead Sea: Rise of the Ribcage
Captain Black Sam was the scourge of the seven seas before his ship went down in a terrible storm, breaking up on its descent to the bottom of the ocean. Then one day, after 15 years of boredom in the deeps, the zombie pirate captain sees a mermaid hunting a giant squid and decides to follow it. This decision proves fateful, as it could give him a chance to reunite with his crew and become a proper captain again.
Pahu Pahu have combined two gaming favourites, pirates and zombies, for a dashing adventure. The graphics are presented in a detailed cartoon style, combining the dimness of the ocean depths with the bright flora and fauna found there. Captain Sam’s zombie nature is depicted by his skin colour and shambling walk, as well as a gaping hole in his ribs. Animations include gently moving bubbles, as well as both walking and idle animations for all the main characters. There have been some shortcuts in animation, however, most notably with more complicated actions fading to black temporarily rather than being depicted in full. Background accompaniment includes slow music that captures the feel of the deep ocean and more rousing music for the pirate ship. The text dialogue appears in boxes shaped like tattered paper scrolls.
Point-and-click controls are used, and when you left-click an object or person, a small menu showing look and interact or talk options appears. As well as conversing with your erstwhile crew, who find you hard to recognise after 15 years, you’ll also speak to other ocean creatures, including the mermaid. Conversations mostly serve to provide clues and backstory, but there are a couple of dialogue puzzles. Inventory use is otherwise the puzzle mainstay, including some decidedly lateral-thinking improvisations and combinations. The whole game is played with light humour, exemplified in the many alternatives available to substitute for your hat.
Pirates of the Undead Sea: Rise of the Ribcage can be played online at Turbo Nuke.
In the frozen wastes of the north lives the mysterious Yeti. Such a strange and magnificent creature is a worthy subject for a documentary, and so a brave team of filmmakers set out to record one. Much to their surprise, the frozen cave home of the beast turns out to be nothing less than a swinging bachelor pad with log fire, music system and internet access. Perhaps the Yeti would fit in with the modern world after all. Going outside their simple viewing remit, the camera crew set to nudging the Yeti into contact with the outside world. Will this giant hairy monster be able to make it in the city?
Mennonite Software have created a surreal but engaging adventure. Using line-drawing and solid blocks of colour, the game has the look of simplified realism rendered in a somewhat unusual manner, being depicted in the style of a camera view-finder. This only shows about half of the screen area at any one time but centres around the cursor, so mouse movement allows the player to sweep the whole vista. These simplified graphics are decently animated, including the shambling walk of the Yeti. Sounds are appropriate to the location, such as howling winds on the ice field and jaunty music from the sound system in the Yeti’s home.
In the opening scenes, interaction is limited to moving your view around the current scene. When the view approaches the edge of the scene, arrows appear if there is a neighbouring area. All this changes once you have discovered the truth about the Yeti’s abode. After this point, centring the view-finder over certain objects causes them to highlight, allowing for easy mouse-click interaction. The resulting puzzles are fairly simple, with limited objects available to progress past the game’s various obstacles, such as how to get a large hairy Yeti onto a plane. The action is backed up with the text-only dialogue of the director at the bottom of the screen, which sometimes includes observations that can help the player along if they are stuck.
Yeti can be downloaded from the developer’s website.
Hood: Episode 2
In my role as a Hunter I pursued the hooded girl deemed a witch into the forest, where I have come across a strange machine. I recognise such devices from my previous investigations and know this to be of ancient design. If I can unlock the secrets of its cavernous interior, I may be able to discover just what the hooded girl has been doing here and where she has gone. The inhabitants of this dark place should prove helpful in this aim, though I must remain ever wary of their tricky ways.
Hyptosis’ dark take on the Red Riding Hood tale continues in this episode. The same graphic style has carried over from the previous episode, including the occasional distortion effect as if the images were projected on film. Both the external woodland scenes and the interiors of the mysterious device have predominantly dark tones, adding to the grim feel of the game. These scenes include limited animations, such as the woodland shaman polishing his table. In an improvement on the previous episode, item and location descriptions appear in a separate box rather than being superimposed over top the hotspot as before. A sinister music box tune opens proceedings, with the main soundtrack simply consisting of ominous and unusual sounds.
Whilst shorter than its predecessor, this episode still manages to move the story along. You will get some idea of what the hooded girl has been up to in the forest, as well as finding out the fate of her father, who had foolishly followed her in. Control is simple point-and-click, used to locate inventory and then apply it or trade it with woodland denizens to progress. There are also some dialogues, though these serve as story progression and event triggers rather than puzzles in their own right.
Hood: Episode 2 can be played online at Newgrounds.
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.
Georg the Ghost by Abroy – Help Georg escape his supernatural incarceration in a creepy old house.
Bonesniffer by BeGamer – A stolen bone leads to a far-reaching quest for a small dog.
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!