Following Freeware 16
Following Freeware 16

Following Freeware: November 2011 releases

This month sees a popular fan expansion to a long-running series reach its penultimate episode. For those looking for games with a retro feel, there is a troublesome party to navigate and a boy and his dog looking for a friend. Sci-fi adventurers can enjoy the tale of an alien falling down to earth, or an astronaut travelling much farther into space than he intended. Alternatively, you can join a timid ghost hunter on his first assignment, or travel far and wide to put together a recipe. Finally, text-based gaming proves it is still going strong with thirty-eight different adventures to choose from. All these await in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
 



The Silver Lining: Episode 4 – ‘Tis in My Memory Locked and You Yourself Shall Keep the Key of It

As King Graham’s quest to save his children nears its end, it appears the past may be about to catch up with him. As he searches for the final ingredients that will provide the means of rescuing his offspring, he learns more about the mysterious Black and Silver Cloak Societies. Meanwhile, Valanice’s history, and the memories of the past locked away in her head, could play a pivotal role as events unfold. Will Graham be able to save his brood, and what else is at stake in this penultimate quest?

 

Taking its title from a Hamlet quote, the fourth episode of Phoenix Online’s King’s Quest tribute game brings events ever closer to a dramatic conclusion. The series continues to use the same 3D engine as before, rendering the Green Isles in the same detailed style which players of the previous episodes will recognise. Familiar locales are visited along with some new ones, most notably the Isle of the Beast with its large hedge maze. You will also have the opportunity to view Graham’s world from above, as the King takes to the air in this episode. The game continues to be fully voiced throughout and boasts a stirring soundtrack befitting the ongoing adventures of such a historic character.

With only one episode to go, the culmination of this instalment results in Graham finally journeying to a place players have long expected he’ll need to go. The trip involves much of the puzzling fare present in previous episodes, as well as the maze you’ll need to navigate. For those not fond of labyrinths, a certain amount of direction together with a top-down view that shows a large area of the maze at all times assist in solving this challenge. There are also some arcade-style sequences, including a magical combat with a recurring villain. There is even an opportunity to play another character, with a portion spent controlling Valanice. For longtime Sierra fans, the prominent inclusion of Pandora’s Box in this chapter will serve as a reference to its inspiration, having previously appeared in King’s Quest IV.

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).


Egress: The Test of STS 417

It was supposed to just be a routine maintenance call on an interplanetary probe. As commander of a two man team, you commence repairs while your partner monitors events from the shuttle. When an alien substance suddenly sprays out of a duct, however, you pass out and wake up on an alien planet. With no knowledge of where you are or how you got there, it seems like you might not be seeing home any time soon. Especially since some automatically stored messages from your crewmate indicate he may be as much in need of rescue as you are.

 

This sci-fi tale from Krams Design is an unsettling experience. Apart from an opening cutscene, the player’s view is constantly shown as if from the inside of a space helmet. This not only puts the player firmly in the suit of the protagonist, but serves to increase the feeling of isolation inherent in the situation. Whilst most of the scenes are of alien landscapes and tunnels, these are rendered in a realistic hand-drawn style, further enhancing the urgency of the predicament. Some scenes also include smoothly rendered 2D animation, though passage from scene to scene is done in a slideshow format. The whole package is nicely rounded up with some gentle and haunting background music.

The first-person action is controlled by point-and-click, with a small inventory from which items can be selected and dragged onto the screen for use as needed. You are occasionally required to select options from a list when taking certain actions, and there is also an interactive dialogue scene near the end. The puzzles are few and relatively simple, most having multiple solutions available. In fact, these multiple solutions are the essence of the game, as the approach you take determines how the story ultimately ends. This approach allows each player to project more of their own personality into the sci-fi narrative, and also provides replay value for those wishing to try different methods.

Egress: The Test of STS 417 can be downloaded from the developer’s website.


The Visitor

Agent Moss, member of the Omega 1 Earth Abduction Unit, flies above New York in his saucer. Meanwhile, below him Danny Myers tries to work out how to complete his chores before his crazy brother returns to give him another beating. These two disparate lives come together when Agent Moss’s saucer malfunctions and he is forced to eject, right into Danny’s backyard. As these two lives cross, only time will tell how this clash of civilisations will affect them both.

 

No-one can accuse NickyNyce of lacking ambition in his first game, a large one involving two playable characters, numerous triggered story events and at least one optional puzzle beyond the main quest. The result is an enjoyable dark comedy game. The graphics are done in a semi-realistic cartoon style with simple perspective used in the three-wall room locations. Whilst Danny is a normally proportioned human being, Agent Moss is a short, green-skinned alien with a bulbous head and large black eyes. His spaceship is full of strange consoles and displays, whereas Danny’s home is a typical suburban house with a fish tank and bookshelves. Appropriate sound effects like the creak of stairs are offset by eerie sci-fi music.

The game uses the standard four-cursor point-and-click interface, and hotspots are both clearly visible and highlighted with labels when you mouse over them. Through the course of the game you will control both Danny and Agent Moss twice each, in chapters of varying lengths. In the second and longer of Danny’s chapters, you’ll regularly catches glimpses of Agent Moss, though Danny remains oblivious for almost the entire time. Inventory combination and use in the environment is key to most puzzles, with a certain amount of backtracking necessary to succeed. An optional puzzle provides an additional cutscene at the end. With the nature of Agent Moss’s mission, black humour abounds, as the alien is understandably nervous about being stranded on a planet from which he has been abducting people.

The Visitor can be downloaded from the AGS website.


Venator

For generations, the Von Penumbrus family have hunted supernatural creatures, adopting the Latin term for hunter, Venator. The latest scion of the family, Gilbert, is finding it hard to live up to his ancestors. Lazy, timid and not particularly bright, he has struggled with the training regimen his uncle has forced him to endure. Now, after some decidedly questionable success in his studies, Gilbert is being sent out on his first ever solo hunt. A ghost has been disturbing the locals in a nearby cemetery and it is up to Gilbert to put it to rest once and for all. Perhaps his father’s magical medallion would help, if only he could locate it.

Darkdan’s tale of a reluctant ghost hunter avoids the horror inherent in the premise, adopting a light comedic tone instead. The presentation uses a cartoon style with realistically proportioned backgrounds and equally well-proportioned characters, though with slightly over-sized heads. The graphics are clear and nicely animated, especially the flight of Edgar, the talking raven who becomes your companion after you meet him at the graveyard. The nighttime ambience is maintained throughout, the palette largely limited to shades of blue for backgrounds, though the characters are fully coloured. Sound effects include the growl of a ghostly dog, together with a laid-back tune that plays in the background. The text-only dialogue does suffer from some translation issues, but nothing severe enough to affect play.

Using the standard four-cursor point-and-click interface, you hunt around town for the clues and items needed to banish the unquiet spirit. At the start you only have two locations on your map, with more becoming available as you find out more about the identity of the ghost and the steps required to defeat it. Initially you will use a small amount of inventory and solve a riddle in order to obtain your father’s magical medallion. This device can assist you, both with advice and more magical gifts such as retrieving a vital object from a locked box. However, it can only provide help a limited number of times, so care needs to be taken in using it. It also requires you to solve a standalone puzzle each time you ask it to render aid. As well as using inventory, you will need to seek clues from the friendly spirits in the graveyard and solve a handful of riddles and combination puzzles.

Venator can be downloaded from the AGS website.

Continued on the next page...


Related Games

The Visitor

Platform(s): PC

Venator

Platform(s): PC

Daps

Platform(s): PC, Mac

Que Pasa, Perro?

Platform(s): PC

Party Quest

Platform(s): PC, Mac



About the Author
stepurhan's avatar
Steve Brown
Freeware Coordinator

Following Freeware



Comments

kittykat10115
Dec 17, 2011

Venator looks like a ripoff of Gabriel Knight.

stepurhan stepurhan
Dec 18, 2011

To describe Venator as a Gabriel Knight rip-off is a bit like describing LA Noire as a Max Payne rip-off because the lead character is a police detective in both games. Venator has a look, tone and characterisation that is completely different to Gabriel Knight.

Kovaelin
Dec 19, 2011

TSL ep 4… this is just… wow. I’m excited for episode 5, but sad at the same time because it means that the end is near.

m0ds
Dec 21, 2011

Nice roundup Mr Brown, thank you!

beatboxio
Dec 27, 2011

I love these freeware roundups!  Thanks for taking the time to do them.  As my gaming time gets more and more limited, it’s great to have a place to see the notable freeware and AGS type games per month.  Thanks for these!
It would be nice if there was some kind of score out of ten given to each.
And since it’s Christmas, a yearly roundup of the must-play freeware for the year would be amazing.

stepurhan stepurhan
Dec 29, 2011

Glad you like them beatboxio.

To give all games a score, I’d really need to be examining them to the level required for a full review. With the number of games I’m looking at each month (not all getting into the article for various reasons) that’s not usually practical sadly.

As for a yearly round-up, we shall have to see.

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