Following Freeware 18
Following Freeware 18

Following Freeware: January 2012 releases

This month, a hugely popular series gets another two additions, with both a prequel and a sequel. Those wishing to undertake quests a little closer to home can play a geek pursuing love, a vampire seeking vengeance or an ordinary farm boy looking for a legendary artefact. Elsewhere, a were-bunny wishes to reverse his transformation, a rock fan wants to get to a concert and a hero just wants his quest to save the kingdom officially approved. Alternatively, you can travel into the past to thwart a nefarious cat, view events in reverse order to understand a brutal murder, or simply try to escape a mysterious manor house. All these await you in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
 



Space Quest: Incinerations

by Rob Murrant

After 15 years of floating largely in the nether reaches of space, everyone’s favourite intergalactic janitor Roger Wilco returned in January for his third and fourth adventures in the last two months! First up is Space Quest: Incinerations, developed over a period of six years by Chris Ushko, who also helped create last month’s Vohaul Strikes Back. Incinerations is an original title that fits nicely into the SQ canon should you choose to overlook (or just not know about) a few pertinent details from Space Quest IV.

 

Incinerations has an interesting storyline that begins with Roger aboard a space cruiser that has just been attacked. When he finds his way to an escape pod, Roger recounts the tale of his unfortunate split from girlfriend Beatrice Wankmeister, who fell in love with someone else whilst he was off on another adventure. After a disastrous attempt to reconcile on the space station Aries 6, a broken-hearted Roger accepted this job, and only three weeks later now finds himself in his current predicament. During his escape, he learns of a plot to destroy the universe by a General Havoc, who just happens to be Beatrice’s new love interest, so Roger must make his way to the planet Halon in order to save the day again. Even that is only scratching the surface of a complex storyline. The plot takes several twists and turns along the way, but it never becomes overly convoluted and is well-paced throughout.

What I enjoyed most about Incinerations were the well-conceived puzzles and the superb 45-plus minutes of cinematics. The quality here is amazing, especially for a fan creation. Puzzles are logical and nicely balanced, becoming progressively more difficult as you progress. It starts out with some light puzzles such as making coffee, then ramps up to the likes of taking out a bathroom cleaning robot and eventually knocking out a hornet's nest of technical operators in a military base (which requires some very creative thinking). Most puzzles are inventory-based, but you won’t always use every item, as there are a few red herrings thrown in for good measure. The interface is familiar to SQ5 (though not exactly the same), using point-and-click controls that offer functions such as examine, pick up, talk, walk and use objects.

Characters are cel-shaded and look superb, while the backgrounds are often colourful and rendered in a 3D style that resembles a cross between SQ5 and 6, presented here at a rather limited 640x480 resolution. Unfortunately, there’s currently no voice pack, and for a game which otherwise offers so much cinematically, this is a disappointing omission. Hopefully this will be remedied in future, as for now the game just doesn’t feel entirely complete without it. Some of the background music is a matter of personal taste, at times sounding more like the motivational music for the local sports carnival than compelling sci-fi accompaniment. Production-wise the sound quality is good, however, so the issue is more a case of blending mood with music, which seems to be mismatched in places.

Putting aside these minor criticisms, Space Quest: Incinerations is one of the best fan made adventure games out there. Had it been released in the late ‘90s, it could easily have been a commercial spiritual sequel to Space Quest 6, with its top notch visuals, clever puzzles and an intriguing storyline that keep you coming back for more.

Space Quest: Incinerations can be downloaded from the developer’s website.


Donna: Avenger of Blood

Travelling in an unnamed Middle European country, Donna and Stephen have arrived at the capital. They stay in their town centre hotel room during the day, only venturing outside at night. All goes well until a gang of heavily armed thugs burst into their room, slaying Stephen and making Donna fall out of their high-storey window. But Donna is a vampire, and it will take more than a long fall to finish her off. Fleeing the scene, Donna vows to seek out and take revenge on those who killed her lover. It is a quest that will take her into the dark underside of local politics, and the reasons Stephen brought her to this place.

 

Blaze Dzikowski has created a noir horror tale that never fails to grip. The whole project has the appearance of a black-and-white film, with apparently real locations and people used. The perspective is third-person, with character animation for Donna and others smoothly accomplished. Insets are also used to provide close-ups of certain events, such as Donna baring her fangs to attack. The black-and-white presentation, together with the run-down appearance of many locations like the seedy motel where Donna hides out, serve to create a grim noir feel. Background sound is restricted to noises appropriate to the scene, such as the chatter of crowds or the rattle of a moving train.

Control is point-and-click, with a verb list and inventory at the bottom of the screen. There are also some minor role-playing elements in the form of three meters which rise and fall with player actions. The most important of these is blood, which is required for Donna to use her supernatural powers of hypnotism, superior strength and speed, and mind-reading. Your initial challenge is escaping the attack, with the daylight setting and complete lack of blood both hampering this task. This scene, as well as others later in the game, requires you to act with moderate speed. After this, the game moves more to an investigative style as you seek clues to your attackers. This involves dialogue, careful examination of inventory and code deciphering in order to find further information and unlock new locations. The tone is dark and the adult themes, including nudity in the opening, make this unsuitable for the young or faint-hearted. Death is possible, but with an immediate restart before the fatal action available.

Donna: Avenger of Blood can be downloaded from the developer’s website.


Nurse Quest: Love Hurts

There are many ways to find a partner. You can find someone with a common hobby. You can sit next to someone on a long-distance flight. You can even use a dating service. A much less recommended method is to electrocute yourself attempting to repair a gaming console and wind up in hospital. But for Geoff that is exactly how he came to meet the delectable nurse Julia. Discharged from hospital, he must now seek a way back in that will attract her attention and win her heart. After all, there is no way that deliberately inflicting painful personal injury could go wrong, is there?

 

Robot/Lizard have created a hilariously adult game of inadvisable actions in the pursuit of love. A high quality, semi-realistic cartoon style has been employed, with a wealth of detail in the background and full expressions on the slightly over-sized heads of the characters. Locations range from the hero’s messy flat to a joke shop and the local biker pub. All characters are fluidly animated, and background animations are equally effective. Background music is provided by a mellow soundtrack which, whilst of modern audio quality, is reminiscent of classic console game music. The new task sound effect also harks back to early console gaming, though other sound effects such as the ambulance siren are rendered more realistically.

The game is set over several chapters, each representing a new attempt at winning the fair nurse’s love. Control is simple point-and-click, with an on-screen button providing access to the inventory. A task manager is also available, which shows the main aim of the chapter, together with any secondary objectives you encounter to achieve this goal. There is also a hint button which provides a progressive series of clues for the next action. If you exhaust these you get the option to advance to a walkthrough written in the style of the lead character recounting his adventure. Dialogue and inventory are the main means of advancement, along with a couple of minigames, one of which requires a moderately quick mouse finger. Having been made for adult swim, this is definitely not a game for the young or those shocked by sexual humour.

Nurse Quest: Love Hurts can be played online at adult swim.


^ _^

Julian has an unusual problem. A strange spirit, seeking to change the world, has turned him into the first ever were-bunny. Stuck with stilted speech patterns, a wild temper, and a desire to bite and head-butt everything, Julian just wants to return to normal. Unfortunately, the only person who could lift this curse is the local witch, and she isn’t coming out until someone catches and returns her ambulant hair. If Julian is to go back to his former life, it looks like a little hunting is in order.

Taking place in a single scene, this latest production from Ben304 once again proves small packages can contain big adventure. The graphic style uses the early LucasArts look that will be familiar to anyone that has played his previous offerings. The nighttime scene is a grassy hilltop, and the only building in evidence is the witch’s tall distorted house. The game is decently animated throughout, especially the protagonist, whose look is reminiscent of Max from the Sam & Max games. The game is unvoiced but shouting is simulated by using a larger font and having the screen shake with the force of the words. Music is provided by an in-game source, a gramophone on the hill with a number of records available for it, including jazz and classical styles.

The gramophone serves more than one purpose, as locating and playing the different records are key to many of the puzzles. You will also converse with both the witch and some less obvious player characters. The were-bunny propensity to try to bite and head-butt everything also comes into play, as does the angry shouting. In addition to the gramophone records, you will acquire a small amount of other inventory to use and even decipher a spell. The writing is humorous throughout, and even actions that don’t advance your quest result in funny observations.

^_^ can be downloaded from the AGS website.

Continued on the next page...


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About the Author
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Steve Brown
Freeware Coordinator

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Comments

the gnome
Feb 29, 2012

A fine and hefty round-up.

Glad to see that both ^ _ ^ and SQ: Incinerations made it to the list.

Oh, and may I suggest The Fabulous Screech?

Off to give Donna a try…

stepurhan stepurhan
Feb 29, 2012

Yeah “^_^” didn’t give any trouble at all adding it to the database.

The Fabulous Screech, as well as another game from Jonas Kyratzes, is on my list to look at for February.

Thanks to Rob Murrant for handling Space Quest for me again.

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