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Following Freeware: June 2012 releases

Following Freeware June 2012
Following Freeware June 2012

This month you can play a cat who has napped too much among the stars, or a test pilot trapped in the dark depths of the earth. Those looking for a variety of player characters can play a homicide detective on the trail of a serial killer, a small robot hunting for a vital crystal, or a US president seeking to destroy the One Ring. Alternately, you might prefer a remake of a 1993 fantasy classic or simply trying to find the money to pay the rent on your student accommodation. There's even something for escapist Android users to play on the go.  All these await in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
 



Wentworth

For an anthropomorphic feline, an assignment on a space station facing a sun is a plum job. Unfortunately for our hero Wentworth, repeatedly taking naps in warm sunbeams could have dire consequences. His commanding officer is visiting in an hour and is planning to review the progress of the sapling he sent for planting six months ago. With the sapling still unplanted, Wentworth hatches a cunning plan. A quick sprinkling of stardust will accelerate the sapling’s growth to a six-month level, saving his job. As long as he doesn’t accidentally get any dust on anything else, everything will be fine.

The latest game from ClickShake takes their trademark humour to a new world. The bright cartoon style of their previous titles is evident here. Wentworth is an irrepressibly cheerful character, confident that everything will work out fine, in stark contrast to his dour robot assistant. The protagonist is fluidly animated, as are the many other strange and varied characters in the game. The locations are also depicted in detail, from Wentworth’s space station base to a dark forest and an underground cave. An otherwordly tune with occasional dramatic overtones forms a fitting background to the action.

Whilst the initial setting is space, the inhabitants of the planet would not feel out of place in ClickShake’s Reemus fantasy series. A troll refuses you passage across a bridge and a grumpy gnome needs something to lift him out of depression. Wentworth is full of surreal and silly humour, such as the troll exhibiting internet trolling behaviour, and a squirrel offering a nut-storage service. Inventory and dialogue both play their part in progress. However, the key to many puzzles is the duster Wentworth carries with him. At first this only contains space dust, allowing you to accelerate the growth of plants, but you will later acquire two further types of dust. Both have their own special property, and the majority of puzzles require use of varied combinations of dust to achieve your goal.

Wentworth can be played online at the developer's website.


Wages of Darkness

Military test pilot Marina has been stationed at a secret research base for some time now. Disaster has struck the facility, and now she finds herself injured and lost in the bowels of the structure. She knows she only has a short time to make it to the base shelter before security protocol 13 is activated across the entire base. But with the lights out, Marina is going to have to feel her way to safety, and she is not alone in the dark.

This game is a polished version of Baron’s winning entry in the April 2012 MAGS competition. With the theme “Distorted Senses”, the central premise of the game is that Marina – and hence the player – are unable to see their surroundings. Surrounded by a decorative frame, the gameplay area is entirely blank, forcing the player to "feel" around for scenery and items. This lack of vision is carried over to the inventory slots at the bottom of the screen, with objects shown solely in silhouette to depict how they feel. Atmospheric sounds such as running water and creaking hatches bring the hidden world to life. There is also a slow, ominous soundtrack that switches to a frenzied tune when immediate danger threatens. There is even a small amount of voice work towards the end of the game.

The gameplay takes the concept of a pixel hunt and turns this normally frustrating activity into a key part of the horror atmosphere. As you sweep the cursor around the screen, a label constantly shows what you are currently pointing at.  Walls and floors have their own descriptive feels, while the hotspots for useful objects are moderately generous, making them challenging but not impossible to locate. You will acquire a handful of items and use them in the environment and with each other to advance. The horror tone is very effectively conveyed. When danger threatens, it is all too easy to slip into the same panicked state as the protagonist, flailing around for what you need to escape. The game has both an easy and hard difficulty mode, with death only possible in the latter.

Wages of Darkness can be downloaded from the AGS website.


Robo Quest

On his way to a party, a small robot takes the opportunity to recharge his batteries for the fun time ahead. Unfortunately, the automated flight controls steering the rock his house is built on are not up to the task, crashing it into a cliff. With the vital red crystal needed to run the engines shattered, our diminutive mechanical hero will have to set out to find a replacement. The party awaits, and they won’t hold up the start for him.

This game from Glauzer and AdM244 offers a charming teaser of a proposed larger production. The graphics are done in a simple but effective cartoon style. The eponymous Robo is a squat machine, with a square head and body and stubby lines for arms and legs, all decently animated. The house is simply furnished and the robot appears to have crashed in a small industrial area outside a large city. Simplistically but effectively rendered, the tall city buildings form a backdrop to the action. You will also visit an electricity substation and a mine. Audio is limited to the sound of the robot’s footsteps, which change according to the surface being walked on, and a varied beeping noise to simulate robotic speech whenever our hero makes an observation.

It would seem that the house is not the only thing to be suffering a power loss, as the city also has no electricity. Your task therefore mainly becomes one of restarting the city grid, which will also reboot a mining robot to loosen the crystal you seek. With all other robots powered down, inventory use and interaction with the environment is the order of the day. The normally frail Robo is also fitted with a strength module which, when activated, allows the protagonist to perform incredible muscular feats. Should a larger game be made, a wider variety of modules is proposed. The tone is light and humorous throughout, the robot making tongue-in-cheek observations about anything you look at.

Robo Quest can be downloaded from the AGS website.


Black Sect Remake

Many centuries ago, the village of Issegeac fell prey to the Black Sect. Villagers vanished without warning and there seemed to be nothing that could be done to stop the raids. Then the exorcist, Homorius, brought the Grimoire to the village, and used the spells within to banish the Sect. Since that time, the Grimoire has been passed down from generation to generation, its presence protecting the town from harm. But now your grandfather, the current keeper, has been cruelly slain and the Grimoire stolen. It is up to you to find and retrieve this magical tome before the village falls under the shadow of the Sect once more.

HandsFree’s remake of Lankhor's 1993 commercial game shows a number of improvements over the original. Whilst still adopting the first-person slideshow presentation of its predecessor, the graphics are noticeably enhanced.  The overall appearance of each location is unchanged, but higher resolution and more colours provide more easily discernible detail, be it the warming fire of the tavern or the cracked paving stones of an ancient ruin. There are also some animations, such as a cat grooming itself in the village square. A dramatic musical piece plays over the opening, but sound within the game is limited to location-appropriate effects like the trickling of a fountain.

The gameplay has also undergone an upgrade. Rather than advancing continuously, allowing players to miss key events, the game clock now advances solely when you undertake certain actions. As well as avoiding dead ends, this also does away with the need to wait for events to happen The many death scenes are still part of the remake, but now a single click will reverse the fatal decision. The interface has also been improved, with the point-and-click cursor now lighting up over hotspots. Inventory and dialogue puzzles similar to the original provide the challenge, with a handful of new puzzles as well. The overall tone is of a serious fantasy tale.

Black Sect Remake can be downloaded from the AGS website.


Rizzoli & Isles: Boston Butcher

For a detective in the homicide division of the Boston police department, life is never dull. Your latest case takes you down to the docks, where a collection of body parts indicate a gruesome crime has taken place. The trail soon leads to more body parts and the possibility of a copycat serial killer on the loose. With the aid of your boss Rizzoli and coroner Isles, can you track down the killer before they strike again?  

This Pastel Games production is another instalment in the television-inspired adventure series. The graphics are presented in the same handpainted art style of the previous instalment, again displayed in a slideshow format. A fair amount of detail is included, such as the early morning sun slanting through the containers at the dockside crime scene and the costumes of attendees at a Renaissance fair. People such as the titular protagonists are equally well-drawn, with expressive faces. A noir theme provides the musical background to proceedings.

Being a detective game, clue gathering will be your main task. To assist in this your inventory starts with fingerprint powder and blood spray, but a keen eye will be needed to pick up all the clues at each scene. To help the player along, the game marks each clue found with two numbers, one for how many clues you have found in a scene and one for the total available in that location. Collected clues open up new locations, the clues themselves posted on the bulletin board in the office with links automatically marked. As well as gathering evidence, you will make use of a small amount of inventory and engage in some limited dialogue, including several conversations with the show’s protagonists.

Rizzoli & Isles: Boston Butcher can be played online at JayisGames.


The Rent

A student named GG is just getting home from another fun time at the pub when he gets some bad news. The landlord is going to come calling in an hour, and he is going to want his rent money. With his partying ways leaving him drained of funds, GG is up against the clock to lay hands on the 200 Euros he needs to keep his room. His flatmates are unwilling to lend him anything, so a clever scheme is called for. He recalls seeing a cunning scratch card scheme on the flat's computer. Will this prove the answer to his woes?

Stefano Caporale’s game shows that adventure can arise from even the most relatively mundane situations. The graphics are crisp pixel art, and good use of colour and dark outlines serve to render the low resolution art recognisable. It is also decently animated, including background motion such as a screensaver on the computer. The different rooms in the flat reflect their various occupants, and there is also a small street scene featuring a tobacconist. The only problem with the graphical presentation is that any illustrated in-game text is rendered in the original Italian. However, full English subtitles for the dialogue are available, and the background Italian text can usually be interpreted in context. An upbeat retro tune plays in the background, supplemented by some 8-bit Beethoven at one point. There are also limited sound effects.   

In this lightly humorous tale, initially GG’s only goal is to access the computer so he can find out about the scheme he sees as his salvation. Once this is accomplished, you'll then face the task of implementing a scheme involving scratch cards without any funds to buy them. Conversations with his flatmates, neighbours and the local tobacconist all provide clues to progress, with the occasional puzzle lurking in dialogue. Inventory use and taking opportunities when others are distracted also come into play. Puzzles can involve re-use of items, avoiding the one-shot objects of many other games.

The Rent can be downloaded from the AGS website.


Obama: Lord of the Rings

The One Ring must be taken to Mount Doom to be destroyed. Sadly, an incident with ice cream has given the entire Fellowship of the Ring bad head colds. With the traditional heroes out of action, Gandalf has summoned President Obama through a copy of the book he was reading to save Middle Earth. Armed with the Ring and a gift from each of the Fellowship, Obama must make his way through this fantastical land. Can one man succeed in a quest that previously required an entire Fellowship?

Inkagames have created a game that is half-faithful to its source material and half made up of their trademark brand of humour. The graphics are the same cartoon style as their previous games, with humanoid characters having larger than normal heads to provide expressive faces. Where these represent actual people, such as Obama, such features are caricatured but recognisable. The game world features many locations familiar to fans of Tolkien's books, such as the elven city of Rivendell and the wizard’s tower, Isengard, all of which are all rendered in a bright, crisp style. After some dramatic opening music, the soundtrack is an extremely short looping piece, though this can be muted.

Whilst the story is a simplified version of The Lord of the Rings tale, a lot of scenes are faithful to the original version. You will enlist the aid of many familiar characters, such as the twisted Gollum, as well as a handful of interlopers, such as Link from the Zelda games. The game also has moments of humour not in keeping with the novels, including a clever prank required to get rid of an orc. A magic map allows quick travel between the major locations, with arrows at the edge of each scene allowing access to adjoining areas. Inventory use plays an important part in achieving your goal, though conversation and some standalone puzzle solving is also required. This game also features some timed sequences, where you must act quickly when entering certain scenes. As in previous offerings, failure results in a picture of your fate and a clue to avoiding it, together with a button allowing you to undo the fatal action.

Obama: Lord of the Rings can be played online at Kongregate.


Escape the Room: Limited Time

Melanie Greeley

You wake up alone, in pain and trapped in a strange room.  You seem to be in a hospital of some sort as two people, one of whom appears to be a surly child and the other a potentially helpful woman, enter the room and proceed to tell you the source of your pain: you have just come out of surgery and there is a time bomb implanted in your chest.  It turns out you are the test object in a game, and your goal is to keep the bomb from going off by escaping each room in a timely manner. As you work your way through your series of trials, you gradually learn why you have been imprisoned and what the game is all about.

The environments in this tense Android adventure from GameDay Space include a variety of sparsely furnished locked rooms. The rooms are gloomy and typically contain a small bed, a sink or two, metal furniture and the door you eventually want to open.  Each room has realistic graphics, while the characters are designed in anime style. The interactive objects scattered around are quite small but stand out relatively well from the backgrounds. There is extensive text at the beginning of each stage, as your captors explain your predicament and what is expected of you. With no voice acting, the screen can be tapped to move the dialogue along. Occasionally your captors will communicate with you from afar through a PDF device, activated by an icon at the bottom of the screen. All throughout, the music is suspenseful and repetitive but not intrusive.

Each  room is self-contained, its own puzzle sequence needing to be solved before moving onto the next. If you take too long to escape, the game will end, and you will need to restart at the beginning of the most recently unlocked room. If you quit the game prior to escape, that particular room will need to be played from the beginning as well. The entire room doesn’t fit on the screen, but the full area can be explored by swiping the screen. Objects and clues are scattered around to aid in your escape, and hotspots are manipulated by tapping icons that let you pick up and examine items, or use the last object chosen from inventory. At times, trying to navigate the screen can be tricky if you don’t touch it in exactly the right spot. The inventory has tabs to use, examine, and combine or disassemble/open objects. It also displays helpful items that can be picked up in each room (or bought from an-game store with real money) that allow you to display objects not yet found, solve a puzzle, learn about objects, bypass a stage, restore lost time, or unlock hidden stages. These items are not necessary to complete the game but can help you progress through tough spots. There are up to 50 rooms to escape from in total, including the bonus stages purchased.

Escape the Room: Limited Time can be downloaded from Google Play and played on an Android phone.
 



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 Kitty Story by wonsoranq – When a cat wakes to find her kitten missing, she must search across the city for her absent offspring.

My Big Friend by ReFaller – Using clocks that allow you to travel into the past and the future, help a giant alien in his quest.

2299: The Game by Lunduke – In a universe where spaceships are controlled by living brains, a routine delivery goes humorously wrong. Based on 2299, the webcomic.

Myosotis: Chapter 2 by ImpendingRiot – A detective continues searching for his lost love in a most peculiar research facility.

Red Riding Hood by kai3114 – Literally rewrite the story in this virtual book-based adventure inspired by a classic tale.

Pigsaw: Final Game by inkagames – Having taunted so many others with trap-filled mazes, villainous Pigsaw finally gets a taste of his own medicine.

Sheriff Chase by FastGames/Begamer – Play both pursued and pursuer in this chase across the Wild West.
 



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!


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