Following Freeware: December 2012 releases
This month you can travel to a new world using a gateway we have seen before. Escape artists can attempt to get away from a deadly killer or ascend from a robotic version of hell. For those with a more literary bent, a classic novel gets a surprisingly effective adaptation. Alternately, you can experience an adventure with RPG overtones as you take a mercenary group on a challenging mission. All these await you in this month’s round-up of games from the freeware scene.
The Old Man and the Sea
Santiago the fisherman is "salao", the worst kind of unlucky there is. With 84 days without a catch, the old man has almost given up hope. Though his family will no longer permit him to fish with the old man, his former apprentice, Manolin, urges him not to give up hope. If he can persuade Santiago to go out again, and assist him in preparing his gear, maybe the old man will catch a fish and no longer be so unlucky.
TheBitPriest’s entry for the November 2012 MAGS “Novel”-themed competition is an unusual adaptation. The graphics have something of a chalk drawing look, the colours blending in with one another to create an overall soft focus. These graphics are simply but effectively animated, with the dour Santiago being a sharp contrast to the cheerful Manolin. The game starts in Santiago’s simply furnished hut, with nets and some religious iconography hung on the walls. Later, once Santiago has been persuaded to go out again, we are treated to a wide sea vista, the smooth ocean surface broken only by indistinct land masses in the distance. There are also text intermission panels between scenes, backed by evocative pastel landscapes. A song of the ocean backs the title page, with a simple repeated tune of drums and high woodwind supporting the main action.
The tone of the game is very much in the style of the book, its use of language mirroring that of Hemingway’s classic. As befits a game based on a novel, there is a lot of text to read here. Much of this is from the dialogue between Manolin and Santiago, as the young boy tries to persuade the old man to take to the sea again. Even examining certain items in Santiago’s hut can initiate small conversations, and these all serve to add depth to the story. The puzzles are mostly simple inventory-based challenges, some with easy dialogue puzzle follow-ups. There is also a puzzle in which you try to determine the best depths to set fishing lines.
The Old Man and the Sea can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Worldgate 2: Contact
The year is 1888, and your exploration of the strange devices uncovered by a mining expedition in Wyoming has already proved fruitful. Using the mysterious dimensional portal that allows you to travel to other worlds, you have enhanced the power of the device that conjures electricity out of thin air. Taking up a second crystal for the control wand, you prepare to set foot in a new world of discovery. But even as you start out on this new adventure, your activities have drawn attention from a being that may not have your best interests at heart.
This second episode from Willam Buchanan expands on the concept of the first, bringing an important new story element into play. The presentation is the same realistic first-person slideshow with simple transition animations of the previous episode. Once more players will start at the mining site that began the last outing, but stepping through the Worldgate again takes you to a whole new place, this time a circular platform apparently floating free among the stars. Whilst the protagonist is never seen, the operation of mechanisms results in the machinery animating appropriately, once you discover how to power it. As well as sound effects for the various devices you encounter, an ambient sci-fi soundtrack plays in the background.
Although it is not vital to play the previous episode, doing so will serve to provide helpful background. It will also give you knowledge of some items collected in that episode, such as the device that repels water. The controls are the same as in the previous instalment, with close examination and manipulation of objects playing a key part in success. You will also come across a new and bewildering array of machinery, with a well thought-out power plant puzzle requiring repeated use to activate the different devices you need. The ending provides a cliffhanger that should leave you hungry for future episodes in this series.
Worldgate 2: Contact and its predecessor can be played online at Jayisgames.
The Children of Brinn
The village of Delar is in jeopardy. Some unnatural force is threatening the vineyards that it relies on for its income. Facing ruin if the problem continues, the village seeks help from the legendary mercenary guild, The Children of Brinn. Four brave adventurers set out to solve the villagers' problems, but in a world full of danger, even reaching the village in one piece could prove to be a difficult challenge.
This new game from Hyptosis, set in the same world as the Kingdom of Liars series, takes an entirely different path. The layout gives the appearance of an RPG, with the characters making up your party appearing in a bar down the left-hand side of the screen. The party consists of a Warrior, a Battlemage, a Thief and a Healer, each with their own illustration, an indication of their health status, and a handful of small boxes for their inventory. A large chunk of the playing area is taken up by a scroll detailing the current action, with the occasional simple drawing to bring the words to life. Finally, there is a section showing the available choices at that stage of the journey. All the while, a gentle medieval-sounding tune plays in the background.
Despite its RPG appearance, success or failure in this game comes solely down to the choices the player makes. These decisions range from simply whether to have a drink before setting off on your quest to the order of the party entering a cave. Every decision changes the direction of the story, with party members potentially suffering injury or death. The skills of each person in your merry band come into play at different points, with some choices playing out differently if the skills of a lost comrade would have come into play had they still been with you. If you do lose a teammate, there is at least one opportunity to gain a replacement. Combat is handled automatically, your choices beforehand affecting the outcome. Whilst there are many ways in which the party can be wiped out, you are given the option of restarting at the last major decision instead of restarting from the beginning.
The Children of Brinn can be played online at Newgrounds.
The place you wake up in is poorly lit by red bulbs, grimly displaying dirty, blood-flecked walls. A man in an orange jumpsuit and disturbing mask greets you in dark and echoing tones. It seems that you are the prisoner of a madman, and in his hands your future only holds pain and death. But in a stroke of good fortune, he has decided you are too weak to do anything and left you unshackled. Can you take advantage of this lapse and free yourself from a killer’s lair?
Psionic Games have woven a disturbing little horror story. Presented in first-person slideshow format, the setting is unpleasantly realistic. The cell where you start out is a truly unwelcoming place, with insects crawling on the walls and a mix of old rusted pipework running across the ceilings and walls. Once you have escaped this initial location, you will find the rest of this fiend’s playground no more inviting, with poor flickering lights and filth everywhere. As well as the insect animation, the various machines you operate are also fully animated when activated. Sound effects like the squish of poking a dead rat are present throughout. A disturbing, echoing ambient tone and beat add to the atmosphere in the background.
This is not a game for the faint-hearted, as the horror setting is embraced to the full. You will find plenty of evidence of the less fortunate souls that preceded you in this dungeon, most often in the form of crumpled and blood-stained notes. Many of the puzzle solutions are distasteful as well, requiring you to delve into things you might otherwise shun. You will grab a variety of inventory items and put them to good use, along with using the machinery in this subterranean vault to help you turn tables on your captor. This game largely avoids the arbitrary nature of many escape games, with puzzle solutions that are logical in the context of the setting. As well as the overall tense mood, the game incorporates a number of more blatant scares which are likely to catch already nervous players unaware.
Killer Escape can be played online at Mousebreaker.
The humans built the robots, then the humans died out. Without the influence of mankind to guide them, the robots turned to evil. Such a course of action could only lead to one thing. The robots descended into robot hell. Now one brave little machine is seeking a way out of this dark place. By piecing together the things the robots have lost, this little bot hopes to rise to be worthy of a good life again.
This offering from Dr Slash and Gexo Galls takes a philosophical premise and weaves an interesting story from it. The backgrounds are a simple pen-and-ink style with a certain cartoon feel. Good use of shading serves to give some depth to the scenery. As befits a robot hell, the backgrounds portray a dimly lit junkyard, with broken machinery, dirt and radioactive canisters piled up. The player character starts as a squat cylindrical robot, with simple but effective animation. Apart from a lively opening tune, the background music consists only of a simple low tone, rising and falling. However, sound effects such as the protagonist clanking as it falls down a pipe are prevalent throughout.
Your original mechanical body only has one simple ability, to use a teleport platform located near where you start. As you search for a way out of your predicament, you will acquire more robot parts, referred to as elements, which then grant you different abilities. Much of the puzzle work involves swapping elements in and out as you equip yourself with the abilities required to pass each obstacle. There is also a mechanism puzzle whose simple button and switch controls mask a tricky challenge. Towards the end of the game there is a task that will require players to be moderately quick with the mouse to pass the final barrier to escape.
Mechanismo can be downloaded from the AGS website.
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.
Moonlight by Jonas Kyratzes – Experience a surreal interactive story about life, dreams, and Stephen Fry.
Mindless by amidos2006 – On a remote island, two tribes constantly strive against one another. Will you take a side in this conflict?
Ubooly and Friends by Beardshaker – Can you help Ubooly solve the cryptic clues and find his friends hidden across a tropical island?
The Prince Edward by MARTINRosso – Prince Edward, son of Henry IV, sets out to explore the castle to relieve his boredom.
From Heaven to Hell: Chapter 0 – Present by LoneLyBoy16 – Falling asleep to the news, you wake up to a disturbing darkness.
Tickets4Love by esthetix – To woo a lady, a young man must procure tickets to the sold-out Addison Madison concert.
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!