This month you can prevent terrorist attacks on two entirely different trains. Horror fans can try to rescue their mad father, explore a not-so-abandoned warehouse or try to find their identity in an old church. For lighter fare, you could take the role of a deranged bum seeking to restore his football pet, a fat cat looking into animal disappearances, or a man searching an odd hotel for his missing wife. Alternatively, you might try to save everyone in a flaming building or simply attempt to restore form to a world gone colourless and blocky. All these await in this month’s roundup of new releases from the freeware scene.
No One Has to Die
You were just visiting the Fenix Corporation offices to deliver some stationery. When you found the two guards at the security station dead, you logged on to the company network to find out what was going on. Now you find that the killer of the security guards has also set a fire, trapping four employees in the building. As the only person with access to the building’s security systems, it’s up to you to try to guide these four to safety. But your access is limited and casualties seem inevitable. Is there really a way of ensuring no one has to die?
Stuart Madafiglio has taken a simple gameplay mechanic and woven a fascinating narrative. The player view mimics the security monitor the protagonist is using to access the computer systems. Initially you engage in chat with the trapped employees with simple character icons and varied colours identifying who is saying what. After each round of conversation, you are presented with a grid layout of the current floor with the chat icons representing individual locations. Certain squares also contain icons for doors, water systems and the spreading fire. The music in these segments is a fast dramatic piece, ramping up the tension, whilst the chat sections are backed up by a slower but no less ominous track.
Gameplay is relatively simple. Once you have run through the non-interactive dialogue sessions, you are told to issue your security instructions. You are able to lock a security door, instruct people to move to adjacent rooms, and providing there is someone next to a switch, turn the water systems on and off. Action is turn-based, with a button advancing the action once you have issued all your instructions. Fire spreads to adjacent squares, as does water if the systems are on, and characters caught by either will die. The computer system tells you how many casualties are inevitable, and resets the level if too many people die. Otherwise, a floor is completed once the fire and water cease to advance. To achieve the promise of the title, you will need to explore all the possibilities. In taking every route, you will uncover the true purpose of the secretive Fenix Corporation, a company that seems to exist solely to buy strange items in bulk.
No One Has to Die can be played online at the developer’s website.
Far out in the depths of space lies a planet fixed in a non-rotating orbit around a potent but dying star. With one side perpetually scorched and the other frozen, it would not seem an ideal place to colonise. But the constant heat of the star-baked side has produced valuable minerals, whose exploitation led to the founding of Dawn Landing in the temperate zone. Transporting minerals from the mines to this temperate location is the Rail, a Maglev train, running across half a world. For its single human supervisor, this is normally an uneventful duty. But today, someone wants to turn the train into a bomb to destroy Dawn Landing. Faced with gun-wielding hijackers, supervisor Victor Webbe must find a way to thwart their fiendish plans.
Originally made from scratch in just four weeks for the AGS Bake Sale, Technocrat’s latest re-release is another sci-fi hit. The graphics are done in a fairly detailed cartoon style, with well-drawn characters that are smoothly animated. The main action takes place within the cramped carriages of the train itself, though you will later travel to the roof where the hijackers have landed their ship. The alien desert of the scorched half of the planet can be seen passing through windows, as can various background machinery operating as well. A grand sci-fi musical theme plays throughout, adding to the epic feel of the adventure.
The situation creates a serious sci-fi tone, with supervisor Webbe considered an expendable scapegoat by the terrorists. Despite this, they seem unwilling to shoot him, and there do not appear to be any game-over events, though the final scene can change depending on your actions. Item use and combination provides the way forward as you seek a way of disabling both the terrorists and the bomb they have brought on board. Some puzzles also have more than one solution, allowing persuasive dialogue or more brutal item use to achieve one particular goal.
The Rail can be downloaded from the AGS website.
For many years you have been an urban explorer and photographer. Exploring abandoned buildings, with the risk of getting caught or injured by deteriorating architecture, is a special thrill. Now one of your regular contacts, graffiti artist Stinger, has invited you to take pictures of his latest work in an abandoned factory. Initially Stinger’s absence at the entrance does not worry you as you delve into a new environment. But this factory is not as abandoned as it seems, and you may not be alone here. This is one exploration you may not be walking away from.
Psionic Games have created a chilling urban horror tale. The graphical presentation uses a predominantly first-person slideshow format with a photorealistic appearance. Even from the outside the factory looks horribly decayed, with the wind blowing loose cables around. Inside, most areas are too dark to see clearly, with a torch effect following your cursor around to illuminate the scene. At certain points in the game, there are fully animated cutscenes, such as your fall from an unstable walkway. The sound is limited to background noises, though the lack of music adds to the disturbing atmosphere. As well as the mundane creaks and moans of the aging building, you will hear whispered voices, some unclear and some you would prefer not to understand. The game also features fully voiced tapes scattered throughout the building that fill in the backstory.
This is not a game for the faint-hearted. The first-person view puts you firmly in the action, and once you start to get some idea of what is going on, you will be as eager to escape as the playable character. Initially exploration is the key activity in the game, with inventory playing a minor role. As you progress, inventory and environment manipulation take on a greater role. There are also a number of sections where you will need to act quickly in order to avoid dying. Fortunately, the game features an autosave function that avoids the need for extensive replay. Completists can also try to get pictures of all the graffiti scattered throughout the building.
Urbex can be played online at Armor Games.Continued on the next page...