2:14 am on 11 October, and an aspiring writer finds himself wide awake. Unable to get back to sleep, he rises to get something to drink. But as he goes about his mundane business, a feeling of déjà vu overtakes him. Has he experienced these same minutes before? A demonic clown has him trapped in a loop, living the same time over and over again. Only by gathering clues left by this funny fiend can he hope to break out of this endless cycle. Soon his investigations will take him deeper into the clown’s dark past, and he may find that the truth is simply too much to face.
Gliese Productions have created a profoundly disturbing game, where a clown is no laughing matter. Presentation is first-person, with detailed and realistic 3D scenes throughout. You will start the game in the protagonist’s flat, consisting of four relatively small rooms. As you go further, you will encounter scenes from your foe’s past, such as a dilapidated circus trailer, and a plush but eerily empty hotel. Whilst full of detail, these scenes are entirely static, with actions reflected by objects simply appearing or disappearing from the screen. As well as the full-room views, there are also close-ups when appropriate, such as when examining a number of items scattered across a desk. The opening tune is an oppressive version of “Pop Goes the Weasel”, with the music throughout generally being more subtly disturbing. There are also a handful of atmospheric sound effects.
With a choice of three difficulty levels, each of which adds more steps to the puzzles, there is some variety available to any gamer looking for a challenge. Even at the lowest of the three levels, this is not an easy game, and inexperienced players may be advised to steer clear for now. This is also a psychologically disturbing game that may be unsuited to the young or squeamish. Created with the Ren'Py visual novel engine, actions are taken from a list of on-screen choices, presented as if scribbled on a torn piece of notepad. With a large number of choices to be made, and the lists often changing depending on other actions, simply trying to exhaust all the options is unlikely to be a viable plan. Navigating a train requires abandoning normal physical laws, and you will also need to apply dream logic to a locked door. There is a timed sequence near the end and there are a couple of sections where you will need to make selections quickly. Failure in a section of the game forces you back to an earlier part of the loop, often the beginning, so using the generous number of save slots available is advised.
The Loop can be downloaded from the developer’s website.
The red-haired Elle enters the house of her professor to get her next Potions lesson from him. She is shocked to find him tied to a chair and gagged, and soon finds out that he has been captured by the evil warlock Garglewart, who then teleports the professor to his castle to be tortured until he reveals the whereabouts of his Time Stone. Before he leaves, the evil warlock places an unbreakable Hex Curse on the door so no one can get in or out of the house. As soon as Garglewart is gone, Elle sets out to find a way to save the professor and herself.
Time Stone, by Stuart Lilford, takes place in a fantasy world where magicians and dragons are quite common. The whole game takes place entirely in the one-room house of the professor. Designed in a display resolution of 320x200, the game can also be played full screen or in a bigger window. Both the room and the characters are drawn in bright colors and remarkable detail considering the low resolution. The graphics, the music and the many jokes you encounter give the game a relaxed and pretty look and feel. There is no voice acting, but the characters' mouths move while they 'talk.' What they are saying is displayed as text on the screen.
You control Elle using the mouse cursor, as she walks where you click. The names of objects you can interact with are displayed at the bottom of the screen when the cursor hovers over them. Left-clicking an object causes Elle to do something or tell something about it. Objects you pick up appear in the inventory, where items can be used by left-clicking on them and then clicking again on the items you want them to interact with. Right-clicking throws the thing you are holding back in the inventory. The puzzles are mostly inventory-based, fun and very well integrated into the game. The whole adventure is very short, as even slow players should be able to finish in about half an hour.
Time Stone can be downloaded from the Adventure Game Studio database.
You have had weird dreams before, their reality fading with the morning sun. But this dream feels different. In it you meet a glorious being called The Weaver, who tells you that your presence has trapped you both there, turning this incarnation of the Dreamworld into a fixed place. You soon find that you are not the only person trapped in this place, with a dark cult seemingly intent on bringing down The Weaver and the Dreamworld with it. Seeking the aid of the other trapped denizens, can you unlock the tangles before the whole nocturnal realm is torn apart?
Lucas Paakh has created a relatively short but satisfying tale set in the realm of slumber. The setting is a series of islands apparently floating in space, rendered in a mildly pixelated format. Human characters are small, though their generally fixed locations and a good use of colour enable you to tell them apart. Native denizens of the Dreamworld tend to be much larger and more detailed, such as a maliciously grinning Sphinx and a floating eye that calls itself The Watcher. Animations are equally simple, though there are some pleasant waterfall effects, and roaring flames that block your free movement. The musical background is a gentle and slightly ethereal piano piece, backed up by a handful of gentle strings, that befits the setting.
The tone is one of light fantasy, with a number of the residents being born of the human dreamers' imaginations. Using the keyboard to both move and interact, you will converse with the inhabitants, finding out what is keeping them tied here. A number of puzzles involve fetch quests, including a girl who needs you to gather balloons so she can float back home. Even these are not always straightforward, as catching the helium-filled water cacti ideal for the job will require you to find materials for tethers and a character that can make them for you. There is also a maze where teleports carry you from place to place and switches redirect flames to open and close paths around you. A latter part of the game finds you under attack, but an ally acquired by this point means that being hit simply knocks you back slightly rather than ending your quest.
The Everloom can be played online at Kongregate.Continued on the next page...