This month you can investigate a series of crimes as a consultant, look into your boss’s murder, or seek out the truth in a dark and dusty bunker. For roles outside the norm, you can play a damsel rescuing a knight in distress, a dreamer delving into the collective subconscious, or a man seeking to become the champion of facial hair. Alternatively, you can continue two series, one featuring a modern girl dealing with the Greek myths and the other a Victorian gentleman delving into dark secrets. All these await you in this month’s roundup of releases from the freeware scene.
The Last Door: Chapter 4 – Ancient Shadows
My quest for answers has brought me to the house of another old friend. I believed the experiments in paranormal phenomena he conducted might give me the answers I seek. But my hopes appear dashed as I find the servants missing and my friend in a catatonic state. Perhaps if I follow his work and enact the experiments myself, maybe I will be able to restore him. But the woods are dark, and something violent lurks there in the shadows. Am I working my way to salvation, or damning myself once and for all?
This closing chapter to the first season of The Game Kitchen’s series serves up another slice of Victorian horror. The pixelated graphics of the series continue here, with you once again donning the mantle of Jeremiah Devitt. The action once more takes place at night, with dark shadows everywhere. This is especially true of the surrounding woods, which appear almost entirely in silhouette until you can take a light source into them. You will also discover a sinister darkroom and a deep cellar. The characters are faceless as before, though the character of Devitt is still recognisable from previous episodes. The game once again sports a dramatic full orchestral soundtrack, with both recurring tunes and new pieces. Sound effects continue to play an important part in the atmosphere as well, with whistling wind and creaking timbers setting the player’s nerves on edge.
Whilst knowledge of the previous chapters is not vital to playing this one, it is highly recommended that you do so. As with its predecessors, this is not a game for the faint-hearted, as this is a well-crafted horror game. Here again the horror is largely conveyed through tone, though there are a couple of effective blatant scares. Documents scattered around the house give you clues to what has happened there, as well as assistance with puzzles. Inventory plays a major role, especially finding a light source to explore the darker areas of the game. You will also need to make some inventive, and occasionally grisly, combinations to achieve your goals. Two characters that have appeared in previous instalments are more fully introduced here, both showing an interest in tracking Devitt’s activities. The game ends on a cliffhanger, but with crowdfunding for the new season’s first episode well on the way to its goal, it seems likely the story will continue.
The Last Door: Chapter 4 – Ancient Shadows can be played online or downloaded from the developers’ website. The previous chapters are also available here. Registration is required, but does not come with any further obligation.
You find yourself in a dark and dusty room. Light is filtering through the windows, allowing you to make out pieces of furniture. The room has obviously not been cleaned for a long time. Large cobwebs are hanging in the corners. As you explore the room and its surrounding areas, you’ll find notes written by a former inhabitant that gradually reveal that something horrible happened here.
Fingerbones is David Szymanski's first attempt at making an adventure game. It is a fairly short and basic adventure, but it is quite well made. The first-person game is rendered in real-time 3D, although the environment is quite bare, with only a few items of furniture scattered about. The graphics are done in dark hues of yellow, grey and brown with fairly blocky textures. The music, which consists of long, dark notes, gets eerier the further you progress. Creepy sounds and dust floating around the rooms add to the atmosphere.
The game is somewhat reminiscent of Gone Home, in which you also have to piece the backstory together from documents and other objects scattered about the house. In Fingerbones, you discover more and more evidence of the horrible things that happened in the now-deserted house. The game only has a few puzzles that come up during your investigation, mainly involving getting machinery working and finding passwords for locks. The interface is very simple: you steer yourself using the WASD keys and look around using the mouse. Sometimes a white dot that functions as a cursor appears. When the dot expands you can perform an action by clicking the mouse. There is no inventory and no option to save, but you can exit the game using one of the doors in the room you started in.
Fingerbones can be downloaded from itch.io.
In a typical light fantasy setting, a princess waits in a high stone tower for a brave knight to come rescue her. Right on cue, a brave knight appears, ready to serenade this lovely lady. Alas, a dragon seems intent on keeping the couple apart. Clearly not having been told of its normal role in events, it carries the knight off to its mountain lair. It looks like this time it is the princess who must brave perils, overcome mighty obstacles and face the dragon if she is to have her happy ending.
Aetheric Games have created a nice little game that puts a twist on the classic tale. The graphics are drawn as if written in a school notebook, complete with the regular ruled lines behind the scenery. The environments themselves are well-drawn and brightly coloured, from the slightly wonky tower home of the princess to a castle fortress perched precariously on a high atoll. By contrast, the characters are stick figures, though with some clothing, such as a farmer’s rustic hat. The characters are minimally animated, moving around with a hopping motion, though their faces are animated while speaking. The soundtrack is a variety of simple tunes, changing from scene to scene along with a range of sound effects. The game is also voiced in a way; speech is conveyed as a series of mumbles conveying the tone, with the meaning shown through pictorial speech bubbles.
As befits the setup, this is a lightly humorous game. The knight’s horse is hiding up a tree, the king is bereft of funds, and the local townsfolk think the princess’s pointy hat means she is actually a witch. Left-clicking moves the princess around and interacts with the environment. Right-clicking brings up the inventory. Enticing the knight’s horse down should be an early aim, as the princess is quite slow at moving around on foot. You will distract a farmer so you can vandalise his orchard, take advantage of a free exchange policy for magical potions, and hunt for lost treasure. As well as subverting the damsel in distress setting, the story takes swipes at other genre and game conventions. The king expects the heroine to do everything, including finding the funds for the dragon-killing potion. She also objects if asked to carry too much.
Bickadoodle can be downloaded from the developer’s website.Continued on the next page...