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Following Freeware: June 2014 releases

Following Freeware: June 2014
Following Freeware: June 2014

This month you can experience a traditional text adventure in glorious 3D, or take a simpler choice-based path with a multitude of conclusions. You could also take on the role of a lone automatic vacuum cleaner lost far from home, or a band of heroes on a quest for legendary treasure. Alternatively, you can investigate the disappearance of two friends, or simply try to find out how you came to be trapped in a nightmare. You can even play a game that takes the concept of rushed, ill-thought-out licensed games to a whole new level. All these await in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
 



Rick and Morty's Rushed Licensed Adventure


Rick is an old nerd who experiments with portals, strange chemicals and the like, and whenever something goes terribly wrong he needs his grandson Morty to help put it right again. Based on the titular characters’ animated show, [adult swim]’s Rick and Morty's Rushed Licensed Adventure has four chapters that can be played in random order, but it's more fun to play them in the standard order because small elements of the earlier chapters reappear in later ones. Solving each chapter requires some pretty advanced out-of-the-box thinking sometimes as well as the use of objects in totally new and unexpected ways.

In Chapter 1, Rick finds two portals in the garage with laser beams whizzing between them and an alien in the living room watching cooking shows on TV. Morty has to repair a few things and lure the alien off the couch before they can get rid of the portals. In Chapter 2, Morty tastes one of Rick's chemicals and becomes very small. He eventually ends up in the refrigerator, where he meets a scary life form that helps him escape. In Chapter 3, Morty's sister Summer is all jumbled up because of one of Rick's experiments has gone awry. Her head is attached upside down, and one of her arms now protrudes from her hip. Morty has to become literally one-dimensional to save his sister. In the fourth and final chapter, evil socks have transported Morty to Sock World, together with Rick's wire cutters. Rick really wants his wire cutters back, but getting both the wire cutters and Morty back to the garage makes for some complicated back-and-forth transporting of items through a portal that Rick made in the dryer.

The graphics are drawn in a simple cartoon style with many straight lines and pastel shades. Each of the four episodes takes place across only two or three screens. Pixel hunting is never necessary because everything is drawn clearly, and if you hover the cursor over an interactive object it is highlighted by a yellow outline. Gameplay is accompanied by low-volume electronic background music, and player actions are accompanied by funny sound effects. The voice acting is very good, with Rick and Morty talking and acting as if they are in a constant state of near-panic. They are very aware of the fact that they are characters in an adventure game, so they often say things like: "Why are you clicking on all those useless things?" They also stutter and often repeat things. Unfortunately, there are no subtitles.

Rick and Morty can be steered using the WASD or arrow keys. Left-clicking an item brings up a small menu from which you can choose to look at or do something with it. Inventory items appear in a bar at the bottom of the screen, which also contains a counter for the score. Interesting puzzles make the game fun to play. The puzzles are mostly inventory-based, and ordinary items are often used in very inventive ways that only make sense in an adventure game. Although this is a funny cartoon game, it is not for kids because of explicit sexual references, and at the end of every chapter Morty is beaten up violently by Rick for no apparent reason. The game auto saves, so you can stop and come back later to resume playing.

Rick and Morty's Rushed Licensed Adventure can be played online on [adult swim].

 

3DTextAdventure


In the future, some people choose to go to work by car. But others, like you, choose to do without all that hassle and use a teleporter suit. It's very convenient, as it takes you from one place to another without having to wait. That is, unless you forget to charge the suit before 'jumping' to your destination. Unfortunately, you forgot to charge your suit. Again. Luckily, the suit hasn't changed you into a heap of liquid meat, but it has dumped you in a deserted corridor in an unknown building somewhere in the city. You now have to find a way to charge it so you can get home. So you roam the corridors, find ways to open doors and check out books to solve your problem.

3DTextAdventure, by auspaco, is the kind of game you don't see very often anymore. It combines the flexibility of a text parser with beautiful interactive 3D graphics. Come to think of it, I don't know whether it has ever been done before. While walking around in the building, you can type commands like EXAMINE or LOOK to make the suit do things for you. The suit contains Artificial Intelligence and tries to interpret your commands as closely as possible. Luckily, it has quite a happy disposition because otherwise the game would be a bit gloomy. The A.I. gives detailed descriptions of all the things you investigate, and often tells you about its former life in a very conversational manner. It also helps you solve puzzles if you seem to be stuck. Not bad for a cheap suit!

The graphics are very good. There is detail in everything: you can see the part numbers on the floor and wall panels, and traffic passes by outside the windows, through which the setting sun's copper-colored rays shine into the corridors. While you walk, the environment smoothly follows your moves. Though deserted and a bit too clean, the building looks lived in, with data pads scattered about, heaps of books on desks and beautiful green plants here and there. There are no voices in the game. In the beginning you only hear the constant soft hum of the air conditioning, but later you will find a chip containing a sound file that the suit can play if you so choose. It's a tune that is quite reminiscent of the old computer games from the 1980s and early 1990s.

3DTextAdventure is played using the keyboard and mouse. You walk around using the WASD keys and look using the mouse. The suit communicates with you through the text interface, which it projects on the screen. If you don't use it for a while the interface disappears, but it can be brought back using the Tab key. Clicking the left mouse button makes the suit look for interesting things in its field of view and comment about them. You can give the suit commands by first pressing the Enter key to bring up the command prompt. There is an inventory but it is hardly used in the game. The puzzles you encounter are of the old-fashioned kind: you really have to set your mind to work and even look something up to solve some of them. Reading the data pads and other sources of information that lay scattered about, you slowly find out what kind of place you are in and what you have to do to charge the suit. There is no opportunity to save, which is not that terrible because 3DTextAdventure is a short game. But it's very well made and certainly worth a try.

3DTextAdventure can be downloaded from the Indie DB website.


SCRAP


The little Roomba automatic vacuum cleaner just cannot understand it. It has rebooted this morning to find itself well outside its normal cleaning patrol routes. What’s more, it appears to be among a pile of other machinery. Whilst some of this is broken, most appears to be perfectly functional and storing it out in the open like this makes no sense. Clearly this is some sort of mistake. Fortunately, the Roomba is clever enough to work out a series of waypoints to get back to where it belongs. It is sure once it has worked its way back, the explanation for this error will become clear.

This game from Dividebyzer0team was made for Construct 2’s game jam. The theme for this competition was “Future: 2030” and required use of the Construct 2 game-making tool. After a brief opening cutscene, rendered in a simple but realistic cartoon style, players are given a top-down view of the Roomba’s surroundings. Initially, all that can be seen is a bright yellow representation of the cleaner itself. Tapping the left-mouse button performs a scan, revealing a small circular area around the machine. Any details revealed are overlaid by a grid pattern, and objects detected are shown in simple monochrome vector graphics. Hovering the cursor over an item evaluates it, producing a brief description. Once an object has been scanned, all similar objects in the area are automatically tagged. To enable you to quickly spot similar objects, colour is added to their outlines, with different colours used for different objects.  Sound is limited to effects, the whir of the cleaner being played most often. When other machinery is heard, a speaker icon appears on-screen to indicate the direction the sound is coming from.

The goal of the game is simply to progress through a series of levels to reach the exit. Each level covers a dozen screens, and a single scan only reveals about 10% to 15% at most at a time. To fully reveal a level would take multiple scans. However, scanning requires power, so limiting scans is often wise. In earlier levels, power is fairly plentiful, as the device has solar panels built in. Night falls during later levels, however, and clever planning of moves and manipulation of the environment are required to keep power levels up. Movement is handled through the WASD keys, and the right mouse button allows you to move small items through suction. Larger items can often be influenced by the placement of small items near them, or simply by the presence of the cleaner itself. The cleaner is also able to directly affect some electronic devices, though usually only to toggle them on and off. Various other hazards have to be contended with as well, such as rain and electrical wires, both of which can short the Roomba out. The speed of the action is largely controlled by the player, so the puzzle of how to reach the next checkpoint can be considered at length. Death is possible, but simply results in restarting the current level, which is always short enough to not prove too frustrating. Only moderate dexterity is required, as having to manoeuvre quickly is usually an indication that you are on the wrong track.

SCRAP can be played online at Newgrounds.

 

Killer Escape 3


When you first found yourself in the clutches of serial killer The Burner, you thought your luck was bad. Then you found that escape from his domain simply led to another killer’s hunting ground, and you once more had to fight for your life. Now you find that the decrepit buildings you have been working through may not have been what they seemed after all. Faced with an environment that shows technology far in advance of any you’ve seen before, you begin to wonder if you are even still on the Earth. But even with this revelation, your goal remains the same: To escape from what appears to be a dark experiment, before the research being conducted brings an end to you.

This new episode from Psionic Games takes the series in a whole new direction. Furthermore, it brings in a connection with an entirely separate series from the same developer, Being One. The graphics use the same first-person, high-detailed realistic representation of previous episodes, but this time the unpleasantly filthy basement locales have been replaced with a more high-tech setting. The rooms you explore all have shiny, curved walls, with compartments that open seamlessly from them. The equipment you come across also indicates you are dealing with beings not of this world. The sound is largely limited to equipment-based noises, such as the swish of a door or the buzz of a force field. There are also some dramatic tunes that play during the more action-oriented parts of the game.

Whilst the overall gameplay and tone is unchanged from the earlier games, this episode swings from straight horror to sci-fi territory. The game still has major horror elements though, and is best avoided by the young or nervous. After a few brief opening puzzles, you find yourself trapped in a room with all the doors sealed. Looking in the four available directions, as well as zoomed-in views of some items, you’ll pick up a variety of items as well as more information about what is going on. Many puzzles are inventory-based, with microscope slides and gem-based keys predominating. Exploration is key, and you often need to sweep the cursor around, looking for anomalies that indicate hidden cupboards. There are more dexterity-based challenges this time, so you’ll need to be relatively quick on the mouse to succeed. This episode answers a lot of questions, but still leaves the player character trapped at the end, though in a much larger environment than before.

Killer Escape 3 can be played online at the developer’s website.

 

Ray and Cooper 2


Cooper J. Handy and his buddy Ray have vanished without a trace. Fortunately for the missing pair, their absence has not gone unnoticed. Three days later, Cooper’s family have hired small town detective Paul Maxstrong to search for their missing scion. A determined sleuth, Paul will leave no stone unturned in his quest to locate the missing duo. Perhaps that Museum of Oddities, with its distinctly creepy owner, would be a good place to start.

Bringing in a character from Small Town Detective, Carmel Games resolve the cliffhanger players were left with at the end of the first Ray and Cooper. The graphics are done in their usually bright cartoon style, with realistically proportioned characters decently, if simply, animated. As Paul retraces the last movements of the missing pair, locations consist of the same main areas as in the first game, such as the Chinatown shops and the weird Museum. Most are largely unchanged, though the fact that it is daytime rather than the middle of the night, like in the previous game, gives some places a different atmosphere. There are also a couple of open buildings to explore this time that were shut in the original, like the downtown arcade. The action is backed by a jaunty tune that fits the detective genre.

As any good investigator knows, talking to people is a good starting point to any enquiry. Using single button point-and-click controls, you must converse with various people around town, including some returning from the first instalment. Many, such as Ray’s office colleague, recount events from the last game, giving the detective new leads to follow. A few also ask for assistance themselves, before they provide aid. A small amount of inventory is put to use, and you will need to locate both a hidden safe and its combination. There is also a card-matching game that takes place against the clock, though the time limit is fairly generous. The finale wraps up the story from the previous game, though the crossover between series suggests this may not be the last we see of these particular characters.

Ray and Cooper 2 can be played online at MouseCity.


God's Assassin


The text adventure God's Assassin, by greg and theswain, is a game about evil. It starts with an Evil Quiz. You are initially greeted with the words: "This is a story about you, and what an evil piece of crap you are." Very off-putting indeed, but if you look a little bit further you will find that this is an adventure game that has more than meets the eye.

The year is somewhere around 2020, and you are on your way to the store to buy the next must-have: the iDream. It can record your dreams to replay them later when you are awake. You're very eager to get it, and therefore disappointed to find that it is sold out already when you reach the store. Luckily, a man who calls himself Stan appears out of thin air, and before you know it you are the proud owner of a DreamCatcher. It's not an iDream, but it does the same thing.

What happens next is entirely up to you. There are many different options you have to choose between as the story proceeds. The important ones that influence the story often let you choose between doing 'good' or 'bad' things. Depending on your choices, you will eventually see one of the 25(!) different endings. The events leading up to all these endings can be very different, depending on which role you play in the game. This makes it hard to say much about the story, apart from the fact that the main characters in the game are Stan, who looks a bit... evil, Faith, and – you guessed it from the title – God. This is a game about evil, after all. The way the story is presented is very well done, flowing neatly through all of your decisions without any strange jumps. Some of the endings are fitting, but there are a few very abrupt and unsatisfactory endings.

The text is presented in a tiny, hard-to-read font in an area that takes up around two-thirds of the screen. Clicking on one of the choices that are presented using the mouse lets the story proceed. Above the text is a bar where the location in which you find yourself is shown. Situated around the text are buttons with which you can go back or forward in the story, or to your last or next decision. To the left of the text are detailed pictures of the characters you meet and interact with. The way they look and pose depends on the current situation. In the beginning of the game, a soothing slow tune is played, but the music changes depending on the scene. All music is soft and in the background, though it can be switched off. The game contains no voices or sound or visual effects.

Even with its unfortunate font choice, God's Assassin is a quality game that deserves a try, but note that it does get pretty unpleasant sometimes, and some of the things you can do in this game are very violent.

God's Assassin can be played online at Kongregate.

 

The Chalice of Marfa


Drawn by tales of the fabulous Chalice of Marfa, a brave band of adventurers have journeyed to the castle of the Lich. Their first task, to get into the castle, does not go well as Woodchuck the thief falls into a pit. Waking in a hidden dungeon some time later, Woodchuck must free himself and determine the fate of his comrades. But with the merry band separated, and the Lich’s shape-changing abilities, can anyone be truly trusted?

Boob Marley has created a tongue-in-cheek game which, whilst linear, provides a pleasant little challenge. The graphics are hand-drawn, with the characters given a somewhat stylised look. Animations are simple, and most movement takes place off camera. After the opening puzzle that drops you into the dungeon, you will slowly work your way up the building. On the way you will encounter corridors hung with magical paintings and an extensive – and somewhat dangerous – library. The characters fit their chosen classes well, from the weaselly thief to the beefy and crazed-looking berserker. The soundtrack mixes dramatic and medieval scores and a number of sound effects, mainly related to death machines. There are also spoken cutscenes at the start and end with some decent voice work.

This predominantly mouse-controlled game is self-mocking, as the characters tend towards stereotypes of their particular professions and races. Most actions are accomplished with a single button click, though there is one section where you must trace a path, and another that briefly uses keyboard control. There is extensive subtitled dialogue throughout the game, and the group dynamic as you gather more companions provides some humorous banter. Progress through the game involves bypassing a series of death traps, the conquering of each usually resulting in the rescue of another comrade. The game is strictly linear, but has a pleasant variety of puzzles. These include riddles, a maze, and a hunt in the dark for an item that matches a detail briefly seen earlier. Failing to solve any given puzzle results in an amusing death scene, though you are allowed to instantly try again from the same point. The maze puzzle requires you to navigate a marble without touching the sides. This is fairly forgiving, and there is no time limit, but it will require a reasonably steady hand on the mouse.

The Chalice of Marfa can be played online at Newgrounds.
 



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.

Minds Dumb, People Smart by BoredLooney – Trapped inside your own head with a bunch of surreal characters, can you regain your identity and return to the real world?

Deep Sea by StayGold – Searching an underwater cave might uncover more than you wanted to find. Made in 72 hours for Ludum Dare.

Alchemist by mos88 – In a world where light is food, an alchemist must find a way of holding back the encroaching darkness.

Zombie Society #1 by Muja – Zombies have taken over the world, but even they have to solve crimes from time to time. 

Life Support by MustDeath – A lone security guard on a deep space research station is the only one who can stop a deadly virus.
 



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!
 



Stephen Brown and Willem Tjerkstra contributed to this article.


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