Following Freeware: August 2014 releases
This month, you can try to escape a murder scene before the police arrive or avoid death on a remote crashed spaceship. You might also take on the role of a famous detective in a genteel murder mystery, meet a bunch of fictional favourites in a club sitting between worlds, or simply seek to rediscover your identity and your clothes within the dark city alleys. Alternatively, you could take the first steps on a global adventure as adventurer Skip seeks the sauna king of Finland. All these await in this month’s roundup of releases from the freeware scene.
On a bad day, Sam Drake got a letter that said: "I will frame you for murder." He tossed it away, thinking it was a joke, but from then on strange things have begun happening. Every now and then he finds himself waking up in some hotel room, unable to remember how he got there and what happened during the night. He also invariably finds a murdered woman lying there. This time he also finds the door of the hotel room rigged with a bomb. He’ll need to escape this new predicament, and when he does, he wants to find the killer too.
Entrapment, by Scared Square Games, is a short but gripping game. You play as Sam from a third-person view. The environment is shown in a pixelated art style, in drab hues that perfectly convey the dilapidated condition of the hotel. Ominous music sounds throughout the game, adding to the gloomy atmosphere. Fitting sound effects are heard when you open doors and use certain items in the environment, such as the telephone. The game has no voices but all text is displayed on the screen, with different colors for all characters.
Sam is controlled with the mouse. Right-clicking makes him say something about an object; left-clicking causes him to try to do something with it. The bottom of the screen is reserved for the inventory and buttons to save, load or quit, but there is only one save slot and no further options. Most of the puzzles are inventory-based and they’re not very easy: because the story has some peculiar twists and turns it is sometimes not immediately clear what your goal is or how to reach it. Stick with them, however, and you’ll find two different endings that are both quite intriguing and very emotional. For such a short game, the story is well told and contains just the right mix of scary and funny moments. It's not a game for children though, due to its profanity, scary scenes and references to sex.
Entrapment can be downloaded from the developers' website.
Put into cryogenic sleep for the long journey through space, you expected to arise to a new world. Waking to find your ship’s systems in critical condition was not part of the plan. But that is the situation you face, and until you can get some things working again, it’s one you will have to face alone. Worse, the disaster that has done such damage to the ship has also fried the computer’s behavioural circuits. Luckily, the malfunctioning AI is prevented from killing you outright, but any commands to prevent further harm or even be polite to you are completely wiped. With the mission depending on you, can you get everything up and running again?
In Generation Ship, Shide have created a struggle for survival where a mistake can easily prove fatal. The graphic presentation is an angled top-down view of the rooms and corridors of the ship. The spacecraft interior is rendered in reasonable detail, with austere metal bulkheads and control panels scattered through the various sections. Animation is limited to the main character moving and the automatic doors opening and closing. When major actions are undertaken, the view briefly fades out before displaying the results of your choices. The game has no music, with sound entirely devoted to effects relevant to the situation. This includes the whoosh sounds of the doors and the gentle hum of machinery. The computer is fully voiced to a very high standard, her newfound contempt for you coming through in every line. Subtitles are automatically included for her monologues.
Using the keyboard to move and interact, the main challenge is to balance three survival factors against one another: oxygen, radiation and power. Each of these have three levels – danger, low and good – represented by red, yellow and green-coloured icons. You travel around the ship operating various consoles to do such things as extracting oxygen from the reactor water and attempting to unfold the solar sails. Most of these actions affect the three variables, often pushing one down whilst increasing another. Push any of the requirements below danger and you die, with the computer mocking your foolish final decision. Most such deaths are avoidable by thinking things through, such as waking the remaining crew when oxygen is at danger levels. Other actions provide resources key to longer-term success once you’re moving again. There is some trial and error involved in achieving the ultimate goal of getting the ship going again, and even that can prove deadly if you haven’t made proper provision for the long haul. Fortunately the game is fairly short, making replaying after a fatal move relatively painless.
Generation Ship can be played online at JayIsGames.
Skip Around the World
As the game’s title suggests, Skip is on a journey around the world. His first stop is Finland, where he wants to get an autograph from the great Guru of Saunas, Oiva Vasta. On his quest to find him, however, Skip meets quite a few interesting people, and he even has to help Santa Claus. Along the way, he learns a lot of fun and interesting facts about Finland.
Skip around the World - Finland is the first game in a new Carmel Games series. The story takes Skip to famous places across the country, from the far north, where he admires the Northern Lights, to Helsinki in the south. Wherever he goes, the world is drawn in the developer’s trademark colourful cartoon style. Skip is a twentysomething guy wearing tight jeans and a baggy hoody, just like you’d expect from backpackers all over the world. The music differs with each location and is cheerful and light, with lots of bells and electronic tunes. The voice acting and sound effects (of which there are plenty in this game) are very good. The high voice of a woman in the sauna sounds particularly funny.
As with all Carmel games, this one is played using the mouse. There is an inventory at the bottom of the screen, and arrows appear when you hover the cursor over certain hotspots to indicate the directions in which you can go. All of the puzzles are inventory-based, and sometimes you need to find something else first to get what you want, but that makes the gameplay fun. When Skip helps people he gets information or new inventory items that help him on his quest to find the guru. This is a more serious game than Sherlock Holmes and the Tea Shop Murder Mystery, and its story and puzzles are suitably more complicated. The further you progress in your travels, the more you learn about what there is to see and do in Finland. But true to the Carmel Games spirit, this game contains its share of funny jokes too.
Skip around the World - Finland can be played online at MouseCity.com.
Sherlock Holmes and the Tea Shop Murder Mystery
Mr. T, the owner of the tea shop, has been... murdered! Sherlock Holmes sets out to investigate. In Sherlock Holmes and the Tea Shop Murder Mystery, by Carmel Games, you will find a very different Sherlock than the cold and meticulous Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle described. This Sherlock doesn't really investigate the crime scene very much. He does interview many people, but after they have had their say Sherlock doesn't ask any more questions. But he is still the Great Detective, so despite his sleuthing limitations here you can count on him to correctly point out the murderer in the end.
As usual in Carmel games, The Tea Shop Murder Mystery is played in third-person mode. The game world is presented in colorful slides, drawn in the familiar cartoonish style in which almost no lines are parallel, with everything askew or bent. Sherlock's appearance, with a very long, thin moustache, drab brown clothing and an almost sleepy disposition, fits the way he 'investigates' the murder very well. During the case, simple unobtrusive xylophone and string music is played. As expected of this developer, the voice-overs are very good, and the whole game is subtitled in one of no less than six languages that you can choose from at the beginning. The whole game contains only one sound effect: the knocking on a door.
The interface is simple, with arrows indicating where Sherlock can go, an inventory at the bottom of the screen, and help and menu buttons at the top left of the screen. The story is so simple the game almost plays itself, and the puzzles themselves are very easy. Almost all of them, except the last one, are inventory-based. For your convenience, Sherlock keeps a notebook in which he keeps track of the suspects, but you don't need that at all, because it’s so easy to figure out who the murderer is from only one of the screenshots I took. It's really a pity that nothing more was made of the story and puzzles of this game, but the sometimes very funny jokes almost tumble over each other. I was grinning and laughing almost continuously. So don’t play it for the mystery, but it’s worth playing just because of the humour.
Sherlock Holmes and the Tea Shop Murder Mystery can be played online at epicbreak.
At the Crossworld Club, all sorts of celebrities come to party. Not just any old mix of celebrities, though. This club stands at a crossroads to several planes of reality, with characters from games, books, television and films all putting in an appearance. Your boss sees a winning opportunity for a crossover event so broad that all the worlds will pay him a fortune to see it. As his lowly minion on the scene, it is up to you to get him the stars he needs to make it happen.
Created for Ludum Dare 30 and its theme of “Connected Worlds”, Artamus has created a short but pleasing little adventure in Crossworld Club. The graphics are done in a retro pixel style. Whilst the environment is viewed from above, the characters and all major pieces of scenery face the camera directly. Even with its simplistic design, famous individuals such as Nintendo’s Mario and Charlie Chaplin are fairly easy to recognise. Character animation is equally simple, though some moving disco lights bring life to the club. A basic club dance track plays throughout, with a handful of sound effects playing when you achieve something.
The arrow keys are used to move around, whilst the spacebar allows you to interact with various people and objects. To get the various celebrities to work with you, you must find out their interests. Brief conversations will point you in the right direction. This dialogue references the origins of the characters, though with a healthy dose of parody. Often one character will have something you need for one of the others, but you will also have to do a bit of hunting around the club itself. Once gathered, inventory is used automatically when you find an appropriate place. In keeping with its limited development time, the game is fairly short but has a nice final twist.
Crossworld Club can be played online at the developer’s website.
A young woman wakes up and finds herself bruised and naked on a dead end street in a rundown neighborhood. She tries to recall how she got there, but she remembers nothing, not even her own name. Exploring the neighbourhood, she soon finds a hooker named Token, who calls the young woman Nona Noname. In order to find some clothes and get away from this hostile environment, Nona will have to rummage through trash cans, run around in the sewer and even face two very nasty men.
Naked Fear, by Harry Ominous, is a horror game featuring dark and realistically drawn 2D backgrounds that reflect the sombre mood this subject matter demands. Nona and the other 3D characters move in such a very natural way that it seems possible real people were used for motion capture. The game contains a few animated scenes such as a spinning fan, a zoom-in on Nona's face at the start of the game and various death scenes, but I had some trouble getting them to work when the game was first released in July. (To avoid this issue, the DirectDraw 5 graphics driver should be selected from the Winsetup program. Whilst the game is still playable with the alternative driver, certain cutscenes will not display under this setting.) In some locations, where part of the scenery is hidden in the shadows, it takes a bit of pixel hunting to find doors or windows, but you never have to hunt for objects that you don't know exist. There are no voices in Naked Fear but the whole game is subtitled, with every character having their own text color. The gameplay is accompanied by ominous sounding electronic music and there are sound effects such as footsteps, the clicking of switches, doors closing, etc.
Nona's world is explored in third-person view using the mouse. You can choose the desired action, like look, talk or using a chosen inventory object with the right mouse button. Left-clicking Nona brings up a menu from which inventory items can be chosen. Danger can lurk around almost every corner – this is a game in which you have to save early and save often, though there is only one save slot available. The way Nona deals with certain problems is sometimes quite illogical. For example, at one point she says that she can break a window with the crowbar she has found, but that it is a long drop down. When you have her break the window, she not only breaks it but also jumps to her death unbidden. Perhaps she is still a bit dazed after waking up, because she takes the horrible things she experiences with a sort of detached calm that you wouldn't expect from someone in her situation. But apart from a few problems like these, the story unfolds logically and the mainly inventory-based puzzles are not hard.
This game doesn’t hold back on gory scenes, nudity, and profanity, but it has an Adult Mode that can be switched on or off. When this mode is switched off, some of the profane text is censored and some of the death scenes are left out. Even with Adult Mode off, however, this is not a game for children since it deals with death, prostitution, rape and drugs, and Nona is stark naked for most of the game.
Naked Fear can be downloaded from the Adventure Game Studio 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.
Progression by AlexMKriss – Your brother Erasmus thinks treasure awaits below, but the reality is far stranger in this point-and-click text adventure.
Batman Saw Game by inkagames – Batman matches wits with Pigsaw in a round-the-world jaunt to rescue Batgirl.
Thirteen by Robert Wiggin – In a ruined hotel, investigating the mystery of room thirteen may not be the wisest thing you’ve ever done.
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.