This month you can travel to the depths of the jungle, to a surrealistic version of hell, or even into parallel worlds. Those who like to work to deadlines can take a handful of days to evade a deadly spirit, or a mere sixty seconds to prevent a spaceship exploding. Alternatively, you could join a robot detective on a hunt for missing cows, or a scientist literally working in the dark. All these await you in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
Your brother was always interested in parallel worlds. After many years of research, he has suddenly disappeared. You get a letter from him in which he explains that he has finally found the doors to parallel worlds and is going to explore what is on the other side of them. Deciding to follow him to see if he is safe, you soon find yourself in a silent, abandoned world. While investigating this world, you find notes written by your brother scattered about which help you along.
Abandoned, by Krutovig, is the first part of a planned series. The environment here is presented in an unusual first-person perspective: as the player you're almost never exactly in the same position as the protagonist but you never see him/her on screen either. The static screens are simple but beautiful, drawn in subdued colors in a realistic style with just enough detail to see most of the things you need clearly. There is one puzzle that involves clicking on a very tiny button that is hardly visible, however. After entering the parallel world you’ll find yourself in an abandoned mine, but soon you will be crawling through metal tubes, walking on floating stone beams and solving a very complicated puzzle inside a pyramid. There is no voice work, and apart from your brother's letters no text is displayed in this game. Eerie electronic music plays in the background, and many sound effects can be heard, like your footsteps, the clicking of switches and sounds of machinery.
Only the left mouse button is used to interact with the game, and the inventory is displayed in a bar at the lower part of the screen. The puzzles are quite hard: apart from getting and using the right tools for certain jobs, most puzzles require thinking about how the world has been shaped by the people who built it and determining how the things you find are related to one another. You also need to search for codes to open doors and the like. But even the most difficult puzzles are logical and fun to solve. Playing the game will likely remind you of Myst, though this is hardly a Myst clone but a game that has its own distinctive style and atmosphere. It's a great game for fans of exploring mysterious worlds and solving challenging puzzles on the way. Hopefully we will see the second part soon.
Abandoned can be played online on Kongregate.
A Night That Wouldn't End
Finally, after months of toiling in the darkness on the island where you are stationed near the North Pole, the end of your research project is in sight. You only have to do one more experiment before you can take a long vacation. Unfortunately, the power in your remote station has gone down. Cursing the darkness, your job, and your life (you know how it is), you head outside to check the lunar panels. But before you can get the panels working again you need to open a stuck drawer, charge a flashlight and open a hatch. Hopefully then you can finally do your experiment and go home!
LostTrainDude’s short game A Night That Wouldn't End, developed for the December 2014 MAGS competition, features ‘needlessly big chunky pixels’ in the words of its own developer. And indeed, the game world is made up of enormous pixels, though in this endless night they can be very hard to see in the dark. The darkness does a lot for the atmosphere, however, and helps convey the commitment of the scientist who toils in these conditions just to satisfy his curiosity and add to the pool of human knowledge. Playing at various intervals are randomly-selected piano and string chords, which could have been problematic but work quite well thanks to the sounds the developer chose. Besides the soundtrack, you’ll also hear the hiss of the sea and the wind, the sound of the waves hitting the coast, and human noises like the clicking of switches and the sound of sticky tape pulled off its roll. Both dialogue and thoughts are shown as text on screen.
Right-clicking an object gives you a description of it, and left-clicking makes you interact with it. The inventory can be found by moving the cursor to the top of the screen. The puzzles, most of them inventory-based, are quite simple and will hardly pose a challenge. The problem is that because it's so dark, you can barely see anything and will have to do a bit of pixel hunting to find every object you need. The developers built in a gamma adjustment panel, but it didn't work on my computer. Fortunately, I was still able to finish the game without significant problems by turning my screen brightness to maximum. The short play time, excessive darkness, and blocky pixels are all overcome by the game’s very human protagonist, whose thoughts and feelings are conveyed in a truly natural way, making A Night That Wouldn't End a satisfying experience overall.
A Night That Wouldn't End can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Faye King: Jungle Jeopardy
Faye King, pilot for hire, is having a bad day. When her plane malfunctions she crashes in the middle of the jungle. She survives the accident unscathed, but her passenger is unconscious. Faye searches the surroundings near the crash site for help and soon finds a parrot who speaks of a certain Jungle Bob. Faye decides to find this man and ask him for help, but her search for Bob is long and hard: she has to buy a souvenir in a small shop for a tourist, catch a butterfly for a biologist, and even persuade a tiger on a narrow path in the jungle to move out of her way in order to find Bob and get him to help her.
Faye King: Jungle Jeopardy is Two Tale Entertainment's first title. It's presented in third-person perspective and instead of drawing most of the pixel art themselves, the developers have used many backgrounds and sprites from other games. (A fact clearly admitted at the start of the game, with full credit given for all assets used at the end.) For instance, Faye’s model is Sophia Hapgood from Fate of Atlantis, while the souvenir you get for the tourist looks a lot like a certain statuette from Monkey Island and the shop where you buy the souvenir will remind players instantly of Flight of the Amazon Queen. Birds and insects flying about add an extra feeling of immersion, and you are surrounded by sounds from the jungle, like the rustling of leaves, tweeting of birds and the rush of a waterfall. The game has no voice acting so all text is displayed in the font that LucasArts used for many of its games.
Faye is controlled by the mouse. Right-clicking an object makes her describe it if she deems it necessary; left-clicking makes her interact with it. The inventory appears in a bar at the top of the screen. The ripped graphics can make the game feel like an interesting trip down memory lane for fans of the old 1990s classics, but it’s also worth playing for its own sake. Although Faye has a lot of fetch quests to perform, which gets a bit boring after a while from all the walking through the jungle, the mainly inventory-based puzzles are often interesting and always logical, and sometimes funny solutions present themselves. It's a pity that some screens contain many interesting objects Faye has nothing to say about, but overall Faye King: Jungle Jeopardy is a very nice game, particularly for a first attempt.
Faye King: Jungle Jeopardy can be downloaded from Two Tales' website.
Space on the Case
Space is a robot who runs his (its?) own detective business. One day he gets a message that Maud's cows have been stolen. They could be anywhere in the galaxy, but Space manages to learn that the cows are at a farm on Celery's planet. To get them back, all he has to do is to make himself smell like a dinosaur and get a wheel for an electric wheelchair, among other strange tasks.
Space on the Case is made by the prolific Carmel Games. This time around the developers have upgraded their graphics, which are now more detailed and have gradient colors. Where the old cartoon drawings consisted of many crooked lines, the artwork is now much smoother, which gives it a more polished look. The world Space lives in seems like it came from a 1950s movie. Strange aliens have big heads, and most objects have rounded, organic shapes and colors. As usual, the voice acting is excellent, and the spoken text still appears in oblong boxes on screen in one of the seven languages you can choose from at the beginning of the game. Soft electronic music plays in the background, while the few sound effects like the rustling of money and the sound of machinery are accurate and fit the game well.
Space on the Case is very short, even for a Carmel Games adventure, and the puzzles are similar to what we've come to expect: there is a fetch quest, a tiled jigsaw, some inventory puzzles, and you have to make smart use of the things you find. Nothing out of the ordinary here. The same is true of the interface: the game is played using only the left mouse button, and the inventory is located in the lower right part of the screen. The usual wackiness of Carmel's games is also still present. There are some funny jokes and the robot itself looks like it's going to topple over any minute because of its big torso supported by only one wheel. You'll meet some characters in this game that I would like to see again in longer games, like Celery and the robot barman, and overall Space on the Case is a short but fun diversion.
Space on the Case can be played online at JayisGames.Continued on the next page...