This month you can take an ill-fated ride in a flying ship or a surreal journey on a train. You could play a painter in search of inspiration, a little girl seeking help in healing her father, or a motel worker hoping to become an entertainer. Fans of fairy tale creatures can delve into a fantasy forest or learn about the goblins that mess up the human world. Alternatively, you might find yourself trapped in a house of horror, hurry to protect yourself from a zombie horde, or explore a deranged version of the afterlife. All these await in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
A Night in Berry
Lilith is a seven-year-old girl who lives in her uncle's inn. Her father, who lives close by with her grandmother, fell from a horse two days earlier and has been unconscious ever since. On the evening the game begins, a delegation on its way to the Queen stops by to spend the night. Lilith soon learns there is a healer amongst the delegation and she uses the special talent her family has in dealing with animals to make the healer help her father. It’s a compelling story of a very smart young girl doing things many older kids are incapable of, combined with beautiful artwork and music to form a simple but very well-made freeware adventure gem that you don't often come across.
Creamy’s A Night in Berry takes place in France in the 16th century and is presented in colorful hand-painted screens. Most of the game takes place in and around the inn, which lies at the edge of the forest near the village. The forest and village both play important roles in the game as well. Much attention has been given to making the environment lively: fire crackles in the fireplace and gives the room irregular lighting like a real fire does, the clock's pendulum swings back and forth like it should, leaves rustle in the garden and trees sway in the wind. Almost all the animation you see is accompanied by proper sound effects, and the gameplay is accompanied by soothing string and flute music. Because the whole game takes place in the late evening, the scenes are rather dark, but never so dark that you have difficulties making out the objects. There isn’t any voice acting, so all spoken text is shown on screen with a different color for each character.
The interface is very simple, with an inventory appearing when you move the cursor to the top of the screen and mouse buttons used for looking at and manipulating objects. Clicking on the face next to the inventory brings up the game's menu, but unfortunately there is only one save slot. During the game you will play as Lilith and the servant, Lizaigne, intermittently. At a certain point Lizaigne has to perform some simple stealth work, which could be annoying for those who don't like hiding and dodging in games. Luckily the other puzzles are of the true adventure kind: for instance, as Lilith you have to get your uncle out of the way using a concoction that you brew for him, and as Lizaigne you have to find out what Lilith's grandmother knows but is not telling you. Most puzzles make use of information you find as you play, combined with items in your inventory. All puzzles are well thought out – logical but not too easy.
A Night in Berry can be downloaded from the AGS website.
On their way to Davenport in their auto-guided flying ship, Tom and his sister Anne crash somewhere in the middle of the desert. Anne’s knee is seriously injured and she can't walk, so Tom has to clean and mend it. After taking care of Anne's knee, Tom goes searching for food. He soon finds that other ships have crashed here as well, and Tom suspects there is something wrong with the planet’s guidance system, an array of poles that sends out signals to passing ships. When he returns, however, he finds that Anne has disappeared without a trace. In the subsequent search for his sister, Tom explores a deep bunker, in which he finds clues to the reason for all the crashes that have occurred here.
Wrecked, by visionmind, is presented in colorful, hand-drawn screens that are navigated in third-person mode. The drawings are a bit crude but still quite detailed, while the few animations present, like Tom walking and robots moving about, are quite stiff. There is no music in this game, but you’ll hear the sounds of machinery in the bunker and the wind in the desert around the crash site, as well as other effects like footsteps, computer fans and the whir of an elevator. There is no voice acting but all spoken text is shown on screen, with different colors for all characters.
You play as Tom throughout the game, and the interface uses the standard AGS format. Clicking the right mouse button cycles between Look, Walk and Interact verbs; clicking the left button on an object executes the chosen action. The puzzles are mainly inventory-based and rather straightforward: you have to find the materials to tend Anne's knee and find replacement parts for your ship, and a large part of the game is devoted to fiddling with a computer system to get the guidance system working properly again. Tom finds hints for this procedure while exploring the area, however, so that task is not very hard. Strangely, Tom doesn't seem very concerned for his sister. He takes all the time he needs and never shows signs of urgency or fear. Even finding her shoes and belt on a big pile of rubbish doesn't make him the slightest bit nervous. Then again, Anne is clearly cut from the same cloth as Tom, because when they finally meet again she immediately gets down to business instead of enjoying a happy family reunion with her brother. Apart from this quirk, however, the game is well thought out overall and has an interesting story that unfolds neatly.
Wrecked can be downloaded from the AGS website.
The White Canvas
Many young people will recognize themselves in Nico Sales, the protagonist of an interesting new game by Accad Estudios, The White Canvas. Just out of college, Nico is a talented artist without inspiration or money or any clue about how to get started in life. On top of that, his girlfriend Patricia just broke up with him. The morning the game begins, Nico finds out that Midas, a painter he admires very much, has arrived in his city. Thinking that Midas will be able to give him inspiration for his work, Nico searches for a way to meet this elusive man. In order to do this, he’ll need to acquire a painting for his professor, find a recipe to make a powerful cocktail, then make his way past an uncivilized bodyguard.
The graphics in The White Canvas are not much to write home about: bland colors are used in environments designed in a rather uncomplicated but realistic style. Nico is often found in the Melancholy bar, his studio, a run-down hotel and his professor's study at the institute. The background sounds for these locations, when present, consist of very short tracks that are repeated indefinitely. A short pause can be heard every time the end of the track is reached, which is noticeably distracting. A simple but unobtrusive tune played on an electric guitar can be heard throughout the game. Only the Spanish version has voice acting, but the English version shows all spoken text on screen with a different color for each character. During conversations, the face of the speaking character is shown to the left of the text. The translation is very good; the game even has a fair number of funny puns.
Two mouse buttons are used for looking at and interacting with objects, while the inventory can be found at the top of the screen. As you progress you’ll learn more about Nico, who has a peculiar sense of humor and a strange way of dealing with information (or the lack thereof). He sometimes picks up things even if he doesn't know what they are, only to finally ask about them when there turns out to be a use for them in the game. The puzzles are not easy, as it's often not very clear what you should do, and some locations are a little dark so you need to do a bit of pixel hunting here and there. Luckily all the things you need to find are fairly big. Finding the recipe for the Deadly Triangle cocktail is particularly difficult. Most puzzles are inventory-based, but Nico also has to talk to some people to get them to do what he wants, and distract others he wants to avoid.
The White Canvas can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Tammy Jo Superstar
Working as a servant in a motel is not much fun when the guests leave because of Neel, the horrible nightclub entertainer. The dilapidated state of the hotel and the fact that its owner tells the servants to clean out cobwebs using the bed sheets don't help attract new guests either. Tammy Jo wants to do something about it, and after some pleading her boss tells her she can try anything she wants to get Neel to leave so she can sing in the nightclub herself. Luckily, the new receptionist knows more about Neel and will help Tammy in her efforts to get rid of him. It’s a reasonable enough premise but not much of a story, unfortunately, and the game lacks its developer’s usual wacky characters and funny scenes.
Tammy Jo Superstar is the second adventure by Carmel Games that uses their new, improved graphics style, which is more detailed than their old style and has gradient colors. The game is played in third-person mode, and the screens display colorful cartoon-like drawings of the motel where Tammy works. A nice addition to the gameplay are the cutscenes in which important events are displayed in static images. Although the motel looks fairly realistic, Tammy and her colleagues have bodies with exaggerated oversized heads. When they speak their lips flap about like they are performing in a fast-talking contest, and their heads move up and down rapidly. This goes on even after they finish their lines and only stops when you click away the transparent text bar at the top of the screen. The voice acting is excellent, however, and the subtitles can be displayed in one of six languages. The sound effects are adequate and the game is accompanied by a bass tune that is very short and keeps repeating but is not annoying.
The interface is simple, requiring only that the left mouse button be used. The inventory appears in the lower right of the screen, and there are buttons for the menu and a walkthrough that didn't work on my computer on the lower left of the screen. If that happens to you too, there is another one on YouTube, though there are really only two major puzzles to solve. The obstacles are mainly inventory-based and logical, although not very straightforward, adding a little length to an otherwise very short game. At the end players are invited to buy Tammy's song. The actress who voices Tammy in the game is also named Tammy Jo in real life. She's a good singer; hopefully enough fans will buy the song so that Carmel Games can finance a longer game with a better, funnier story and characters if there’s to be a Tammy Jo sequel.
Tammy Jo Superstar can be played online at JayisGames.Continued on the next page...