Following Freeware - February 2015 releases
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.
In your career as a professional ghost hunter, you have met your fair share of scepticism. One particularly vocal sceptic is a local reporter who specialises in disproving the occult, and has often publicly ridiculed your beliefs. So it was with some surprise that you received his invitation to come out to see something you have never seen before. Whilst you suspected a setup to discredit you further, you couldn’t take the risk of missing out on the paranormal find of the millennium. But once inside the remote house you have been called to, you might wish you had turned him down. There is no sign of the man himself, but there are plenty of signs that he and his colleagues have met a gruesome fate.
In Ghostscape 3D, Psionic games have created an exercise in horror. Presented in a first-person view, the graphics use a photorealistic 3D rendering. The house is in a bad state of repair, and has also clearly been the site of some horrific events. Blood stains the walls, sometimes with disturbing messages written in it, and bodies are hidden around the place. The décor does not exactly improve the look, with paintings of skulls with glowing eyes and hideous monsters. The overall presentation is a slideshow format, but with a sweeping camera transition between locations. Audio is mostly kept to sound effects, such as the creak of a door or the scraping sound of a barrel dragged across the floor. There is also a constant disturbing whispering throughout. This is not the only voice-work, as a series of tapes can be found recording the experiences of the reporter in recent days.
This is not a game for the young and faint-hearted. The setting alone, especially with the demonic whispering, is disturbing enough, but there is plenty more horror to be found. The game also resorts to the occasional jump scare, though these are well-spaced and inserted at appropriate junctures. With the door sealing behind you once you enter, you will need to explore the house to find an alternative way out. Control is simple point-and-click, with the cursor changing shape and offering a description when over a hotspot. These include switches and valves scattered around the house which have to be operated, the latter requiring a tool. You will acquire a handful of other inventory items too, most with fairly clear uses. There are five bloodstained notes and five cassette tapes hidden in the building as well. The tapes simply provide backstory, but the former also provide clues to various combination locks. There are also a number of optional collectibles, a text-only epilogue becoming available if you collect them all.
Ghostscape 3D can be played online at JayisGames.
Little Briar Rose
When the Princess Little Briar Rose was born, all the fairies were invited to her baptism. All but one, that is, for no such invitation was extended to the wicked fairy. This proved a fateful oversight, as this fairy took offense at the snub and brought down a terrible curse on the child: she would not live long, as she would prick her finger on a spindle and drift into death. The other fairies did what they could to mitigate the curse, but could only turn it into a sleeping curse. Now Little Briar Rose, and the kingdom around her, is trapped in a magical sleep surrounded by a forest of thorns. Only the kiss of her one true love can wake her and save the kingdom. Many a prince has tried to pass through the forest of thorns, home to all manner of magical creatures, and many have failed. Will the latest to travel down this road succeed?
Elf Games have taken a classic fairy tale and woven a magical adventure out of it in Little Briar Rose. The graphics are brightly coloured, and have been rendered in the style of a stained glass window. The prince hero of the tale is a flamboyant character, with a massive sweeping hat on his head. He is somewhat animated as he walks around, but the graphics are otherwise mostly static. Over the course of his adventure, he will visit the homes of the various magical races inhabiting the area. These include a gnome village where the houses are made of toadstools, and the crystal lake of the mer-people. Music is provided in the form of a pipe and string piece that fits in well with the fairy tale setting.
To get to the castle at the heart of the forest, the prince must appease four fantastical races inhabiting the forest. At the start, only the path to the gnome village is open, with new paths opening as you gain the trust of a new race. Conversing with the inhabitants reveals their problems, and it is then up to you to use your wits and a small amount of inventory to resolve them. The issues range from building a new library from some rather imprecise plans, to helping a Spriggan woo his beloved. For later tasks you will often need to enlist the aid of groups you have already befriended. It is possible to fail in tasks, mortally offending a magical tribe. When this is possible, you will normally be given a chance to confirm your decision or be allowed more than one error. Only on one occasion could this be said to come without warning, though even that failure is predictable with some thought about the individuals involved. If you do fail, the prince is turned into a Spriggan. This does not end the game, however, with a new prince coming along to pick up where his predecessor left off. You can also save your progress at a central location, and the game auto-saves when you complete a major task.
Little Briar Rose can be downloaded from the developer’s website.
Don’t Escape 2
The zombie apocalypse came two weeks ago, and you and your friend Bill have been on the run ever since. About the only thing that has saved you to date is that zombies don’t travel in the daylight. But that has not kept you perfectly safe, with Bill bitten and likely to turn when night falls. Knowing a horde of zombies will be on you at sunset, you have located an abandoned building to spend the night. With eight hours to prepare, you scour the nearby area for the materials you will need to secure your refuge against zombie attack. With time against you, the chances of living to see another day look bleak. Perhaps there are other survivors out there who can help you.
Inverting the normal theme of escape games, scriptwelder’s Don’t Escape 2 is a game where you definitely want to stay in. The presentation is first-person slideshow, with a mildly cartoonish look. As well as your abandoned building, you will visit a heavily looted general store, and a car crash decked in zombie bodies. There is a small amount of animation in one scene, but when your actions change a scene the view simply fades in and out between the two. A gentle guitar tune with an underlying low hum fits in with the desolation of the post-apocalyptic world. There is also copious use of sound effects, such as the rattle of a shopping trolley and the clink of a bottle. Your footsteps can also be heard when you move, with the sound changing depending on the surface.
Time is the real enemy in this game, with many actions using up large chunks of this precious commodity. The interface is a simple point-and-click, with the crosshair cursor turning yellow and acquiring a label when pointed at a hotspot. You will need to scavenge thoroughly if you hope to survive, with some very small items to locate. When you explore the wider area, you are presented with a map, with four initially unknown locations on it. Once you have discovered what these are, they are marked clearly for future reference. You will gather a large amount of inventory, stored at the top of the screen, and use it to build traps and barriers to keep the horde at bay. Time taken to build these defences can be significantly reduced by enlisting other survivors to help. However, you will need to perform a task for each before they are willing or able to assist you. The game ends when you either run out of time, or advance the clock to sunset when you feel you have done all you can. A narrative epilogue then runs through the effectiveness of each of your defences. Whilst failure is likely on a first play-through, there are a variety of ways to succeed, with achievements recorded for each.
Don’t Escape 2 can be played online at Armor Games.
The Furthest Station
Commuting can be a nightmare, moving through the unfeeling throng of your fellow passengers. As you push your way up the staircase out of the station, you suddenly realise you have mislaid your umbrella. Rushing back to the platform in the hope of retrieving it, you discover that your train is already gone. A trip to the Lost and Found department soon takes a decidedly odd turn, and you find yourself on a train rushing through the darkness. No one seems to know where the train is going, all wrapped up in problems of their own. Perhaps if you can help them face their problems, you can find your umbrella and get home yourself.
Created for the February MAGS competition and its “Losing Something” theme, The Furthest Station from springthoughts is surprisingly deep. The graphics are done in a fairly minimalist pixel art style. In the opening, the other commuters are represented solely as silhouettes, though with varied shades of gray. The protagonist is effectively animated and fully coloured, but with not much more detail. His simple two-piece suit is an outline with dot buttons, and his only facial feature is two dots for eyes. He is simply but effectively animated. The other characters in the game are similarly simplified, but variation in clothes and posture gives them individual character. Background music is a keyboard piece, with a rhythm backing that mimics that rattle of a moving train.
Using a simple single-button interface, you walk up and down the train conversing with your fellow passengers. These range from a hostile young punk to an escort that flirts with you openly. You can discuss a handful of topics with them, initially limited to the train, themselves, your umbrella and a single obvious feature about them. These conversations reveal that each individual has an issue upsetting them which you must seek to resolve. Such issues are often bound up in their relationships with others, and have a surprising depth for a game made in such a short time. The issues they face are common real world problems, and the results quite thought-provoking. You can also gather a small amount of inventory. Clicking on the protagonist allows you to check your inventory and think about things. In your inventory you can examine and combine items. In the thoughts list you can reflect on what you have found out about the various people on the train, which often provides clues as to how to solve their problems. Inventory is not used on the environment, but rather appropriate items become dialogue options with the right character.
The Furthest Station can be downloaded from the AGS website.
We’ve all suffered those inexplicable frustrations: the untidy mess that we were sure we’d left neat, or one half of a matched pair of items going missing. No doubt you’ve ascribed such events to a faulty memory or simple misfortune. Now the truth can be revealed. Such happenings are the actions of tiny fairy creatures called the Mess Goblins. Acting on the guidance of their ruler, the Dark Marquess, their job is to annoy the giant humiids. For young goblin Pippup, today is a big day, as it is his first chance to go into the greater world and create a mess of his own. Given a list of mess-making tasks, the eager young goblin sets out into the world of the humiids to make his mark.
In Mess Goblins, Dropped Monocle Games present us with an explanation for a lot of life’s little irritations. The backgrounds are brightly coloured, but rendered in a semi-realistic style. The mess goblins themselves are brown humanoids with big floppy ears and long pointy noses. Both the goblins and the other living creatures you encounter in your quest are fully animated. The human world is huge compared to the goblins, who appear to be less than 10 cm tall. You start off on a kitchen counter, but will explore as far as the hallway and brave the dangers of the floor near the back door as well. The background music is a simple but jaunty piece fitting in well with the mischief-making protagonist.
With the cursor a goblin paw, a simple point-and-click interface is used. Right-clicking examines items, while left-clicking interacts if possible. The game world is split into four different major locations, with travel between them achieved by a hand-drawn map. Another location becomes available after you have accomplished a specific task. Not provided with any equipment at the start, you must use the discarded human items to achieve your goals. Item combination is often important, with the linked items forming makeshift tools. The small size of the goblins makes some tasks more difficult, with one task requiring you to attract the attention of a larger creature. The overall tone is lighthearted, with many of the descriptions eliciting amusing comments from Pippup. You can report back to your mentor, Rabby Grubbledub, at any time, causing him to either acknowledge your success or remind you of the specific goals you must achieve.
Mess Goblins can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Limbo the Adventure Game
Secret Agent Brent is at the top of his game. Going out on secret missions and gunning down bad guys is his bread and butter. But in his latest assignment he has hit an unexpected snag. The head bad guy turned out to be a monster with four legs, wings, and an immunity to bullets. With Brent’s soul ripped from his body, he finds himself in the office of Death himself. It turns out the creature he faced was Necromphilylialyia, a soul stealer, and his activities have been messing up Death’s paperwork for too long. The Grim Reaper tasks Brent with finding three crystals that allow access to the demon’s home in Limbo. With the crystals residing in Heaven, Hell and the Neitherworld, it looks like he has his work cut out for him.
ManicMatt’s Limbo the Adventure Game presents a decidedly skewed version of the afterlife. The graphics use a cartoon style, and the characters are in proportion, but often sport exaggerated features such as excessive ear hair and multiple chins. You start in an area that appears to be part of the real world, with a row of shops and a green park. But your task will take you as far as the dark red depths of hell, and the shiny clouds of heaven. The characters are simply animated, including some basic facial expressions when called for. The different areas have different background sounds, and the light, cheery music in heaven is in stark contrast to the industrial beat of hell. The game is fully voiced, with the same actor somewhat noticeably performing a wide variety of characters.
The game has a darkly humorous tone and is probably best avoided by the easily offended, as a number of jokes are in questionable taste. Using the standard AGS four-action cursor, you will explore and interact with the relatively small game area. On your quest you will communicate with a man with a terrible fear of cars, a bored seller of horrible food, and a surprisingly talkative crow. Sometimes offering assistance encourages them to help you, but more often you will have to engage in devious deception to convince them to do what you want. You will also make use of a moderately large inventory, with some items seeing more than one use over the course of the game.
Limbo the Adventure Game can be downloaded from the AGS 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.
Sigmund Minisode 2 by Freebird Games – The ongoing holiday tale of Drs. Watts and Rosalene continues in this short interactive interlude between full-fledged To the Moon adventures.
Detective City by Plus Ultra Games – With your detective’s badge on the line, you have ten days to turn things around in your surreal city, by fair means or foul.
Charms of Lavender Blue by Waffrus – In this visual novel, can a young girl find love in defiance of her family curse?
Reality: Chapter 1 by nearstar – When your raft drifts to shore, you find yourself alone on a mysterious island.
The Title is Intentionally Left Blank by ambitiousk – Build a shelter and eat some bears by pressing the right keys in this cute little game.
All Gone Soon by vertigoaddict – Try to get back your ex-boyfriend in this realistic short game about love that once was.
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.