In a rare light month of new indie adventures, you can travel to an island of talking birds, a house lost in a snowy landscape, or the terrifyingly named Castle Death Spider ™. Alternatively, you could find yourself in a situation that may be all too familiar to the cash-strapped gamer: the quest for rent money. All these await in this month’s roundup of releases from the freeware scene.
The gender-ambiguous emo kid Joey and his stickman friend Anon, who has the text “No picture available” floating in front of his faceless head, find themselves on an island whose main feature is an enormous doorway. Joey and Anon don’t care at all about the doorway; they just want to get off the island. The pair happily start exploring but are hindered by the fact that only birds live on the island. When one of the two learns Birdtalk, they find out that by helping the birds with their personal problems they can reach their goal of escaping.
The pixel art graphics of glubbert’s Joeyquest show a detailed view of the island and its inhabitants. The environment and its birds look quite realistic, and everything is drawn in light pastel colors. The animation is good too: Joey moves around with a gait that shows interest and curiosity in the world around him, and Anon walks with a slouch that shows he doesn’t care much. Strangely, there are no sounds whatsoever. All text is displayed in a box that appears in the middle of the screen. When someone or a bird speaks, his/its head is shown next to the text box so you know who is talking. When the game tells you something, like when you have picked something up or made something, the box is a bit smaller and contains one or more options to choose from.
Joey and Anon can be steered across the island using the arrow keys. You can only control one of them at a time, but you can change between them by pressing E, and pressing Q makes the person you aren’t controlling appear on the current screen. Joey and Anon have the unique ability to fuse: when they are close together and the F key is pressed, they fuse into one ‘person’ with the combined abilities of the two. Pressing the F key again makes them unfuse. Between the two of them, you will help them catch a fish, bring booze to a drunkard pelican, and try to help a raven restore her self-confidence, amongst other tasks. Unfortunately, Joeyquest does not allow you to save your game, which means you will have to spend the 30-45 minutes it takes to finish it in one sitting. However, because of its beautiful graphics and the often quite humoristic things Joey, Anon and the birds say and do during the game, playing it is a joy right to the end.
Joeyquest can be played online at Newgrounds.
The White Path
Annellie wakes up in a snow-covered garden, next to a freshly filled grave. She feels very cold and disoriented and wonders how long she has been here. But really she just wants to go home. When she gets there she sees a little girl fleeing. Amazed and intrigued, Annellie tries to find out who the girl is and where she went. During her search, she finds patches of thick red liquid everywhere, as well as pages from a book that are smeared with the same fluid, making them mostly unreadable. She also comes into contact with both nasty and friendly ghosts along the way. Gradually, Annellie learns more about her own and the other girl’s current situations, which are stranger than she imagined.
The White Path, by Arty_Vn, was made with RPG Maker and thus shows the action from above in a traditional 45-degree birds-eye view. Most of the items in the game world, which comprises the inside of the house, the big garden outside and a forest, are highly detailed and easily recognizable. Outside everything is covered in pink-colored snow; inside the rooms have different color bases, but the palette everywhere is subdued and radiates an eerie quietness. Ominous but soft music plays throughout the adventure. There are only a few sound effects, like the unlocking and slamming of doors, objects being picked up, etc., which fit the atmosphere well. There are no voices; all text appears in a white-rimmed box at the bottom of the screen.
Players maneuver Annellie with the arrow keys and interact with hotspots using the space bar or Enter key. Escape brings up a menu from which you can view the inventory and save the game. Most of the puzzles are inventory-based and not too hard, particularly since the game uses the appropriate inventory item on hotspots automatically. The only real challenge is in searching for the house key in the garden, which can be quite vexing because there is only a small hint as to where it is hidden. For most other puzzles, hints are scattered throughout the whole house so if you keep paying attention the obstacles shouldn’t pose much of a problem. Annellie is perfectly capable of dying, however, so you need to save early and save often. During play you slowly get an idea of what’s going on, and according to the developer there are four possible endings: two bad ones, a good one and a normal one. The White Path is touching here and there in a story that is quite sad, and with subject matter dealing with topics like death and mental instability, it isn’t particularly suitable for children. It also contains some scenes that can be scary for young ones, despite its somewhat cartoony presentation.
The White Path can be downloaded from the RPG Maker website.
Once upon a time there was a new girl at school who just wanted to fit in. Back then Tova and her friends bullied the girl mercilessly. Now it seems like Tova’s past is catching up with her, as she finds herself put on trial by two strange beings for her past deeds. Whilst generally well-meaning, her boyfriend Tor is too lost in his own imagination to be much help, so it is up to Tova to prove that she isn’t a bad person, really, by performing some good deeds. But is she really sorry for what she did back then?
Biscuit Placebo’s You.Me.Heaven is a sequel of sorts to You.Me.Hell. Whilst two of the main characters of that game also appear in this one, the new game can be played entirely on its own. The graphics use the same paper cut-out style used in the previous game. Interactive objects have limited detail, as do the characters, whose eyes are the only facial features displayed. They all have distinctive hair and clothing styles however, making them instantly recognisable, and are simply but effectively animated. The backgrounds are usually more detailed, and photographic stills with filters or hand-drawn elements have been used in places. You will journey back to the school where the bullying took place and the foreboding Castle Death Spider ™. The soundtrack varies with the action, from mellow jazz numbers to crashing metal. There are also sound effects, including creaking doors and a satisfied sounding “Yesss!” whenever you achieve something.
Control is handled simply through a single mouse click. Whilst there are some brief sections where you assume the role of the new girl in school, you will spend most of the game playing as Tova. Initially haunted by a strange shadow in the flat shared with Tor, you will soon find yourself carried to the site of your trial. At the castle you will try to undertake good deeds to sway the judging panel in your favour. You also have the option, in several conversations, of accepting what you did, or denying your wrongdoing. Whilst the good deeds are required to complete the game regardless, whether you do them simply to curry favour or out of a feeling of remorse affects the ending you receive. Despite the heavy subject matter, the overall tone is one of surreal humour, with odd shifts of location. You will travel to the void, where an alien threatens you with an unusual weapon, fight a monster that looks like a tiny horse, and get creative with a sandwich. When multiple interactions are available for a hotspot, a list will be displayed on-screen to choose from. This will include inventory items if one can be used in that particular spot. You can also access your inventory from an on-screen button to get descriptions and occasionally manipulate the items you carry.
You.Me.Heaven can be downloaded from the developer’s website. Versions are available for iOS, Android, PC, Mac and Linux.
It’s Saturday, and you were looking forward to a relaxing time. Unfortunately it is also the first day of the month, which is when the rent is due. Neither you nor your shiftless roommate have the necessary funds at hand, and it looks like you are doomed. But then a bit of luck strikes. The landlord’s niece is visiting, and he can’t throw you out until he’s taken her to the zoo. An hour and twenty minutes should be enough time to find twelve hundred dollars, shouldn’t it?
Flophouse Hijinks was originally a One Room, One Week competition winner. This means that Team Party Wagon (made up of AGS developers MiteWiseacreLives!, Kconan and Ponch) had only seven days to create the game from scratch. This version is billed as expanded and improved, and fits a lot of game into its single location. The graphics are done in a moderately retro pixel art style, with most furniture appearing flat. Despite this aesthetic simplicity, there is plenty of detail included, much of it showing that this isn’t the nicest of residences. The fridge door is only held shut by a powerful magnet, and the ceiling has some stains on it that don’t bear close inspection. The main character and her roommate are both nicely animated, though their sprites are largely identical. The action is backed up by a pleasant, laid-back jazz number.
Whilst you don’t ever leave the single starting room, a wealth of puzzling goodness has been packed in. Control is handled entirely through the left mouse button. Moving the cursor to the bottom of the screen pulls up the inventory bar, from which items can be selected to use on the environment or each other. Some money is just hidden around the room, though you won’t always be able to get to it on your own. There are also a number of inventive ways of getting extra cash. One object you find will be of interest to your downstairs neighbour, and strategic use of the telephone can also pay dividends. You also need to encourage your lazy roommate to help out. The overall tone is lightly humorous, with good-natured fun made of more than one regional stereotype. The time limit runs in real time, but it is very unlikely you will fail in that time. Once you have sufficient cash, you can elect to fast forward to your landlord’s return, or keep looking. There is more than one ending available, and you don’t have to solve all the puzzles to get the funds you need.
Flophouse Hijinks 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.
Bloodwood Reload by Luminy Studios – Sent by his employer to investigate the lumber potential of the red trees nearby, a man finds himself in a spooky village.
Grandpa Pip’s Birthday by Snozbot – It’s Grandpa Pip’s birthday, and he’s not going to do anything about those monsters attacking the village until he gets cake.
Shadow and Ash by Ardent – A note found in a remote woodland cottage leads a man in search of a strange treasure.
Tomb Hunter: Ramitupem by slasher – Find your way through the pyramid to locate a professor and Ramitupem's tomb.
The Irritatis: The Road by edifede – Help an old lady by repairing her car using all kinds of smart tricks.
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!
Article written by Stephen Brown and Willem Tjerkstra.