In a lighter-than-usual month of indie adventures, spaghetti western fans can mosey on down to the Wild West to bring a fugitive to justice, while wannabe detectives can't be chicken about solving the case of a poisoned parson in an old-timey fictional city. Party lovers will agonize along with one crazy mom whose last-minute preparations require drastic measures, and treasure hunters must brave the dangers of an ancient crypt in order to reach a dead king's reward. These four very different experiences await intrepid explorers in this month's round-up of freeware gems.
The Man from Fugue State
It’s 1885, in the American Wild West: Following an ominous dream, a man wakes up in a train car amongst some crates, a big hog and some gardening tools, having no recollection of who he is or where he came from. He soon finds a poster on the floor that says that El Marcado is wanted, and written on the back are the words: "Find him. He is the key to the memory you seek." Knowing nothing better to do, the man gets off the train at the nearest station and inquires about El Marcado, who turns out to be an evil man terrorizing Fugue State. The man promises to capture him and bring him to justice.
The Man from Fugue State is Salvador Haggini's first adventure game, presented in third-person mode and drawn in a rather crude style but with an eye for detail. The backgrounds look a bit like watercolor paintings, giving the art a distinctive style, thought the characters are much more sharply defined. You will visit some very interesting places, like a bank that doesn't keep any money, a cemetery and church with a complicated bell system, and a stable containing a cardboard horse. There is little animation to be found: some tumbleweeds drift by, the barman polishes a glass and people blink their eyes, but you won't see much more movement than that. The protagonist walks in a very peculiar way; sometimes his legs move too slow for the speed he travels and at other times he steps in place briefly before moving on. The game is accompanied by beautiful music with no less than 20 tunes that sound suitably like a soundtrack from a spaghetti western movie. The sound effects, of which there are many, like the clicking of guns being loaded, explosions and fire, all sound very natural. However, the game is not voiced; all spoken text appears above the head of the person talking.
Control is handled using only the mouse, with the man walking where you click. Hotspots are indicated by a short description that appears in a black bar at the bottom of the screen. Left-clicking and holding the mouse button down on a hotspot brings up action icons allowing you to look at, talk to or manipulate the object. Right-clicking brings up the inventory. The hero has a hard time discovering who El Marcado is because most people are very afraid of him. To find him, the man must get hold of a mighty steed, win a poker game, disperse a crowd of tourists and do many other strange things. Most of the puzzles are inventory-based, and although some are easy to solve they usually require some thinking or searching for objects you need before solving them. You also have to talk to a lot of people and use the knowledge you gain to your advantage. The majority of puzzles fit well into the story, but a few of them feel awkwardly forced, like the one where you have to chase away a cute rabbit only to find out that the man is very afraid of them for some unexplained reason.
The Man from Fugue State is a real joy to play, not only because of its rich story and well-integrated puzzles, but also because of the many puns and jokes and references to movies, real people and historical events. It's also quite long: the game consists of five chapters, each of which can take more than an hour to complete, so it’s good that you can manually save your progress any time. All in all, this is an especially good debut for a first-time developer, so hopefully we will see more from Salvador Haggini in the future.
The Man from Fugue State can be downloaded from GameJolt.
Chester Cornfield: The Poisonous Poultry Predicament
It's Nineteen-Oldie-Six, and the citizens of Old York City revel in soup kitchens, knee-high bathing suits and the newfangled automobile. Crime is at an all-time low, and the police have grown inept at upholding the law. Luckily, there is one man we can count on when trouble arises: Detective Chester Cornfield, always ready to assist the police in their investigations. This is one of those times. Chester has to help Constable Greenwald find out who is responsible for the poisoning of Father Vincelli at Mary's Chicken Wagon. When Chester arrives at the scene of the crime, Greenwald is sober, which of course is a disgrace that needs to be taken care of first. Finding out who poisoned the reverend turns out to fairly easy, but the result of his investigation is a bit hard for Chester to bear.
Box of Mystery Games’ Chester Cornfield: The Poisonous Poultry Predicament is presented in stylish 3D graphics. The game world, which comprises Chester's office, the street in front of Mary's Wagon and the inside of said establishment, is shown in third-person view. The cartoonish graphics are lovingly detailed with many different textures up close, although distant structures in the background are simple and bland. The game can be run at many different resolutions, ranging from fairly low to very high. Animation is well done, with everyone moving naturally and changing expression according to their moods. The way the accused Mary follows Chester with her eyes and reacts to his accusations is quite funny. The sounds are also fantastic, including very good voice acting. Every character has a different voice and their own way of talking, although for a game that presumably takes place in America, most people have a fairly thick British accent. The background music consists of typically cheerful early 20th century tunes, with a different score playing in every scene. Sound effects such as the telephone, people coughing and sneezing, and the experimental new car running, are very life-like.
The game is played using only the left mouse button. Clicking on a hotspot makes a small menu appear above the cursor with choices like look, talk to, and do something with, all indicated by clear icons. The inventory is at the top of the screen, and pressing the Escape button brings up the game's menu. The story is humorous and sprinkled with odd references to late 19th and early 20th century history. For instance, Mary is modeled after the infamous Mary Mallon, who was immune to typhus but gave it to everyone she met. And the cinema next to Mary's establishment shows the movies "Oncoming Train" and "Oncoming Train: The Reckoning." The puzzles are fairly simple and consist mainly of interrogating everyone present and making sure you have enough evidence to convict the right culprit. For this you also need to navigate a dirty, slippery floor and make use of some of the local knowledge. The ending provides a nice twist that makes the experience extra fun to complete. There is a save function, but you don't really need it since the game can be finished in 15-20 minutes.
Chester Cornfield: The Poisonous Poultry Predicament can be downloaded from GameJolt.Continued on the next page...