Following Freeware - April 2016 releases
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.
It's Crazy Dad and Crazy Mom's 15th anniversary and Crazy Mom is throwing a party. But she’s missing three indispensable ingredients: cocktail stir sticks, balloons and a tape with hers and Crazy Dad's song on it. In order to collect all of these items she must hypnotize someone, steal a stuffed snake from the museum and crash a computer, amongst other crazy things.
After several Crazy Dad adventures, Carmel Games decided it was high time to produce Crazy Mom. The "wacky” dial, which is set high in almost all Carmel titles, is turned up to 11 for this one, with entertaining results. As usual the game world, comprising the Crazy family's living room, the city center, library, park and museum, is shown in brightly colored, third-person cartoon-style drawings with barely any straight edges. Unfortunately there's little animation to see: whilst Crazy Dad's eyes and hair are constantly moving, Crazy Mom is almost stoically calm, although her eyes always look in two different directions. The background music is an upbeat instrumental tune that repeats indefinitely; luckily it can be switched off. Voice acting is very good, as we've come to expect from this developer. Along with the music and voices, you will hear glass breaking, doors opening, the buzzing of a fly and many more sounds, all of which are high quality effects.
Crazy Mom is a point-and-click adventure using only one mouse button. If you know Carmel, the interface has remained the same for quite a while now, with the inventory at the bottom right of the screen and buttons for the settings and a walkthrough at the bottom left. The puzzles are all inventory-based, except one where you have to make a sort of jigsaw. Because of the off-the-wall nature of Crazy Mom, the solutions to many puzzles are often funny and very different from what you would encounter in the real world. None are particularly difficult though; you can easily finish Crazy Mom in around 20 minutes, making it a good game for a little fun on a coffee break.
Crazy Mom can be played online at JayIsGames.
Rogue Quest: Episode 1
Konrad Meridian has made a long and difficult trip, eventually ending up in the entrance hall of the Leech King’s crypt. Now that he’s arrived, he's ready to find the treasure that's allegedly hidden here. However, when an iron portcullis suddenly comes crashing down, sealing the exit, Konrad realizes that the place is better protected than it seemed at first sight. Perhaps the corpse lying at his feet should have been a clue.
Rogue Quest: Episode 1, by Expera Game Studio, is a light-hearted game taking place across only six screens designed in a simple pixel art style with bright colors. The game is presented in third-person, but we never see Konrad move, as clicking an exit makes the next screen appear, and clicking applicable hotspots simply causes an action to occur with no actual effort from the protagonist. Enlivening the limited scenes are animations like the flickering of torch light and the movements of a massive, very ugly creature, as does the upbeat instrumental music (which also features in developer’s A Tale of Caos series). There are only one or two sound effects, the most noticeable of which is the maniacal laughter of the Leech King. There is no voice acting; all spoken text is displayed with a different color for every speaker.
The game is played using only the left mouse button, with the inventory accessed by clicking a knapsack icon at the top left of the screen. Next to that icon is another that makes all interactive items on the current screen highlight in green. In the upper right corner are icons for hints and the game menu. The puzzles aren’t too obvious and are well-integrated into the story. You have to find a tool to loosen a torch from its holder, kill a pair of terrible creatures by using their weaknesses against them, and destroy an artifact using a recipe you find, amongst other tasks. If successful, Konrad will finally be able to claim the Leech King's treasure and go off to find new adventures. Unfortunately, the lack of any real story makes this a bit of a disappointment for me, compared to the other games Expera has made so far. Although there is no teaser of a new adventure for Konrad at the end, since this is described as the first episode, let's hope the series is fleshed out a little better the further it goes along.
Rogue Quest: Episode 1 can be played online at Kongregate.
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.
Subject 26 by MSiddeek – Explore the asylum where you are being treated for dementia, with the ability to change into a fly by looking into a mirror.
Zombie Society 3 by Lu_Muya – The third and final installment of the Zombie Society interactive cartoon series tasks you with finding out who is behind the brain drain.
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!