Following Freeware - May 2016 releases

Following Freeware - May 2016
Following Freeware - May 2016

This month you can search for one professor on a remote island or guide another into a haunted swamp. You can also play a cupcake trying to protect his village made of sweets, a young man searching dark places for treasure, or an old woman on a quest to rescue a strange creature. Alternatively, you can experience black humour with some under-equipped soldiers on the front line or surreal humour in the conclusion of a game series spanning ten years.

May also saw an Adventure Jam that attracted an eye-watering 165 entries. Keep an eye on next month’s freeware round-up when we take a closer look at the top games from this competition.

Steve's Selections

White Island

When their professor goes missing, a group of students pursue him to the peculiar atoll known as White Island. This remote atoll is the sole location of a strange white flower with a mysterious legend surrounding it – the very legend that drew their professor to that place. When the village hall the students set up catches fire without warning, it is clear that all is not well on the island. As they delve deeper, more horrors come to the surface. Could the mythical curse of the white flower be true after all?

In the first 13-episode season of the mobile exclusive White Island, Visual Shower present a subtle tale of horror. Presentation is done in a first-person slideshow format. Some locations are larger than the screen, requiring you to swipe left and right to view the whole vista. There are also a handful of locations with a 360-degree view. The art is done in a highly detailed realistic manga style and there is a great deal of environmental animation, mostly depicting the fierce storm that rages across the island. Other animation is somewhat limited, restricted to a few character gestures and some motion of machinery. As well as exploring the surface and buildings of the island, you will descend into a large cave system. The soundtrack features gentle guitar and piano scores, giving way to more tense music when danger threatens. Whilst dialogue is unvoiced, shocking events are often accompanied by vocal reaction like a gasp. There is also a wide range of sound effects, from the patter of heavy rain to the hiss of a powered door.

Control is handled entirely by touch. The bottom of the screen contains the inventory and three buttons representing look, use and talk. Interaction with hotspots and inventory items will depend on which button is currently highlighted. Movement between locations is achieved by tapping a pathway or door on the main screen. The series is split into chapters, with each chapter providing between 30 minutes and an hour of gameplay. In the early chapters you play Ji Hoon, one of the students. Later episodes cover the same timeframe with different characters, and even deal with events before their arrival. You will need to diligently explore the island and converse with the others who came with you. You must also keep a close eye out for useful items, with some proving hard to spot on a small phone screen. As well as extensive inventory use, you will piece together torn pages and try to unlock a variety of machines. Some actions are against the clock, and it is also possible to fail by entering dangerous situations unprepared. Failure forces you to restart the current episode or reload from the single save file. The story is a dark tale, with many unexpected twists and turns along the way as you uncover the secrets hidden in this remote place.

White Island is available both in the App Store and on Google Play. Each new episode unlocks for free three days after the current episode is completed, although you can bypass the wait time and gain helpful assistance through optional in-app purchases.


Riddle Transfer 2

For Phil Eggtree and his friends, these past few days have been somewhat unusual. Once they were just a bunch of school friends seeking escape from their mundane education. Then they were kidnapped by three aliens for study. Eluding the aliens, they found themselves in the hands of the government at the mysterious Area 5.1. Now, fleeing into the depths of that strange facility with goons hot on their trail, they come across a device that looks like a gateway teleporter. Will this finally allow them to return home, and are they truly done with their alien captors?

With the original Riddle School released in 2006, Jonochrome’s Riddle Transfer 2 finally brings the story to a conclusion. (The series actually consists of seven games in total, five under the Riddle School brand and two using the Riddle Transfer moniker.) The graphics use a cartoon style, though one considerably refined from the original. The backgrounds are realistically rendered in some detail, with full lighting effects. These range from the deep vaults of Area 5.1, with stark grey walls and high-tech machinery, to the bright school rooms of the first game. The characters have maintained the overall look of their predecessors, with perfectly round heads and large black circles for eyes. These have also been given some added depth, however, with shading to provide a 3D appearance. Animation is relatively simple but effective, and expression is successfully conveyed even with the limited character features. The soundtrack is a variety of sci-fi synthesiser scores, from a fast-paced action piece during a chase to a mellow ethereal tune for the school scenes. There are also a number of sound effects, like the bubbling of boiling water. 

Whilst not necessary to play the whole series, it is helpful to be familiar with at least the previous two games to understand the action here. Mouse control is performed by simple left-click to interact. There is an on-screen inventory, from which items can be selected to use on hotspots. The initial room includes a set of puzzles in order to get the teleportation device working. These involve finding a code, setting co-ordinates with highly restricted controls, and fixing some wires. Later obstacles require lateral thinking in use of inventory and misdirection of an alien guard. The game has a surreal sense of humour, which must be taken into account in solving some puzzles. When one of the characters’ head is permanently on fire (which does not appear to trouble them in the slightest) you know not to take things too seriously. The final set of challenging puzzles – activating three devices to bring an alien ship online – take the story to a satisfying conclusion.

Riddle Transfer 2 can be played online at Newgrounds.

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