Following Freeware - June 2016 releases
This month you can investigate the deaths of three teenage girls, look into a boat accident, or deduce the hidden thoughts of a friend. You could also take on the role of a daring female pilot, a band roadie with a terrible hangover, or a famous psychiatrist pushed over the edge. Alternatively, you might aid a star in returning to the heavens, assist a group of spirits into the afterlife, or try to access help for your own spirit by committing new sins. Finally, you may find yourself stuck in a deadly time-loop, or share key moments across a lifetime as friends meet in the same place over the course of many years. All these await you in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
Jacqueline White: Curse of the Mummies
The year is 1923, and famed aviatrix Jacqueline White is in Egypt. Still haunted by nightmares of her time flying over the Somme during the First World War, her dreams have recently taken a new shift, with her deceased co-pilot appearing to warn her of the three kings. When her quest to rescue a little girl leads her to descend into a long-lost set of caverns beneath the desert sands, she may have uncovered more than a simple archaeological curiosity. With a final resting place missing its occupant, could a legendary being of evil truly have risen to terrorise the world again?
Whilst currently only a demo representing about half of the full game, Grok’s Jacqueline White: Curse of the Mummies provides a lot of puzzling action already. The graphics adopt the same watercolour style of Ms White’s previous adventure, though you don’t need to have played that to enjoy this one. The desert backgrounds generally have a soft focus, but there is more detail for the characters and interiors. From the small desert town where you begin, you will travel to a remote hospital and eventually to the underground tomb. The characters are simply but effectively animated, and there is a limited amount of background movement as well. The score fits the setting, sounding like traditional Egyptian folk music. Sound effects are well served too, whether the simple clunk of a lever or the ongoing rumble of the heroine’s plane engine.
The game is entirely mouse-controlled, with four interactive cursors consisting of walk, look, interact and talk, which can be cycled through using the right button. Conversing with the people in town will reveal your first objective to fix a wind-powered generator. Once you have accomplished this task, a local will arrive seeking help retrieving his daughter who has fallen down a well. Your exploration of the caverns below the well forms a substantial part of the game, and in the process sets up major story elements. The tomb is found there and features a number of complex mechanisms blocking the way forward. Most of these are standalone puzzles, though some require clever use of inventory. The challenges are varied, including such things as placing statues correctly and manipulating dials. There is also an optional flight simulator and an action scene. The latter can be skipped, and has variable difficulty settings for those who do attempt it. The overall tone is light but serious, with hints of the greater story planned to finish the tale.
Jacqueline White: Curse of the Mummies can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Sins of Daisy
Three teenage schoolgirls lay dead, apparently the result of a suicide pact. But post mortem results indicate there may be more to the affair. Regretting his hasty assessment of the situation, the local police chief, Birch, hires well-respected private investigator Quinn to look into the matter further. As the bodies were found in the home of one of the girls, that seems the obvious place to start looking. But as he delves deeper into the events of that fateful day, Quinn may end up uncovering more than he bargained for.
Consisting of three separate episodes that are all included in the same download, Sins of Daisy from ZeroDigitz proves that horror needs no supernatural creatures. Presentation uses a top-down retro role-playing style, which is fairly detailed despite the pixelated nature of the graphics. You will explore the sprawling house where the incident took place, as well as the local police station and the school the girls attended. Characters are fairly small but have distinct enough features to identify them. There are also more detailed head-shots in conversation. Music varies between tense piano pieces and ominous tonal forms.
Control is handled either through keyboard or left-mouse clicks. Given the nature of the case, the tone is mostly dark, and there are some shocking inferences along the way. You will need to look for clues around the house, and later find a way to get into a location you have been barred from. There are a handful of major decision points throughout the story, with an alert to warn players of their importance. The decisions made in these moments have a major effect on which of the game’s three endings you get. The main mystery is resolved in these three instalments, though there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending regardless, and a fourth instalment is expected out imminently.
Sins of Daisy can be downloaded from Game Jolt.
Game Jolt’s Adventure Jam was held in May, and despite only giving contestants two weeks to make a game, the event still managed to attract an astonishing 162 entries. With no strict rules on content, the many submissions showed an interesting variety in approaching the challenge. Full 3D games stood alongside completely 2D offerings, and serious stories bumped shoulders with the surreally humorous. Voting for the competition ran into June, with a range of different categories on offer as well as an overall prize.
The full list of entries, with links to download them all, can be found on the competition page. Whilst we could not cover all the entries, here is a round-up of the top ten games in the final list, excluding the two that don’t meet our definition of adventure.
Wagner and the Third Light: Episode 1 by jameela_01
The ship Bolena has suffered a terrible accident, foundering in the local harbour. Fisherman’s Widows, the company that insured the ship, is facing a huge payout from the incident, and local agent Ed is not looking forward to it. Enlisting the help of private investigator Wagner, Ed hopes to prove that the ship itself was at fault, freeing the insurance company from any legal obligations. With his trusty filing cabinet Phil by his side, Wagner sets out to find out the truth.
Adventure Jam’s overall winner is displayed in full 3D, seen from a first-person viewpoint. A reasonable amount of detail has been put in, though trees and rocks are largely angular in nature. Characters appear without animation, and have a very stylised look with thin arms and featureless faces. The game was designed for widescreen, and some vital hotspots will not appear on other monitors. From Wagner’s cluttered office you will visit the wreck site, where the sea washes up and down, and other local attractions. Abstract music with echoes of sailors’ pipes backs up the action, as does the sound of the sea itself.
The stylised nature of the characters may have been a deliberate choice, as this game has a decidedly surreal tone. Single mouse clicks perform all controls, with a small verb coin appearing when you click. Wagner’s partner Phil is decidedly out of the ordinary, and Wagner himself speaks in a most peculiar fashion. When you start, only a handful of locations are available on the in-game map, but more open up as you speak to other characters. As indicated by the title, the mystery is not entirely resolved in this debut instalment, with the author promising more to come now that the competition has ended.
The Diary of a Roadie by Common Colors
Waking up in a pool of your own (at least you hope it’s your own) vomit is never a good start to the day. When you are a roadie who is already supposed to be setting up for the band, it can be even more brutal. Unfortunately, you seem to have ended up with the lead singer’s backstage pass instead of yours, and the doorman won’t let you in. If only you could reconstruct your activity from the night before, you might be able to find your own pass and get on with the job.
Presented in moderately pixelated 2.5D, this is a game with its tongue planted firmly in cheek. Using only the mouse, you’ll explore the back of the club and the nearby street. Successfully locating someone who can hint at what you did last night switches the action to that scenario, allowing you to play out that night yourself. Clues garnered from the day after will give you some guidance as to what you need to do, though you will still need to chat with everyone and get inventive with your inventory. There is also a reasonably challenging pixel hunt, though the multiple matching items are relatively easy to spot once you’ve located the first. With references to heavy drinking and other adult themes, this is probably not a game for the young or easily offended.
Dead Man’s Crossing by A W Findlay
The Wild West town of Dead Man’s Crossing obtained its name from a terrible train wreck that happened there. All aboard the train were killed on that fateful day, and they say that if you listen carefully, you can still hear the train repeating its last journey over and over. As the ghostly guard on that train, you know this rumour to be true. Seeing yourself as the custodian of the train, you consider it your job to ensure the passengers complete whatever final business they have on Earth. Only when they have moved on to what lies beyond will you be able to rest yourself.
This game’s pixel art setting comprises a cross-section of a handful of train cars. Both you and the other characters appear as brightly coloured spirits, each individual ghost coloured differently and having its own unique model. Characters include a bandit who hid his treasure and the members of a mariachi band. Control requires only single mouse-clicks. The train runs at a steady speed, but you can halt it at any time using an on-screen lever, which allows you to explore some sparse desert scenes. There is also a map that can be called up, showing the major features along the route. Talking to the other characters gives an indication of what they need to pass on to the other side. A reset switch takes the train back to the start of the line, and backtracking in this way is vital to solve some of the puzzles. The steam engine noise makes a solid background to a short but satisfying tale.
Four Last Things by Joe Richardson
You travelled long and far to confess your sins at a magnificent church. Unfortunately, the guardian of the only path down to the edifice informs you of a problem with your plan, namely that your sins were committed outside the area served by this ecclesiastical establishment, and he cannot permit you to confess them here. If you want to access the church, then you are going to have to commit new sins to confess instead. Unwilling to simply turn back from your journey, you set out to investigate how you can apply the seven deadly sins nearby.
Instead of designing graphics from scratch, both the scenery and characters here are extracts from Renaissance art. A mix of famous artists of the time has been used, including Bruegel and Bosch. Figures are animated as paper cut-outs with simple limb movement, and the game is controlled through left mouse-clicks. There is no inventory, with sins located through exploration and conversation. The whole thing is very tongue-in-cheek, with many of the hotspot descriptions making fun of the more surreal imagery of the time. Renaissance music plays in the background, apparently created by a small band floating on an egg. There is also a dramatic chord that plays when you mark off a new sin.
If you like what you see of the free download version, the developer is running a Kickstarter campaign until July 28th to expand on the idea introduced here.
Awake by Storyyeller Games
This was supposed to be a pleasant trip to the woods by the lake. The only people you thought were in this remote idyllic spot were you and your girlfriend, but it seems you are not as alone as you expected. Knocked unconscious, you find yourself driven away from your serene campsite and dumped unceremoniously into deep water in a container to drown. Just as you are about to suffer a horrible death, you jerk awake back in the caravan. Yet you have not escaped this nightmare. As you live through the same events over and over, you must find a way to break the cycle and save your life.
The game has a detailed, semi-realistic 3D look, and is presented entirely in black and white. Both the lead character and his companion are well-animated. You will explore a small section of the forest and experience a small interactive scene in the container you are carried off in. The protagonist is controlled with left mouse-clicks, a small verb coin interface appearing when you click on a hotspot. Some in-game music comes from the radio in the caravan, but the outdoor scenes are accompanied by a slow, ominous piece. The background sounds are suitably natural, such as an owl hooting and leaves rustling. The game is also fully voiced to a very good standard. Whilst inventory items are reset on each time loop, information gained along the way can alter subsequent conversation options. Later scenes will also change depending on your actions, as you seek the happy ending where you escape with your life, and maybe even find out why you were targeted.
Strolling by Beavl
Pedro and Mariano were just walking through a street in Buenos Aires when Pedro spontaneously agreed with Mariano’s thoughts. Stunned that his friend was able to tell what he was thinking, Mariano asks how the trick was done. Rewinding their journey down the street, Pedro points out the observations and thought processes that led him to that point. Can you do the same?
The two friends are viewed from the front, with the street scene scrolling past them to either side. Whilst the overall look is realistic 3D, exaggerated colours have been used to make the important features stand out more. Using the cursor keys allows you to scroll back and forth through their walk. A timeline at the top of the screen shows what point you are at and highlights the key scenes for the next step in the logic chain. Left-clicking the mouse can be used to examine nearby locations and people. This is also used to select thoughts from a panel at the bottom of the screen, which can be applied to items of interest or each other. Successfully matching thoughts creates new ones, building up to the conclusions that you are trying to compile.
Esther and the Fallen Star by Rodrigo Diaz
When she hears a noise outside in the middle of the night, little Esther goes to investigate. Out in the garden she finds a small shining creature that claims to be a star. Sadly, this star finds itself trapped on Earth, not having the power to launch itself back into the sky. Eager to help, Esther is sure that with a bit of ingenuity she can construct a way to help put the star back where it belongs.
The graphics for this game are reasonably detailed and rendered in bright colours. Esther herself resembles a character from a cartoon series for small children, and the overall tone of the game fits with that look. The entire setting consists of Esther’s house and garden. The view is a 2D side-on display, but doors opening towards the player are rendered faintly in the foreground, giving the house a 3D layout. Using the mouse, a short verb list appears at the bottom of the screen from which to choose actions. You will actually create a variety of solutions to the problem, with only the final one ultimately proving successful. Not surprisingly, these solutions involve unconventional uses of household objects. A gentle tune played on strings provides a fitting background.
Nothing Can Stop Us by Demigiant
Two friends meet again and again on a hill overlooking a valley. Over the many years of visits, the valley changes in appearance. What starts as a secret oasis of greenery that is known only to them later becomes the site of a bustling town instead. The valley is not the only thing that changes either, with the two friends having their ups and downs over the years. With secrets revealed and discussions shared of the challenges life has thrown their way since last time, nothing can stop them meeting together in that special place.
Minimalism is the order of the day for this game. The scenery is depicted in broad patches of colour, the particular hues being the main means of identifying features. The two characters are presented in silhouette, with the only dash of colour used for their hair. They are not animated, but the poses they adopt vary from scene to scene. The timeline jumps around, with the year number and a single word title placing individual events. Each year represents a vignette of brief conversation between the friends. A handful are solely click-throughs, but most require you to select an option with the mouse that alters the progress of the conversation. The dialogue contains some strong language and adult issues, which makes this game unsuitable for the young or easily offended.
Willem’s Honourable Adventure Jam Mention
Frasier Crane: Seattle Rampage
As any Cheers and Frasier fan knows, Frasier Crane is a renowned psychiatrist who earns his living hosting a popular radio show. He loves to read and muse about the classics like Dostoyevsky and Edgar Allan Poe in his spare time. Lately, however, he is often distracted by his father Martin, who has recently moved in and loves to watch sports on the telly, sitting in his hideous sofa that stands as an eyesore between the lovingly sculptured furnishings Frasier has collected over the years. And on top of all that, his father also brought his little mongrel Eddie, who often stares at Frasier. Grudgingly, Frasier bears his fate until, on a certain bad day, something snaps...
Although Styop Quoons’ Frasier Crane: Seattle Rampage didn’t make the top ten in voting for the Adventure Jam, I found it worth the twenty or so minutes it takes to play this game. Presented in crudely drawn graphics in third-person mode, the game world is limited to the living room and Martin's bedroom in Frasier’s small apartment. Frasier and his father look nothing like each other: where Frasier is balding and impeccably dressed in a fine suit, Martin has a rich mop of grey hair and is clothed in a casual style that fits the upholstering of his sofa. The rushed production time is most evident in the terrible animation: Frasier walks in an impossible way, keeping his legs stiff and straight, and he has trouble getting around corners. All text appears on-screen; in fact, there are no sounds at all in the game.
Using only the mouse, right-clicking cycles a number of actions and the inventory item you're holding, and left-clicking performs the desired action. The game is cunningly constructed in such a way that you can only hold one item at a time, and you will have used that object before needing to use anything else. The puzzles are mostly inventory-based, and the first one you have to solve – getting Martin away from the telly – is the hardest. After that the story unfolds naturally in quite a sinister and funny way.
Frasier Crane: Seattle Rampage can be downloaded from Game Jolt.
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.
Forgotten Hill: Puppeteer by FM-Studio – When your girlfriend goes missing near Forgotten Hill, the local puppet show seems the only place to look in this horror game.
Love Chase by Carmel Games – After being simultaneously sacked and dumped, Chase goes looking for a new life and new love.
Blackudder: To Doubloon or Not to Doubloon by slasher – Lord Blackudder seeks out a lost Spanish galleon in the hope of finding treasure and a present for the queen.
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.