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.Continued on the next page...