Following Freeware - December 2016/January 2017 releases

Following Freeware - December 2016/January 2017 releases
Following Freeware - December 2016/January 2017 releases

Even with two months in one, our latest round-up is a light one. But no less intriguing, as you can travel through a second back door into a strange science-fiction world, or find horror lurking just next door to you. Alternatively, you can stay up all night trying to concoct a coffee substitute, or message your way through a game inspired by a classic text adventure but played using a modern social tool. All these await you in this short but sweet collection of releases from the freeware scene.

Willem’s December Winners

A Place in the Sun

Perhaps you know a workaholic, people for whom a job is the most important thing in their lives and who do nothing but work, all day long. They don't see their children grow up and don't have friends because all they do is busy themselves. The nameless protagonist of Tor Brandt's A Place in the Sun is one of those people. We meet him when it's late in the evening and he is working on an assignment that has to be finished by tomorrow. He is very tired and needs coffee, but in the kitchen he discovers that he is all out of the stuff. And so he decides to make himself some replacement coffee.

A Place in the Sun is shown in third-person view. The game world, comprising a few rooms of a house and a bit of the street outside, is presented in very simple, clear pixel art in subdued colors, predominantly turquoise. The protagonist looks terrible: sleep deprivation has made his eyes small and wrinkly, and he walks with a slow gait. There is no voice acting, with all spoken text displayed on the screen, but during gameplay a gentle, sad tune is played. The drawings, music and dreary palette, together with the way the man acts and reacts to the things happening around him, make the atmosphere very depressing.

The protagonist walks where you click, and the interface is a bit like the old LucasArts games, with the verbs ‘pick up’, ‘look’ and ‘use’ appearing on buttons in the lower left part of the screen. Left-clicking an object makes the man perform the action indicated by the highlighted verb; right-clicking it provides a description of the item. The inventory is also displayed at the bottom of the screen. Making a coffee alternative is not easy: there are no coffee grounds or filters, and there are more problems to overcome on this quest. All puzzles are inventory-based and logical, but they do need some thinking and close observation to be solved. The ending of the game is predictable but poignant. It's a pity that the people this protagonist represents will never play this game. They could learn a thing or two from it.

A Place in the Sun can be downloaded from the AGS website.


BackDoor: Door 2 - The Job

The first BackDoor game by solarVagrant was released in 2013, in which a young man found himself falling in a dream and somehow ended up in a small room from which he had to escape. After finding a way out of the room, he was guided through a strange complex by a voice from a telephone. Door 2 - The Job also starts with the young man falling. This time he winds up in an underground world built by robots that were fed up with the terrible things humans were doing to each other. However, not all is nice in this world either. The voice on the telephone says to look for a man with instructions on what to do next; you even get a picture to identify him. But finding this guy requires fixing machinery, fetching things for a very human-looking robot, opening a locked gate and more.

Like its predecessor, the second BackDoor game is presented in a third-person, RPG-like bird's eye view. The environment is shown in fairly simple, low resolution pixel art in shades of grey with splashes of muted color here and there. During your quest you will visit a bar, a shop, some factories, the town streets and a park, with a cheerful tune playing throughout. In lieu of voice acting, spoken text is displayed in a black bar near the bottom of the screen, accompanied by an animated portrait of the speaker.

The game is played using the keyboard, with a handy guide showing which keys do what when hovering the mouse cursor over a small icon in the top right of the screen. The puzzles are inventory-based and often take quite a bit of work to solve. They are not very hard, but you will spend a lot of time finding and getting the items you need. The Job is full of details that don't have much to do with the problems you face, but they do enrich the environment and help give you a sense of 'being there.' Although some not-so-nice things happen along the way, the overall atmosphere is positive and you will encounter quite a few jokes whilst playing. The game doesn't auto-save but there is a single save slot so you don't have to finish in one sitting.

BackDoor: Door 2 - The Job can be played online at Kongregate.

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