After a few light months for free indie adventures, the dam has burst in a big way. This time around you can you can get trapped with a deranged killer in a vaulted cathedral, or stuck in a malfunctioning cable car suspended above a mountain. You could choose to follow the exploits of one woman whose sunny island getaway is hampered by lost luggage, or another seeking to get away from her mundane life by joining a mission to space. Alternatively, you might ascend to the heavens to become an angel seeking to help an abused boy, or crash back down to earth as a man who finds his home changed horribly for the worse after a three-year absence. If that isn't enough choice, you can dive into any of the whopping 121 games submitted to a two-week Adventure Jam, a dozen of which are covered here, having earned top honours from the judges. All these await you in this month's round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
Martha is on vacation in the mountains, where she has just written a postcard and is taking the cable car down to the village to post it. Unfortunately, on her way back up, the cable car malfunctions and she is left hanging. Now it's up to postal worker Rita to rescue Martha, but this is more complicated than it looks, involving tasks like chasing away an abominable snowman, finding a cassette tape, and climbing a large rock.
Simon Reid’s Hang On is presented in quaint pixel art drawings in soft colors, of which blue and grey are the prevailing hues. Apart from the inside of the chalet Martha has rented, the game world consists of a mountain path, a cave and the edge of the village where the post box stands. There is no background music or voice acing, as all spoken text is shown on the screen in a different color for each speaker. There are a few sound effects though: a sort of blip that plays when a character takes something, and the call of a golden eagle, both of which sound very simple.
Hang On has two playable characters, Martha and Rita, which is quite unique for such a short game. Both of them are controlled using the mouse. They go where you direct them, while right-clicking an object makes them give a description of it, and left-clicking causes them to interact with it. All puzzles are inventory-based and not hard, so solving this neat and cozy little game will only take you about 20 minutes.
Hang On can be downloaded from the Adventure Game Studio website.
Fun, Sun & Mishaps
Brandy Watson arrives at her Hawaii hotel ready for a week of sand and sea, only to discover that her wallet with all her money and ID has been stolen. On top of that, her luggage was mislabeled so that could be anywhere on the planet! Without identification she is not allowed into her hotel room. The only thing she can do now is roam the island in search of money and a place to sleep. She soon learns where to get a fake ID, but she must first help the person who can make it for her. Thus starts her vacation adventure at the sunny Hawaiian Ìlio hae po'o moku (Wolf's Head Island).
Fun, Sun & Mishaps, by Anne Hemenway, is a cheerful game displayed in bright colors on beautifully designed screens. Brandy explores only part of the island: the beach, the hotel and a little nearby town called Wahi Kauhale (Little Village). The rest is dense jungle in which she isn't interested. Everywhere she goes there are gorgeous flowers in all colors you can imagine, palm trees and lush grass. The beach is wide and inviting. You’ll hear birds chirping and singing everywhere, and music at the bar and in the hotel's elevator. There are a lot of well-made sound effects as well, like the lift doors opening and closing, the loud fan in the hotel lobby, and a gumball machine. There is neither background music nor voices, with subtitles shown on screen in large letters.
Brandy walks where you click, and hovering the mouse cursor over hotspots makes it change to indicate a direction you can go or an action you can take (you can speak not only to people but to other things as well). Moving the cursor into the black area underneath the playable area brings up links to the inventory, a map of the island that you can use to instantly travel to locations you have visited before, and the game's menu. The puzzles are diverse but not very difficult: you will feed fish, use a metal detector, rummage through trash and do many other things in this game, which is mostly about enjoying the island's atmosphere and its quirky inhabitants. Brandy and some locals have rather dirty minds, resulting in many sexually-oriented jokes, but it never gets kinky; it's all rather innocent fun.
Fun, Sun & Mishaps can be downloaded from the Adventure Game Studio website.
Rosaura Docelestial: Rescue from Despair
Somewhere on Earth, a boy is being mistreated by the people around him. He is beaten for even the smallest mistakes, and even when he does good it seems that nobody cares. His birthday is coming soon, but it looks like no-one is interested about even that. "Nobody knows I'm alive!" he cries. "Not even God knows I'm alive." But an angel, Rosaura Docelestial, hears his cries and decides to help the poor boy. She easily finds out what he’d like: a birthday cake, roller skates and a stuffed toy. Getting these together requires trading some stuff of her own, gathering parts of a cloud and giving a man a flower.
Rosaura Docelestial: Rescue from Despair, by DBoyWheeler, is presented in a minimalist style using simple shapes with hardly any detail and just a few bright colors. The characters are a bit more detailed than their surroundings, all differing clearly from each other and therefore easily recognizable. The game world consists of Rosaura's mansion, a few streets and the Garden of Life, in which you visit a picnic area and a quiet place with a bench. Cheerful medieval-sounding music accompanies the gameplay, the particular score depending on your current location. There are no sound effects or voice acting, but all spoken text is shown on screen, each character with their own text color.
Right-clicking cycles the cursor through the actions walk, look, grab/touch and speak, and left-clicking makes Rosaura act according to the chosen verb. Moving the cursor to the empty bar at the top of the screen makes a menu appear from which you can choose from the same actions, as well as access Rosaura's inventory and the game's menu. The puzzles are almost all small and simple fetch quests: you find something and trade it for something you need to make the boy happy. Despite its extreme simplicity though, Rosaura's friendliness and the way she interacts with the easy-going characters around her make this a charming experience that will take you around 15 minutes to finish.
Rosaura Docelestial: Rescue from Despair can be downloaded from the AGS website.
June Bride Nightmare
It was supposed to be the happiest day of Yuno's life. With all their family and friends in attendance, she was to be wed to her beloved Reiji. But before they could complete their vows, a maniac with his head swathed in bandages and carrying a sword burst into the cathedral. With a wild fervour, he set about slaughtering all those present. Bravely sacrificing himself, Reiji distracted the lunatic long enough for Yuno to flee into the back corridors. Unarmed and alone, she must now explore this strange building for a way to escape. All the while, her tormentor stalks her, seeking to finish the work he has started.
June Bride Nightmare from MemoriesofFear is a disturbing horror story that is not for the faint-hearted or young. Presented in a bird’s-eye retro role-playing game style, the main area of the cathedral has large stained-glass windows and decorative tiled floors. Some of the back areas carry on this grandiose style whilst others, such as the crypt, are less friendly places. The protagonist wears her wedding dress throughout, making her all too easy to spot given her predicament. Characters are simply but effectively animated in their movements. The whole building has atmospheric lighting, with many rooms heavily cloaked in shadow, which can be partially lit by a candle found early in the game. Yuno often makes text-only observations to herself, with a full-length portrait appearing when she does. A slightly disjointed piano and organ piece befitting the setting backs up most of the action. This is replaced by more dramatic horror music at appropriate junctures. There are also a number of sound effects, most notable being the slash of the sword.
Thorough exploration is the key to success, and control is handled through the cursor keys, with space used to interact. There are also a handful of others keys whose uses are explained the first time they are needed. To aid players, objects that can be interacted with are faintly highlighted for identification. Acquiring a light source should be an early priority, as many rooms are too dark to search otherwise. This also defends you against another threat, some strange blue butterflies infesting certain rooms in the building. An on-screen graphic represents Yuno's sanity and memories. The former diminishes when she comes into contact with a butterfly or the maniac, with complete depletion ending the game. The latter fills in as Yuno explores, with the ending partly dependent on how many memories have been collected. There is a small amount of inventory to collect, and a list of objects obtained will be offered for use when you interact with a suitable location. There is also a stealth mini-game that occurs when the maniac catches up to you (at set points in the narrative rather than randomly). During these sequences you must attempt to sneak past your tormentor. Due to these segments, and a couple of other potential deaths if you do not take proper care, regular saving at the reusable typewriters throughout the game is advised.
June Bride Nightmare can be downloaded from the RPG Maker website.
46 Memory Lane
Three years you've been away on business. Three years separated from your beloved Angela. You've carried her photo with you for that entire time to remind you of her, but soon you will be with her again for real. Your misgivings start, however, when you find the neighbourhood is more squalid than you remember and your old apartment building seems radically altered. With Angela missing from the apartment you once shared, you set out in search of her. Three years is a long time to be away, but can things really have changed so much in your absence?
46 Memory Lane, by shamz, presents a disturbing psychological tale. Whilst not directly displaying any extreme content, the themes explored here are definitely adult in nature. The pixel art graphics are fairly simple, but with enough detail to identify people and objects. The setting is a run-down street, with graffiti on the walls and a broken window in the only shop. From here you will visit your own apartment, which is not the friendly home it once was, and a seedy bar. The animation is limited by the presentation but conveys the actions depicted, such as an old man drinking from a bottle, reasonably well. There is no music as such, the game being backed by a single low unsettling tone instead. Sound effects include the beeping of a security keypad and the hiss of static on a TV without a signal.
Control is through the mouse, with right-click examining and left-click attempting to interact. Inventory items appear in a drop-down menu at the top of the screen, and can be examined or selected for use in the same way. This is vital for some of the puzzles, as the items themselves can contain vital information. The puzzles are mostly simple in nature, requiring you to explore fairly small areas and use recently acquired objects in a relatively straightforward fashion. The game is very dark in tone right through to the ending, and has a slightly surrealistic feel, with some events suggesting that reality is not quite as solid as it appears. Whilst a single session of an hour or so should be sufficient to complete the game, there is a save system available if you can solve the puzzle to locate it.
46 Memory Lane can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Kosmonavtes: Escape Reality
For a while now, Vala has been unsure what to do with her life. Then a newspaper advertisement offers the exciting opportunity she has been looking for: a space mission is being put together which may prove vital to the survival of the Earth. However, many others see this as a golden opportunity as well, so even getting a copy of the paper to submit an application is a challenge. They also won't accept just anyone for such a crucial role, with candidates facing a series of tests. Will Vala be able to get past these obstacles to achieve her dream?
As the debut episode in an intended series, LKMAD's mobile exclusive Kosmonavtes: Escape Reality presents a game packed with puzzles, presented in a first-person slideshow format. The graphics are done in a high quality hand-painted style with a realistic look. Locations include the newspaper stand in a local park, Vala's house and the project’s underground bunker. These scenes include limited animations like leaves blowing through the trees. Some items, such as a combination lock, appear in pop-up windows when you interact with them. During the text-only conversations, you will see half-body representations of the characters talking. A gentle piano and woodwind piece accompanies your quest. This is supplemented by sound effects triggered by your actions, such as the click of a key turning and the barking of a dog.
Control is performed entirely through screen tapping, with no other gestures required. Items you've collected appear at the bottom of the screen; tapping one highlights it, with subsequent taps resulting in attempts to use the object unless you tap it again. The game is split into eight chapters in total, with each chapter having a major goal such as getting a copy of the paper. To achieve these objectives, a wide variety of smaller challenges stand in your way. You will need to learn a post office sorting system, rescue a cat from a tree and penetrate an underground bunker, among other tasks. A number of puzzles are standalone challenges, leaving players to work out the rules on their own. Fortunately these are fairly intuitive, but if stuck you can purchase help using hint coins. These are given as rewards for completing each chapter, but are also available as optional in-app purchases. This game ends with Vala achieving her dream of joining the program, with the story promising to develop further in future instalments.
Kosmonavtes: Escape Reality can be downloaded from the App Store.
Adventure Jam 2017
Early in May, adventure game designers were given a tough challenge: they had just two weeks to create a game from scratch for Adventure Jam 2017. Even with such a short timeframe, and four luminaries of the indie adventure scene judging the results, more than a few intrepid developers were up to the task. An astounding 121 games were entered for the competition, narrowed down in June to a final list of 12 nominee finalists and 2 award winners, detailed below. Additional information and download links to each can be found on the Adventure Jam awards page. For those wishing to sample everything the competition had to offer, there is plenty more where those came from in the complete list of entries.
Developer's Choice Award: Peridium by Powerhoof
It started with blindness. One by one the crew members got it. But that was not all, oh no. They were then taken over by a mysterious ethereal entity that turned them into mindless beings capable of horrible things. Only Dr. James Turner has survived, and in a closed-off room in the polar research facility, he opposes the entity while planning his escape. But his efforts are hindered by one of his possessed colleagues, who bangs on the door and is trying to get in. Will the entity get Turner too, or can he escape and inform the world of what has happened here before it is too late?
Powerhoof's Peridium was made in only a week, but the team has put together a remarkable game. The room’s pixel art is filled with monitors and cupboards and other stuff needed for research. The use of color is limited to mostly hues of blue with the occasional grey and brown object thrown in. Despite the simplicity of the graphics, however, everything you need to finish the game is recognizable and there is no need for pixel hunting. The audio is excellent, with Turner having a wonderfully growly voice that fits his appearance. The other characters are only ever heard speaking from the other side of the door. Gameplay is accompanied by a rather gloomy tune that gets gloomier the further you progress. The numerous sound effects, from a radio crackling to the opening and closing of cupboards, are very accurate. A handy explanation of the point-and-click interface is shown during the first few minutes, and the few puzzles are fairly simple but well-integrated. There are two endings: a bad one and a worse one. Thanks to the save function it's not necessary to replay the whole game to see both endings, though since the game quits after saving you have to start it up again to continue.
Colossal Leap Award: Shadow of Naught by hassan golshan
Two young men and one young woman, their fates intertwined. On the surface their words and actions appear to be straightforward. But their shadows reveal what is really going on in their innermost thoughts, which represents a much sadder tale than the one they show to the outside world.
Shadow of Naught’s visual presentation is framed like a portrait in the centre of the screen. A minimalist approach has been used, with characters shown as sharp-edged outlines instead of realistic figures. The backgrounds are similarly lacking in detail, though the outlines of objects are usually recognisable. The game is split into four chapters. The first three focus on one of the main characters each, and playing all three unlocks the last chapter. Each involves dual meanings, whether through shadowy speech bubbles with entirely different dialogue than their physical counterparts, or character shadows conveying a different mood to that the people are actively projecting. Progress is achieved through left-clicking with the mouse on dialogue or objects. The story appears to be largely linear, with no apparent puzzles to prevent progress beyond finding what can be clicked on to move things forward, with gentle guitar or piano pieces providing the musical accompaniment.
Stuck in a Pig by CINIC Games
Edgar is determined to be a wild boar, though in reality he is just an ordinary pig. When his horned helmet is confiscated by the principal of the farm where he lives, Edgar must set out on a quest to create an alternative. For if he does not have horns on his head to charge with, what sort of wild boar would he be?
Edgar's home is presented in a highly detailed style that is largely realistic, except for its population consisting mostly of anthropomorphic animals. The WASD keys move Edgar around, whilst space causes him to make a small jump and E is used to interact when nearby hotspots are indicated. When Edgar has a helmet, holding Left Ctrl while moving causes Edgar to charge, but it's soon taken away from him and needs to be replaced. He starts out trapped in a shed, but once outside he finds himself in a brightly lit farm that includes a bar called "Water Spot" and some jousting horses being cheered on by a crowd of sheep. As might be expected, the replacement helmet requires him to find the parts in various places and combine them. A gentle guitar piece appropriate for the bucolic setting plays throughout.
Luma by telekontar
On a remote planet, a small spacecraft sets down. A cowled figure emerges from within, wielding a staff that is imbued with the power of many lights. Using the mysterious forces at his command, the figure seeks access to the secrets of this world. But he will need all his ingenuity if he is to overcome the obstacles that this ancient civilisation has left in his path.
Luma’s graphics are fairly detailed, but with a slightly surreal feel. The protagonist is almost entirely covered by his robes, with only his stick-like arms and legs and a small glow where his face should be being visible. The handful of scenes feel like an alien world, from the orange sands of the planet surface to a darkened cavern. A single left mouse-click is used for all actions, and you will need to solve a series of standalone puzzles to progress. Your staff, which can be topped by three different coloured crystals or left empty, is the key to success. Challenges include raising a path across a lake and a clever mechanic that makes a simple maze more complex than it first appears. An eerie echoing tune, fitting the sci-fi setting, plays throughout.
Dinner with an Owl by BoringSuburbanDad
When you were invited to stay at the house of a new business associate, you thought a lucrative deal awaited you. The first sign that something was wrong was when you found your host was half-owl, though he behaved like a normal man. Soon you discover that you are not the only guest in the house, and none of you are staying there willingly. Between you, you must hatch a plot to escape, but is it already too late for you?
The title might suggest a surreal and whimsical tale, but Dinner with an Owl is a chilling psychological horror game. The graphics look like Victorian ink illustrations, drawn in a realistic style, though this realism is subverted by the host's form and a colour wash behind the drawings in drab browns and oranges. A low tonal tune playing in the background adds to the unsettling atmosphere. There are also occasional lines of spoken dialogue, though most speech is text-only. Certain actions trigger other sounds, including a complete song. Control is handled via the two mouse buttons, with right-click to look and left-click to interact. The game plays over multiple days, with a handful of days repeating until you escape.
Void Quest by icefallgames
Living alone in a remote cabin out in the woods, you had given yourself a simple set of tasks for today. The first of these was to remove an old stump that dominates your yard. However, this seemingly mundane task reveals a strange cavern underneath your property. If only to discover if it is putting your property at risk, you set out to explore this underground space.
Void Quest’s graphics are in the style of the early Sierra adventures, including a band across the top of the screen showing the score and game title. The artwork displays limited detail, with the protagonist shown only as a silhouette. Navigation is controlled using the mouse, with a left-click moving you about. All other actions are performed through a text parser, which pops up on screen when you press a letter key. Some assistance is given through suggestions of available words as you start to type, but this interface can still prove frustrating when seeking precise wording. Sound consists entirely of appropriate background effects, such as the wind in the trees and the barking of your dog.
Archeos by Atavismus/Ibispi/Peder/UnFantomeBleu
An archeology professor and his rather dim student Seamus land on a barren Earth to search for remnants of the long-gone human civilization. Shown in colorful pixel art, many of the artifacts they find are easily recognizable for us but the interpretation of their uses and function by the professor is often hilarious.
Chook & Sosig: Hit The Club by TookiPalooki
Sosig wants to play the goblin in the local role-playing club. To prove he can be one he needs to steal an item without the owner noticing it, make someone laugh and destroy something. The whole game takes place inside a pub, which is drawn by hand in beautiful detail. All the characters are animals: Sosig is a cat, the barkeepers are an undead bull and a dog, and the guests are a bat and a living cow's head that hangs on the wall. In order to do everything required of him, Sosig has to bend the rules here and there and get help from the animals in the pub.
Holy Molluscamony by The Stairfall Institute for the Study of Phantasms and Simulacra
Steggy is a bridesmaid in Betrella's wedding. All dressed up, she arrives at the wedding venue and discovers that Bertrella has been cloned by a slug monster. It takes some effort to set that right! Using a SCUMM-style verb interface, the game is shown in very low resolution pixel art in subdued colors. At the start of the game you can choose from a number of settings which make the graphics more blurry or change colors somewhat. Despite the low resolution, the different characters in the game are easily recognizable. Holy Molluscamony is fully voiced and the acting is very good.
iD by MattFrith
A robot is brought to life after 30 years to explore an abandoned factory that is leaking radioactive material. It has to find out what is broken and of course must then go about making the repairs. This pixel art world is presented with enough detail to make out the important things.
Off The Record by Eight Bit Skyline
In Off The Record you experience an important week in the life of a record store owner. Every day he opens his shop and tries to help his customers, more or less successfully depending on the person he helps. One day he gets a visit from a representative of a megastore that just opened in the city. They want to buy his shop. You can choose whether to sell or not, but the implications of your actions are not clear. The game is shown in a simple, neat style in a high resolution but with little detail using bright pastel colors. To set the mood, you can use the record player to play a variety of music, ranging from classical to modern instrumental.
One of Us by ViciousDelicious
Frau Großmutter was attacked by a werewolf last night. Luckily, Red Riding Hood managed to chase the werewolf away, but he must be identified and killed before he claims even more victims. It's up to Belle, whose husband was killed by the werewolf the previous night, to do that. She has to interrogate all the inhabitants of the beautiful fairy tale town that looks like it was drawn in pencil, and find the culprit before midnight, who will then be hanged. If they kill the wrong person, the attacks will continue.
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.
Ghosted by superembo – Trapped in a strange house, you must evade the unquiet spirits that haunt it to escape. (Contains sudden deaths and jump scares.)
Yurei Station by Atelier Santo – A series of strange text messages lead a young girl to a remote train station.
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.