This month, those who look forward to the future can travel to a space station with a dark secret, or for those who prefer the past, you can visit a 16th century execution that doesn't quite go as history recorded it. If you'd rather get up to a little mischief for a good cause, you can try to break all ten commandments to attract God's attention. Alternatively, you might face every student's worst fear of taking an exam when you haven't even been to any lectures. All these await in this month's round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
Greg Winston had long dreamed of travelling into space, and finally his chance has come. Now he and four others have been chosen to take part in a project aboard an orbiting space station. Their job is simple enough: to monitor audio signals coming from deep space for any variation that indicates they were made by intelligent life. But as Greg settles into his new job, he starts to become concerned. Why is he unable to clearly recall the months leading up to his selection for training for this mission? Is there more to his dream job than meets the eye?
In Forever Space, Pinhead Games returns after a lengthy absence to present the tale of an ordinary man facing an extraordinary mystery. The presentation is full 3D, with realistically rendered environments. These vary from the small enclosed cabin on the shuttle ride out, to the space station with its wide windows showing the stars and the drifting moon beyond. In long shots, the character models appear cel-shaded, but the close-ups used for conversation are fully detailed. Characters also move in a largely realistic fashion. Background music is made up of ambient pieces that fit in well with the grand space opera tone. The game is fully voiced to a decent standard, and there are a handful of sound effects, such as the audio signals you have been assigned to monitor.
Control is handled through the mouse, with left-click used to both move and interact. When clicking on a hotspot, a context-sensitive menu appears showing the possible interactions available. There is no separate inventory screen. Instead, collected items appear as menu options when they can be used on a particular hotspot. At the start of the game, the action is mundane, with the protagonist simply trying to prepare himself for his upcoming task and get to know his teammates. Once on the space station, however, the mystery starts to emerge and it is up to the player to resolve it. This is mainly achieved by interacting with your colleagues, though how friendly or unfriendly you are will affect the help they offer. There is also a small amount of item use, though you may need to search a bit to find the required objects.
The Execution of Anne Boleyn
It is the 19th of May, 1536, and Anne Boleyn is scheduled to be executed on the orders of Henry VIII. However, a time-traveller has different ideas, and approaches Anne in her cell within the Tower of London. According to this visitor from the future, this is not the way history is supposed to go, and she needs Anne’s help to set things right again. Leaving a robot facsimile in Anne’s place, the two set out to escape the Tower and put the timeline back on its proper course.
Riaise takes a decidedly skewed view of the past with The Execution of Anne Boleyn. The graphics consist of fairly basic pixel art, though objects and people are rendered large enough to be recognisable. The adventure starts within the grim grey walls of the Tower, then passes through Anne’s place of execution and on to the hidden location of the real Henry VIII. The individual characters are simply but smoothly animated. The musical accompaniment for much of the game is a gentle tune that fits the historical setting. This gives way to a dramatic action piece in the latter part of the game, where the investigating pair come under threat (though evading this danger is handled automatically, without requiring the player to be quick on the keys). The score is supplemented by such sound effects as the rattling of the lock on the cell door.
Mouse control involves left-click to move/interact and right-click to examine. Moving the cursor up causes a small inventory interface to drop down from the top of the screen, where you can examine and interact with objects collected. This also includes a button that allows you to switch between Anne and her futuristic visitor. As both have separate inventory items, you will need to engage in some switching to get all the objects you need. There are a few item-based puzzles to solve, mostly involving simple combination. You will also need to find a coded message in a letter, and determine an important number from the conversation of two guards. The latter puzzle effectively comes with an escalating hint system, as repeatedly listening to the guards offers further clues to the answer. The overall tone is tongue-in-cheek, with some light jabs at both history and game conventions.
The Execution of Anne Boleyn can be downloaded from the AGS website.Continued on the next page...