July's best free PC games

Lewis Denby at

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They say you don't get something for nothing. They're demonstrably wrong. For example, in July, you've been able to get at least six somethings for nothing. They're all PC games as well, as it happens. Here's the best in freebie entertainment from the last month, ready to play on your personal home computer video game entertainment systems.

Alien Swarm
Valve Software. Grab it on Steam.

You'd have been hard pressed this month to have avoided Alien Swarm, Valve's free co-op shooter. Announced and then released in quick succession, it's a game that's managed to make quite some noise in the past couple of weeks - and with good reason.

A standalone, Source Engine-powered update to the classic UT2004 mod of the same name, this top-down shooter is a wonderfully polished effort. Occuping a sort of middle-ground of an Alien Breed/Left 4 Dead/Team Fortress 2 triangle, it contains a whole load of squad-based fun. Just be sure to hone your gun-toting and teamwork skills: it's not by any means an easy ride.

Big guns, even bigger aliens. What's not to like?

pOnd
The Peanut Gallery. Play online.

pOnd is a little bit special. Interpret the word 'special' as you wish. Here's a web game which rests on an interesting and unexplored mechanic: that of breathing. You're on a relaxing walk in the countryside, inhaling the crisp air deeply. That's your somewhat unusual core mechanic in this quirky one-button game.

To be fair, it's not the most exciting setup. And admittedly, while the opening is interesting, it begins to get somewhat tedious rather quickly. However, it sure knows how to up the ante again towards the end. Make sure you play at least until you arrive at the pond, as there's a properly magical scene awaiting.

Could this be the world's first breathing simulator?

Stream
Rekcahdam. Download it here.

This is a smart and stylish shoot/puzzle-'em-up that combines Braid with P.B. Winterbottom and adds just a dash of classic side-scrolling action. In this black and white world, glowing objects can be interacted with. But many require more pairs of hands than are attached to your macho body. And there's baddies to be fought, as well. Scary baddies with scary guns.

Fortunately you've also the power to open up a wormhole, which effectively allows you to send a helpful clone of yourself through time loops. It's not a long game if you know what you're doing, but some of the puzzles are challenging enough that it'll take you a few goes - not to mention a whole truckload of brainpower - to get them right.

...and they're right. Buh.


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