August's best free PC games
I type this with icy white fingers. It's August - normally king of the summer months - and yet here I am, very seriously considering digging out some gloves. Serves me right for living in the north of England, I suspect. But all is well, for in these disappointingly chilly times I've managed to locate six more fabulous free games. Read on for the best of the bunch from August.
The Journey Down - Chapter One: Over The Edge
Theodore Waern. Grab it at Big Blue Cup.
Adventure Game Studio might spawn countless games which look like they've been drawn with a mouse in Microsoft Paint, but every now and then someone uses it to create something really special. Theodore Waern has spend the last five years - five! - honing this first chapter of his point-and-click epic, The Journey Down, and that dedication shows.
This is supremely professional for a solo effort, and brings back all the right memories of the '90s. It's about as traditional as adventure games get, but if that's your bag, you won't find many better free ones than this. It's just a shame Chapter Two isn't due until some time next year, especially since the story ends so abruptly.
By The Numbers
AJA. Get it from Big Blue Cup.
Another title created in Adventure Game Studio, By The Numbers is unusual for featuring full voice acting. It's especially unusual - across gaming generally - for featuring quite good voice acting. However, it's also intriguing in a couple of other, more fundamental ways.
This is a one-room point-and-click adventure game in which you interrogate an eyewitness of a kidnapping. The game never moves beyond this one room (and another one beyond a two-way mirror), and focuses purely on dialogue. It's also fully motion-captured, with the resulting 3D animations converted to 2D animations in the engine. Well-written and neatly produced, it's a genuinely interesting experiment.
Morplee is a frantic and unusual browser game, part Space Invaders-esque shooter and part collection of mini-games. You've to shoot the baddies down as they attack, lest they begin to eat worryingly quickly at your health (as above), while at the same time increasing your score by completing as many mini-games as possible within a one-minute time limit.
It's that time limit, combined with the ever-present threat of alien invasion, that makes Morplee so brilliant. You wouldn't expect such a bizarre mashup of a title to work well at all, but in fact it's a minute-long thrill ride, as you desperately try to multitask through your panic. A simple but inspired idea.
Okay, this one's slightly out of the ordinary to place on a free games list, because it's not actually free. It's $7. But! There is a delightfully sizeable chunk of the game available to play for free online. So I'm going to awkwardly shoehorn it in here, mainly because I absolutely love games like this, and I want you to play it immediately.
As a sort of tactile point-and-click adventure, there's no escaping the fact that it's a lot like Amanita Design's adventure games, especially Samorost. It's also not quite in the same league. However, it captures that same sense of exploratory magic, and it's absolutely, staggeringly beautiful to look at. Give it a go. And then pay $7 to finish it off. Go on.
Littleloud / Channel 4. Play it at Channel 4.
Channel 4 are getting in on the games scene at the moment. Technically developed for educational purposes, the best thing about their output this month has been the fact that they're enjoyable educational games. That's an all too rare breed.
The first, The Curfew, was written by Kieron Gillen - a name you might recognise if you're on the British side of the PC Gamer pond. It's an FMV-centric adventure game set in a future where second-class citizens aren't allowed out at night. Think a British City 17 in vibe. It's your job to decide which of four people to trust with some secret data, which you're told absolutely cannot get into the wrong hands. Well-written and with mostly decent acting, it's well worth playing, despite the occasional bug.
Zombie Cow / Channel 4. Download it from Channel 4.
Bottoms, and vaginas, and lots of sperm. Yes, it's Channel 4's other educational game! Just, y'know, one that's a little less grown-up. But no less wonderful.
Privates is aimed at teenage boys, and attempts to teach them about STIs and condoms and things like that. It's approximately four hundred billion times funnier and more fabulous than any sex education lesson I ever sat through in school. We used to laugh at those classes for the wrong reasons, but this side-scrolling shooter from Time Gentlemen, Please! developers Zombie Cow gets you laughing in the very best way. If you're a young 'un, just promise you'll remember to learn something.