September's best free games
Two of the most interesting "free" games this month were, alas, only free for a couple of days each. Eskil Steenberg's ethereal online shooter Lovehad a free weekend, as did blocky-buildy-destructy indie gem Minecraft. They don't make the list below, as they've since had their respective prices reinstated, but they get a mention anyway for being delightful. Meanwhile, here's six more free games without catches, all launched in the final month of our glorious summer.
Harvey Smith.Play it online.
Here's something I really love. The Argument is a small work of interactive fiction by Deus Ex lead designer, and Deus Ex: Invisible War project lead Harvey Smith. Very short, but exquisitely written and painting the scene with a delightful subtlety, it's well worth a few minutes of your time.
The level of interaction is intentionally limited, and the focus really is on scene-setting and capturing a moment. But Smith achieves that remarkably well, and it arrives at a sweet conclusion. It does of course suffer for its form, and how carefully you must phrase things. And even then it doesn't always quite work: at one point, The Argument told me a couch was not something I could sit on. But this is generally lovely.
The Silver Lining: Episode 2
Phoenix Online Studios. Download it from its website.
Here's the fan adventure game project that was never to be, after it was squished by the big legal stampiness of Activision after seven years of development. Thankfully sense was seen, and here we are now at Episode 2 of The Silver Lining, an exceptionally professional amateur project based on the King's Quest fiction.
As with the first episode, for an adventure game this is unusually light on the puzzle-solving, primarily focusing instead on its episodically unfolding narrative. But it's the presentation values that really impress, the game coming across as far more polished than a great many professional projects. It's not too late to catch up on the story, either. Grab both episodes beyond the link above.
Snakes of Avalon
Igor Hardy / Alex van der Wijst. Download it from the devs' website.
Another point-and-click adventure, this one rather more surreal, Snakes of Avalon is - in the words of its developers - "about alcoholic incapacitation and people obsessed with murdering their other half." It's a strange, warped, and bleakly amusing Adventure Game Studio creation, which... well.
It's an odd one. It's completely, unreservedly bonkers. A lot of the time I didn't have the faintest clue what was going on. Some of the puzzles are ridiculous. But the art style is intriguing, and its bizarre sense of humour strangely arresting. I like it a lot, even though I'm not quite sure why.
Creaky Old Memory
DADIU. Download it from the website.
An IndieCade 2010 finalist, this is an intriguing game from DADIU, the Danish National Academy for Digital Interactive Entertainment. A glance at the Academy's history tells me it's responsible for such past gems as quirky Half-Life 2 mod Flipside, as well as the rather excellent Puzzle Bloom. And even though the development teams will obviously change, you can kind of see the lineage.
Creaky Old Memory sees you take on the role of an elderly lady, collecting glowing photos which are strewn around a library. Doing so involves solving a bunch of lightweight environmental puzzles, dragging ladders around the place to allow you access to different areas, and allows you to unlock fragments of the lady's story. It's got a style all of its own, making it a nice and atmospheric - if not too taxing - distraction.
Ian Snyder. Play it online.
Feign reminds me why I continue to trawl through reams of browser games: sometimes, you'll find one that's absolutely extraordinary. This is a dreamy, atmospheric little game, in which you're first instructed to locate and collect nine "bodies". One's directly in front of you, which is easy enough, but it took me a minute or two to realise I was actually in an enormously complex maze where it's not always obvious what's a wall and what's a door.
That might sound frustrating - and it certainly can be difficult - but the way it toys with your sense of space is quite remarkable. And the music is simply gorgeous. Things ramp up nicely as you progress, as well. It's an immensely rewarding little experience, haunting and beautiful throughout.
Company of Heroes Online
Relic Entertainment. Download it from the official website.
This month, in what must be one of the best deals in PC gaming, Relic's classic RTS Company of Heroes went completely free to play. You're getting a superb single player campaign containing classic missions such as the breathtaking fight for Carentan. On top of that there's an expansive multiplayer metagame that sees your general leveling up from battle to battle, gaining experience and recruiting specialised units to use in future fights. Few strategy games can rival the brutality and intensity of a Company of Heroes multiplayer skirmishes. If you've never played it before, now's your chance to try a genuine PC gaming classic.