December's best free PC games
I've just taken down my Christmas tree. This means that the festive period is officially over. I've eaten turkeys and pigs, and turkeys wrapped in pigs, and pigs wrapped in pigs. I hope there aren't any pigs reading.
What this all means is that I'm sitting here feeling like I should do some exercise. And what better way to exercise than jabbing my fingers at a keyboard while playing some of December's best free games? Here are the five notable ones I've played in the last month.
By Zillix. Play it on Newgrounds.
This is a lovely little exploratory platformer. Or, rather, a lovely big exploratory platformer. While the game initially appears simple and small, it quickly sprawls out across a huge area, interlinking and intertwining with itself, as you follow a request from your deceased father to collect your inheritance from a treasure chest.
It's quaint, and at first feels quite predictable. But as the game expands, it throws quite a few curveballs your way. You gain new abilities as you go along, allowing you access to areas you previously passed but couldn't enter. And the dialogue, while straightforward, really helps to set the tone. A marvellous way to spend a portion of the day.
By Armor Games. Play it on their website.
A story about a robot, K.O.L.M. is one of the most gorgeous, strikingly melancholy and creatively designed Flash games I've played in ages. It's ostensibly a platformer, but like Endeavour it's primarily about exploration. This time, there's also a captivating unfolding story to keep you going as well.
The narration is quietly sinister, while the visual design adapts to its themes. Your robot begins without eyes, so the screen is simply a muddy blur, with vague shapes shifting around as you attempt to guide him to the next area. With each new component re-fitted, you gain new abilities which allow for progress elsewhere. It's Metroid without the action, then, but it's the aesthetic that really sells it: it looks, sounds and feels absolutely wonderful.
By Tenth Play. Play it on the official website.
This is an interesting one. I pondered for quite a while about whether to include it. The problem is this: it's an impressive game, a fully fledged semi-3D adventure built in Flash and playable in a web browser, all for the handy price of nothing at all. But I'm not entirely sure whether it's any good or not.
It's very traditional. You select whether you want to look at, interact with or move towards an area, then let the actions play out. The puzzles are... traditional adventure game puzzles. Half of me wants to hate them, while the other half totally appreciates what the developers were going for. The setting and story are less easy to defend, throwing in hundred adventure game clichés into - gasp! - a spooky mansion.
But like I said: it's a huge 3D point-and-click adventure that's playable for free in a browser, and it's about a million times better than some of the rubbish that gets released commercially.
By Awkward Silence Games. Play it on Newgrounds.
You have one chance to save the world.
The clock ticks down. Humanity will be wiped out in a matter of days. You're a scientist, and if you play your cards right, you might be able to prevent the global apocalypse. But you're also a family man. And if the world is going to end this week, you'd quite like to spend your remaining hours with your wife and daughter. What to do?
That's the question One Chance asks you to make. It's a haunting, gorgeously drawn and genuinely moving experimental game whose mood is occasionally spoiled by some absolutely dreadful writing. Had a script editor looked over this prior to release, it could have been amazing.
Technobabylon - Part II
By Technocrat. Get it from Big Blue Cup.
The first part of Technobabylon was released in October. "Quietly melancholy but always intriguing, it’s a fascinating little game," I said back then. Much the same is true of this second part, but there have been some changes made along the way.
For starters, while the first part was a fairly traditional room escape game, Part II has a more typical point-and-click adventure feel to it. There's a more expansive story, too: where the first game was a marvellous piece of scene-setting, Technobabylon - Part II takes that scene and weaves a more satisfying narrative into proceedings. Once again, it's atmospheric and engrossing, and well worth a play.