This week's best free PC games
This week's big free release sees you being killed by an enormous asteroid. But then it develops into a surprisingly complex game about life and death. It's an ambitious title made for Channel 4, and while it has its problems, it's well worth experiencing. Also this week: low-def survival horror, a nude man searching for his apparently kidnapped girlfriend, and Prime Minister David Cameron going completely bonkers with legal reform. Read on, humans.
Preloaded, Channel 4. Play it on the official website.
The End is many things. It is, ostensibly, a platform game, in which you leap from place to place and collect stars, and eventually a key, which unlocks later levels. You've also a trick up your sleeve which allows you to turn shadows into solid platforms to help you on your way.
But it's also a Facebook-integrated social game. At various points, you're asked big questions. Questions about life. And your answers end up being plotted on a graph, shared and compared to those of the rest of The End's player base.
And it's also a sort of puzzle-based board game at various points, whereby you battle what amount to boss creatures on a hexagonal grid. It's a brave combination of many genres, pieced together in a way that's presumably intentionally confusing. That's quite a brave decision in a title commissioned by Channel 4.
There are some fairly significant problems, unfortunately, especially early on when tutorial tips prevent you from moving for seconds at a time, even after you've read them. And the platforming is competent but unimpressive. The game also isn't too great at explaining itself sometimes: I like the ambiguity, but there are occasions on which this doesn't seem to be part of the game design, and is instead a result of some dodgy planning. Still, it's immaculately presented, atmospheric, and a hugely commendable idea. I just hope people push through its foibles to the point where they can experience it.
Andrew Shouldice. Download it from Super Friendship Club.
This is a low-definition, 3D horror title with a remarkable ability to be scary without once making you jump. The aim is to find the five locations dotted around the world, without being caught by the horrific thing that stalks you as you do so.
The visuals are blocky, blurry and noisy. And it's dark. It's difficult to navigate, and even while sprinting you move stiflingly slowly. Dotted around are balls of light, floating gently to and fro. Stray too close to one and it's a rather abrupt - and genuinely frightening - game over for you.
Hide's biggest triumph is its sound design, with growls and sirens and heavy breathing dominating. It absolutely demands to be played with headphones on, rivaling the likes of Amnesia with its disorienting, haunting audio track. That the developer comments on the download page that he doesn't usually incorporate sound into his games... it is beyond belief, given how extraordinarily well it's used here.
Marcus Richert, [adult swim]. Play it on the [as] website.
Of all the surprisingly decent games appearing on [adult swim] recently, Lee-Lee's Quest is the one that's most in line with the brand of surreal, silly comedy that the network became known for. It's a very straight-forward platformer in which you bounce around and collect stuff, but what's really important here is the context to it all.
Your girlfriend's been kidnapped. Only - uh - she hasn't really. It's just that your character's a bit insane. See, she's not been kidnapped; she just went out with a friend. In fact, she's not even your girlfriend. Or, indeed, a girl. As your lost companion tells you at the start, "I just happen to have long eyelashes and like pink."
Regardless, off you trot to find her, slaying anyone who gets in your way. Who, generally, are just other folks trying to get you to calm down. Naturally, before too long a star pickup has stolen all your clothes, and people don't take very kindly at all to your running around naked.
It's utterly mental, wonderfully scripted and voiced, and while short it's always funny. There is an achievement for stealing from an old man. And for killing him. "Oops," the game says to you, but you can tell it's secretly grinning.
No Longer Subject To Judicial Review
NiallM. Play it on the website.
A fascinating game, No Longer Subject To Judicial Review nevertheless requires you to suspend disbelief a little. The game is introduced with a letter from the Prime Minister, and the idea is that as the current legal system is failing, court cases are now decided by a public jury in a "virtual courtroom", with everyone casting their votes based on the evidence presented. Which amounts only to a list of articles from various newspapers. Hmm. What this all adds up to, though, is a game that's supposed to teach us about the dangers of believing everything we read in the media, and raise questions about how we can ever be one hundred per cent certain about someone's guilt or innocence.
You read the articles and click on the stuff that you think is relevant. When you've gone through it all, you cast your verdict, the evidence stacked up for and against different characters. There are multiple endings, all of them intentionally ambiguous. I'm going to say that I really like this, in an odd sort of way. But perhaps you shouldn't believe me.