This week's best free PC games
This week, I give up. I try to maintain some sort of level of quality in what is, ultimately, a column called 'This week's best free PC games'. But so inundated have I been with requests that I cover one particular monstrosity that, this week, I've decided to get it out of the way. So without further ado, I present to you one of the most outrageously awful first-person shooters there has ever been. Fortunately, backing it up there's a gorgeous art game, a tense platformer, and a game where you can ride a speedboat through the mouth of an angry shark.
Söldner: Secret Wars
Wings Simulations. Get it from MoFunZone.
For some reason that I will never pretend to understand, several people have asked me why I've yet to include Söldner: Secret Wars in my roundup of the week's best free PC games. I'll give you a clue: it's because it's rubbish.
Absolutely, extraordinarily, impressively rubbish. You could make an argument for saying it's so awful that it becomes hilarious, but this is a column about the best free games on the internet, so it still feels a little disingenuous. This is a first-person shooter in which enemies get stuck in the floor, can frequently shoot you through walls, and sometimes just disappear altogether, right in front of your eyes. There are vehicles, and foes often use them to spectacularly run each other over. Söldner's 'training' missions haven't been touched by a development hand in the years since the game came out, so they're just as ludicrously broken as ever. They're free now, but remember: once, people were expected to pay for this.
Of course, the reason this has been re-released is because the community has patched up the multiplayer side of things. Which means it's now ugly, messy but at least vaguely playable if you can manage to get some other people involved. Somehow, it developed a bit of a community, who seemed to like it's wide open maps and - I don't know - something. But it's really nothing to write home about. The utterly abysmal state of the singleplayer, however, very much is.
There. You've made me imply that one of the worst first-person shooters in the world is somehow one of the best of a given time period. Are you happy now?
Cardboard Computer. Download it from the developer's website.
Absolutely gorgeous, Ruins is a game in which you play as a dog, chasing rabbits, and engaging surprisingly well-written conversations that branch the game's story depending on the dialogue options you choose. The game world is starkly painted in muted reds and blues, the eponymous ruins and your canine friend silhouetted over the top.
To begin with it's abstract, difficult to penetrate. Then you play to the end and an engaging, genuinely moving story begins to surface. But it takes multiple playthroughs to grasp all the subtleties contained within the narrative. Each time you're likely to find something different, leading to different interpretations of the same sequence of events.
Aside from the brilliant, understated writing, Ruins' two great achievements are the dog and the camera. The dog trots along with uncanny realism, while the camera swings elegantly around the small game world, always smooth, always pointing you in the direction you need to head in. This won't be everyone's cup of tea, but I found it to be an endlessly fascinating game, and a properly touching tale.
Super Springbreak Speedboat Hero
PLA Studios. Play it on the official website.
In Super Springbreak Speedboat Hero, which is a delightfully ridiculous name, you build your own tracks and then race around them, your character a strange 3D stick-man. The track designer is basic and intuitive, and - most importantly - features things like sharks and dinosaurs.
Sharks and dinosaurs!
So the resulting speedboat ride is wonderfully barmy. It's all played out in a sort of angular, block-coloured 3D that reminds me a little of Darwinia, so you'll find yourself dodging dinosaur heads and riding through the mouths of sharks all up close and personal. It does a lot visually with limited resources, and the music is absolutely wonderful.
Plus: sharks and dinosaurs!
Jonathan Whiting. Play it on the dev's website.
It's a game about running away from an enormous red spinning-top thing with what appears to be a sight line coming out of it. In this high-speed platformer, you'll be dodging its movements, making daring leaps for safety, and trying to avoid the numerous spike traps that litter the levels.
Antagonist is a simple but effective game, one that manages to deliver a surprising amount of tension as you try to evade your enormous red foe. The suspense is ramped up further by your character's movement, which causes you to skid just a little when you try to stop. Mistime your runs and you can find yourself sliding over the edge of a platform to your bloody, spiky death. It's basic, but it's fun. I think you'll like it.