This week's best free PC games
This week's pick of free games includes Nous, an abstract and colourful top-down blaster that manages to tell an engaging sci-fi story about psychology. It's thoughtful and immensely good fun, merging its various styles to present something that's both unique and accessible. Elsewhere, there's a Braid-influenced puzzle-platformer and a zombie survival strategy game, and we revisit BeGone, a browser-based multiplayer shooter that's undergone quite a transformation since we first looked at it in March. Read on to discover some of the best freebies currently doing the internet rounds.
Awesome Shark Volcano/DigiPen. Download it from the official website.
It's a top-down blaster in which you attempt to kill enemies or convert them into health. You can rack up combos while trying to avoid spiked squares that seek to squish you from every direction. But that's only scratching the surface. As well as being an entertaining, high-speed arcade shooter with a twist, it's also an engaging science-fiction story and an experiment that examines the nature of videogames and technology. It is, essentially, a deeper beast than a mere description of the game mechanics would let on.
You're being psychoanalysed by a computer program - one that breaks down, gets confused, and alternates between seeming like it wants to help you, and becoming seethingly angry with you. This program thinks that maybe it's a guidance counsellor, but it appears to need some counselling itself. As you progress through the story, the program sets you action-centric tasks that supposedly will teach you something about yourself. Whatever you do, don't admit that they didn't.
At once unsettling and amusing, and both wildly entertaining and quietly artful, Nous is an absolutely essential play: a game that proves thoughtful storytelling, smart game design and heaps of fun can go perfectly hand-in-hand.
One and One Story
MaTX. Play it on Armor Games.
Clearly influenced by the likes of Braid, this silhouetted puzzle-platformer tells a story of love between a boy and a girl. Both inhabit each level, and your goal is to get them to meet. To begin with, a quick press of the Z key switches between the two characters as they work together, navigating the obstacles that stand between them.
But the game grows in complexity as the story progresses. Quickly you're denied the ability to switch between the two as the couple's relationship becomes turbulent. The game is always about moving boxes, which is disappointing, but it plays smartly with movement. Its simple presentation works remarkably well, the snowdrifts and soft colours creating a gorgeous scene behind the silhouettes. It isn't a long game - you can go through it in ten or fifteen minutes, easily - but it's a pleasant journey with some creative ideas.
NPlay. Get involved on the NPlay website.
The last time we visited BeGone, back in March, it had just a single map, and was limited to five-versus-five action. It was fun: the game's combination of careful tactics and fast-paced play, somewhat reminiscent of Counter-Strike, hit home in all the right places. But it lacked the variety or scale to have any real staying power.
Since then, the game's been updated. There are now five maps, all of which are carefully designed, and most of which look surprisingly pretty for a browser game. The action's been scaled up, now allowing for up to 16 players on a server, instead of the previous ten. The game's economy has been tweaked to allow players to store up money, saving it to buy weapons for the most important matches, and a host of other minor additions - such as head-bobbing and ironsights - make this a far more polished game than it was seven months ago.
What was once a technically impressive and entertaining diversion is quickly becoming a fully-fledged, highly enjoyable multiplayer game in its own right. Give it a go.
Sarah Northway. Play it on Armor Games.
The zombies have attacked, but you've made it to the city, and there's a fort waiting with your name on it. There's just one problem: you and your fellow survivors are a little short on supplies, and horribly short on land. You've got a small area walled off, but the city surrounding you is swarming with the undead, and they're blocking your access to the good stuff: food, equipment, weapons.
So far, so standard zombie apocalypse. But this turn-based strategy sequel is compulsive playing. You've got allocate tasks to those under your command: who will go and kill some zombies? Who will scavenge for supplies? Who will go looking for other survivors? Your aim is to collect, kill and expand. Doing so takes time and patience, rather than a great deal of skill, but it's one of those games that'll have you clicking on the 'end day' button again and again, not realising how much time has passed. This is a slickly presented, very engaging freebie.