This week's best free PC games
So, a Ludum Dare 48-hour development competition happened recently, and three of the games below are a result of it. Frostbite smartly works an entire game around the concept of deadly cold, Last Breath is about a dead dog, and ZERO2 sees you investigating something odd among snowy hills. Elsewhere, absolutely enormous point-and-click adventure Donna: Avenger of Blood is a dark and brooding title that demands many hours of your time. Read on for more juicy details on this week's best freebies!
Saint11. Download it from the Ludum Dare website.
Imagine that it's cold. Not just chilly, like a wintry British day, when your window's dripping with condensation and frost sparkles on the grass outside. No: properly, dangerously, freezing cold. Now imagine that your wife's out there, somewhere, alone except for the ghosts that apparently now walk the Earth. You have to venture out to find her.
Welcome to Frostbite, a dazzlingly effective game of survival. It's a two-dimensional, side-scrolling release with a basic visual style, yet it succeeds in being utterly tense throughout.
Venture out into the cold, and you fatigue quickly. Your health also begins to plummet at an alarming rate. The only way to survive is to dart between occasional indoor areas, scavenging for food, napping on any beds you can find.
It's like the blowouts in Stalker, where you had to panickedly take cover to avoid being hit with a blast of radiation, except that Frostbite forms a whole game around the concept.
It's a fairly short game, although you'll have to play it in one sitting, which can be a bit frustrating as dying sends you all the way back to before the intro sequence. Other than that, though, it's not at all difficult to understand why this won the most recent Ludum Dare competition. It's a find example of how to spin a fantastic game around a single idea.
Donna: Avenger of Blood
Blaze Dzikowski. Download it from the game's site.
A huge, intricate and stylish adventure game, Donna: Avenger of Blood has been an extraordinary ten years in the making, and it's all the work of a single developer. In that time, Blaze Dzikowski has managed to create one of the most substantial free games ever to be made with Adventure Game Studio, and should be enormously proud of the achievement.
Grainy greyscale photography makes up the majority of Donna's backgrounds, but the scratchy, slapped-together style creates a distinctive aesthetic through which to tell a dark supernatural story of revenge. It's not always a hundred percent clear what to do - not so much in the puzzle department, but in the trial-and-error way those newer to adventures will have to learn the control ropes - but once you're absorbed there's little pulling you back out.
Set in a depressing, recession-bitten Eastern Europe, it's a moody and grown-up game, full of sex, swearing and sombre characters. It's also more creative than most point-and-click titles, with the eponymous Donna able to employ a series of special powers as well as her standard inventory items. Dark and often disturbing, but absolutely engrossing in parts, this is so far (because I haven't even nearly finished it yet) an essential play.
Deepnight. Play it via the Ludum Dare website.
I have to admit, first impressions weren't great. 'Oh, look!' I exclaimed unto my monitor. 'Another melancholy exploratory platformer made for an indie game competition.' But Last Breath has some tricks up its sleeve. It's the story of a dog who's hovering over the precipice of life and death after being hit by a car. Not long into the game, your canine chum's 'shadow' has descended from the sky. But that's bad news.
Your shadow's role is to trace your steps, but if he catches up with you, or you inadvertently run into him, it's game over. Worse, edging towards the completion of your objective - to collect a sequence of balls - only makes your shadowy friend speed up.
It's this subtle reversal of gaming norms that works so well: surely, when you've a shadow tailing you and some collectibles to grab, you want to work with the shadow and grab the collectibles? Last Breath forces you into these tasks to its own evil gain, and invites you to think strategically about how you may overcome those odds. It's quite patchworkly pretty, too.
Kato9. Play it on the game's website.
It won't take you long to explore ZERO2, a simple point-and-click adventure that yet again employs the old amnesia trick to kick things off. You find yourself surrounded by snowy hills, a small hut in the distance the only way you can find warmth. Its setup is BioShock on ice.
But once you begin to explore the area, a small but nicely formed adventure opens up. It's a game of discovery, and of the sense of dark foreboding as you turn the next corner. ZERO2's developer describes the game as a "Myst-style" point-and-click adventure, but that's massively underselling it. It shares a first-person perspective with that most dismal of genre-destroyers, but there are no ludicrous puzzles, and there's at least a vague sense of what you're trying to achieve.
Having audio of some kind would benefit this enormously, but as it is - and again, this was a Ludum Dare entry - it's still an enjoyable, mildly tense and intriguing little package.