The Free Webgame Round-Up
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Free Webgame Round-Up, a regular compilation of all the weird and sometimes wonderful titles playable in your browser of choice. No installation necessary! (Well, unless you count plugins.) This week we have been mostly hunting, hurting and hiding from things, not necessarily in that order. Play it online here.
Hunt'Em by Crobasoft
Play it online here.
'Evolution' was the theme of the latest Ludum Dare competition, and it's a word that's here been wrangled into a gorgeous third-person Pac-Man-a-like. As a squiggly little creature that bears an uncanny resemblance to that mischievous git Stinky from The Moomins, your mission is to flee from a number of inky dog-things, returning to gobble them after passing through three transcendant pillars of light. After a while, Stinky and chums begin to transform into larger, darker, and infinitely more terrifying doodles, until the game eventually declares you top of the food chain, for some reason, dishing out a score for your trouble.
Hunt'Em may be a relatively simple minutes-long game, but it's remarkably easy on the eye, with a grainy art style that reminds of Eskil Steenberg's stunning MMO Love. And sure, its Moomin-esque creatures might be a /little disturbing, but not half as unsettling as The Groke.
This hardcore survival game has been out in the wild for a while, but it's only just been added to Desura. (And, in a shocking turn of events, we've not yet covered it on PC Gamer. Consider this an act of contrition.) £7.99 of alpha funding will grant you access to the beta version of Blue Bottle Games' turn-based survival sim, but hold onto your wallets for now – there's a huge, browser-based demo on the official site.
So what is it? Think Day Z. Think Robinson's Requiem. Think Civilization V – if only for the sexy use of hexes. The game's lightly speculative premise sees you waking up in a cryo lab with only a hospital gown and a mysterious amulet to your name – oh and a slobbering monster eyeing you like yesterday's beef. Once your escape has been secured, through a variety of means, you're left to battle the elements, the mutants, the dregs of humanity, and your own desperate bodily needs.
Death is certain, whether it's by exposure, blood-loss or thirst, or after being stabbed by a looter as you pick through city ruins looking for an old shopping bag to store your stuff in. It's like a less sentimental, less Aragorny version of The Road, and as such it's worth keeping an eye on – two eyes, when you can spare them.
It means 'fear of being in a forest of night', which is only sensible if you ask me. Nyctohylophobia is Slender with a twist: you're trying to track down the hideous freaking nightmare monster, rather than scarper in the other direction. As a lonely tribesman armed only with a single throwing spear – chuck it too soon and you're screwed for the rest of the game's short run – you set out into the rainy woodland in search of a mythical beast. (We don't see why you couldn't have waited till morning.)
The game advises you to play with the lights off and headphones on, and for once you should probably comply. Nyctohylophobia relies on sound to an enormous extent, not least for the job of finding said creature, whose growls you need you follow if you're to succeed. Howling wind; distant birdsong; sudden cracks of thunder; the constant pitter-patter of rain. There's some fantastic sound design here. The game nails the feeling of being in a forest at night – your imagination will do the rest.
To get the most out of this tense WWI-based first-person horror, you have to be prepared to adopt a particular mindset. The mindset of a frightened German soldier willing to do anything to survive, including – but not limited to – tearing the limbs off his fellow officers, in order to distract a pack of hungry dinosaurs.
Given the premise, Der Unbekannte Krieg is a way more effective horror game than we were expecting. The narrow, almost fish-eye perspective is an evocative fit for the trench setting, while the presence of mustard gas and shellshocked soldiers suggests that, at one time, its creator had pretensions of making a sort of experiential art game, like the wonderful student project The Snowfield. I'm not saying that velociraptors weaken that notion, but there's a reason Sebastian Faulks left them out of Birdsong.
But enough doom and gloom. How about a sidescrolling adventure about a toy robot trying to get home to his human owner? Broken Robot Love – ignore the downer of a title – is a puzzle game that revolves around one pretty clever gimmick: the power to create blocks out of thin air. And not just one: as many as you can fit on one screen.
There are limitations of course, but not as many as you might think. Blocks disappear after a short while, and they vaporise if you attempt to pass them through certain barriers. Other than that, there's a gratifying amount of freedom in how to go about things, particularly when giant lasers enter the equation.