The Free Webgame Round-up
Don't breathe. Won't breathe. Can't breathe. Welcome *gasp* to this week's edition of The Free Webgame Round-up, which is brought to you by delicious oxygen. Mmm, oxygen. Asphyx has been doing its utmost to deprive me of it this week, so much so that I think I got The Bends. But Radiohead's second album (ha!) isn't enough to distract me from my weekly webgame duties, so here are some browser-based games you might enjoy. Read on for air, shooting, zombies and cleverness, which together count as one of your five-a-day.
The best feature of Asphyx (the latest from Probability 0 developer Droqen) is one he didn't program into the game, which is otherwise a fairly straightforward platform-puzzler. You're invited to supply this feature yourself, by holding your breath whenever the little playable character is submerged in water. Cheat and the game's a cakewalk, but as Droqen points out, you'll only be cheating yourself.
Going in, I thought I'd probably become bored or rebellious and cheat after a while, but Asphyx does a wonderful job of making you buy into the idea, primarily through the guilt-inducing reminder messages that you 'can't breathe', 'won't breathe' and 'don't breathe'. Thankfully, if you feel your face begin to redden you can always press Escape to drown, which feels like bad advice somehow.
You might remember Eigen Lenk from his turn-based New World exploration game Pioneers, but he's taken a holiday in the old world of text adventures for Text-based Multiplayer Shooter, a game that's, well, exactly as it describes. After creating a username and password (oh and finding a free server; it's actually fairly busy at the moment), you're deposited in a spartan environment where it's everyone for themselves.
As you go north, south, east or west and turn around a few times, you'll eventually find yourself face-to-face with another player. What you do then is FIRE, fire as fast and as often as you can until that other player is dead. The knowledge that it's a real person, that you're all real people, adds an element of dynamism not normally found in text adventures. It's a game where your knowledge of a fairly niche, story-focused genre will finally pay off in the only way that matters: in the humiliation of another human being.
Hindsight is a game that – ba-dum-tsh – seems better after you've played it, except that's not true at all. It gets better the more you play it, as what appears to be a simple shape-dodging arcade game transforms into an epic battle against your stupid past self. (I hate him so much.) As you evade the red circles, your little square character deposits embryonic ones, which will grow into further obstacles over time. And so on and so on, until you're dodging entire families of shapes.
Like many of the best puzzle/strategy games, to be successful in Hindsight you have to look at the present, the future, and the far future all at once, like a mystic on a mountaintop surveying everything that has or will ever be. It's simply great game design, in a clear, (perhaps necessarily) basic format which lets that shine. I'd love Jason (or someone else) to build on this concept in the future, but for now this will do just fine.
Remember Halloween? Wasn't it great? Oh. But maybe you want to relive that night anyway, with a topical game we somehow missed last week? Oh. Hrm. How about a polished Pac-Man style action game starring a bear, zombies and – worst of all – humans? Great! Now we're onto something. Flippin' Dead is fun and stupid, joyously so, making it the perfect chaser/antidote to the cleverness of of the above.