The Best Free Games of the Week
Someone somewhere in some capacity probably once said that there's “no such thing as a free lunch”, but as everyone knows they were dead wrong because soup kitchens. If you substitute 'lunch' for 'games' they were even dead wronger, because there are free games coming out of the goddamn walls. We've scoured through all the Slender clones and zombie games to bring you the very best gratis games released over the past week or so. To put it another way: The Free Webgame Round-Up has levelled up. This week: slime, bobcats, vagabonds, knife parties and murder...murder most foul.
Armada has been sitting in my Downloads folder for a few weeks now, and considering how (literally) slimy it is, perhaps that wasn't the best idea. Porpentine's infectiously dancy, beautifully crude Armada is a game you should play if you enjoy exploring strange new worlds, seeing odd and delightful sentences emerge from the mouths of humanoid thingies, and powering through the occasional boss fight that made me want to flush my laptop down the nearest sewer. That frustrating moment was mainly down to the reload system, which makes you track down and activate spotlights in some sort of limbo world before it will let you return to the game. I persevered to see what other day-glo delights this sewage-filled underworld adventure had in store – and I wasn't disappointed. Among other things, I'm reminded of the starkly surreal Journaliere, which is another way of saying 'play Journaliere after this'.
If you've played a Michael Brough game before, you'll know that to expect: an alien world with its own rules, systems and unidentifiable entities, not to mention a good few minutes of (joyously) trying to figure out what the hell you're supposed to be doing. Post-Future Vagabond is a tactical arcade puzzle type thing, set in a glitchy hacky universe, and starring what appears to be a monkey pushing a couple of windows around. Vagabond offers yet more evidence of a smart, insular, entirely noncommercial approach to game design – if it was discovered on an arcane tablet in a crashed alien spaceship, it wouldn't seem out of place at all.
Bubsy's back! Er, again! OK, so that doesn't have quite as much impact as when the wool-loving protagonist returned from obscurity last week, but when he's unexpectedly starring in yet another hilarious indie game, exclamation marks are very much warranted. Here, have a few more: !!! thecatamites' take on Bubsy transplants everyone's favourite (by default) bobcat into a point and click adventure constructed from crudely made clay creatures, and with backdrops drawn on sheets of kitchen roll. It's audaciously DIY, and the jaunty, jazzy soundtrack supports it beautifully. Like 90% of games these days, this was made in just 7 days for a contest (theme: failure), so things don't end as happily for Bubsy as you may or may not hope. Joyously silly writing aside, the hook here is the strict time limit, which refreshes the handmade world – with more than a few changes – each time the timer runs dry. Don't try to fight it. Go with the flow, and explore/prod/chat your way around until Bubsy meets his ultimate, perhaps justified, fate. (Via Free Indie Games)
'Low-poly' and 'horror' are some words that go very well together, as evidenced in Ivan Zanotti's unnverving digital scarefest Imscared. Zanotti – along with Bellini Virgil, and fellow low-poly enthusiast and 7Days developer RevoLab – have teamed up to form Goos Entertainment, their first offering being the disturbing first-person horror Calm Time. Based on the 'party' theme of Game Jolt's recent 10th official contest, Calm Time puts you in the role on a host who has organised a not-terribly-successful get-together at their grainy, pixelly abode. The turning point should come around a few minutes in, if you spend as much time chatting to the guests as I did. It's one that requires a teensy betrayal of sorts by the developers, but if you press on after the 'incident' I think you'll agree that the unsettling hunt of the game's second act was worth it.
Another party/murder game, but one that has more in common with Cluedo than with Friday the 13th. After Mr. White – no, not that Mr. White, Jesse – is murdered at a house party, muggins here has to uncover which be-masked freak gone and dunnit, by walking up to them and asking questions and trying not to get stabbed. The killer and murder weapon are both randomly generated, as is obvious from the hilariously all-over-the place dialogue, which appears to have been performed by that robotic announcer lady who delays all your favourite trains. (Obviously this is down to the contest's week-long time limit – and it doesn't affect the atmosphere too much anyway.) The astoundingly alliterative Murder at Masquerade Manor has a few rough edges then, but its lightly sinister sleuthing is still well worth a look, particularly if you enjoyed Dishonored's similarly freakish party mission.