The Best Free Games of the Week
This week saw a surprise new Pixel game, a celebration of unsurprisingly good interactive fiction, several smart games that play around with their boundaries, and the sad news that the wonderful Free Indie Games has posted its last after over two dedicated years highlighting excellent and/or interesting free games across the globe. What better way to keep the fire alive than by playing some clever, profound, beautiful or plain fun free games released over the last week or so? Read on for mirror images, multitasking, words arranged in a pleasing manner, and missing presidential documents that can only be retrieved by shooting stuff. Enjoy!
With its clean, evocative art style and strangely ICO-esque ambient sound design, Ditto is a bit of a departure from Nitrome's usual day-glo arcade games. Your catty, triangular little hero has a shadowy doppelganger, who emerges when you're parallel to a big orange mirror thing in the middle of most screens. Said doppelganger mimics every action you take – only in reverse.
Puzzles, as you might imagine, involve keeping track of the goings-on in (at least) two parallel worlds; to succeed you'll need to frequently switch your attention from one to the other, taking advantage of the occasional inconsistency to clamber your way into the next stage. Smart, challenging, atmospheric, bally adorable stuff. (Via Free Indie Games)
If the act of rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time sends you into a tizzy, then you're going to be absolutely terrible at Kaloka, which asks you to not only rub your head and pat your stomach, but to scratch your arm and kick yourself in the small of the back as well. Taken individually, Kaloka's four simple minigames would be nothing to write home about, but they're just basic and (conversely) involved enough to both stimulate your brain and give you a fighting chance to keep track of all four windows – even though you're definitely going to fail.
Kaloka's other trick should help you survive for slightly longer, however: the four game windows gradually redden when they're about to reach a fail state, giving you a moment to remember which button you were supposed to be pressing and oh fantastic I'm dead again.
Ahead of Kero Blaster, his long-awaited follow-up to Cave Story, Pixel has released a short free prologue entitled Pink Hour, which has you playing as a “pink-clad office lady” searching for an important document for the president. Obviously this involves leaping over chasms and water, firing your laser gun at enemies, and trying not to lose all your lives and elicit a miserable game over (yep, this still happens sometimes in 2014).
Pink Hour is a difficult game then, in a similar manner to the original Super Mario Bros, but once I settled back into the late '80s platforming groove, its cute pixels and unassuming action neatly slotted into place. I do hope Kero Blaster is a little more inventive, however, not to mention a little kinder on the old extra lives front. It's worth noting that you will need to sign up to the Playism store in order to download Pink Hour, but thankfully this doesn't require you to install or use any extra software on your machine.
XYZZY, the annual interactive fiction awards, was held this week – you can find a giant transcript of the informal, and appropriately texty, ceremony here. The winners included Lynnea Glasser's Coloratura for Best Game (previously covered here), Alan DeNiro's Solarium for Best Story, and Porpentine's their angelical understanding for Best Writing, which you can play at the above link. There's a bunch of fascinating interactive fiction on the results page, but Porpentine's game in particular stood out to me thanks to its poetic, beautiful and frequently devastating turns of phrase, and for its playful, expansive use of Twine.