The Best Free Games of the Week
E3 lurks just around the corner, like an Assassin's Creed hero waiting to drag a dimwitted guard into a big pile of hay, and while I'm as excited as anyone about the yearly festival of pomp, hype, CEOs saying 'synergy', and ultimate vague disappointment, here's your weekly reminder that some of most innovative and unrestrained games lie on the fringes, in that nebulous and contradictory space known as indie gaming. Here are five such games released, for free, over the last week or so, exploring low-res time travel, duck-based dungeon exploration, one-click RPG mechanics and more. Enjoy!
Game Jolt's month-long LowRezJam wrapped up at the end of May, and for my money (I do not have any money) the cute/annoyingly named Lands of Lorez is one of the better games to emerge from the friendly compo. It's a first-person dungeon crawler in the Lands of Lore mould (hence the name), developed by Photon Storm, who you might know from their free Phaser framework. There's an impressive amount packed in here for a game you manhandle with just the cursor keys, and this self-imposed limitation has resulted in some creative design decisions. Combat, for example, is essentially Gears of War's brilliant active reload system, expanded a wee bit; successful attacks require you to tap at just the right moment, and if you miss, the enemy will strike in your stead. Carnivorous ducks also make an appearance, because why not.
Flowers are your friends in this neat puzzle platformer which, yet again, takes place within a teeny-tiny window. The knightly adventuring hero can't see too well in light, or jump up high ledges, so they have to rely on a magical flower they soon come into contact with, which can enable jump pads and see better than most humans for some reason. Switching to the flower transforms the sad colour palette into a veritable rainbow, suggesting (the title also adds to this) that it's showing us the world at a different point in time.
The hero/heroine turns into a statue while you're controlling the flower, and there's some clever overlap here when it comes to puzzles (the flower can jump on statue-you's head, for example). I think it would be half the game it is without the beautiful Secret of Mana-ish soundtrack, so be sure to play this one with the volume on.
Last week I was trying to work out what 'makega.me' was, and it turns out it's a month-long 'slow jam' giving devs plenty of time (compared to the the weekends/weeks most jams last for) to make a game. Gonubie Hotel, like the other entries, is based on the word “series”, and developer Ian MacLarty has interpreted this as meaning “a series of arcade games all played at once”. You can't see me right now, but I'm nodding sagely at this decision.
There are four games overlayed here: an Asteroids type shooting thing, a Street Fighterish fighting game, and two others I can't recognise but which appear to be in the same sort of vein. You control these titles with just the cursor keys, and I'll leave it to you to figure out what you're manhandling in all four games, as I spent most of my time just trying to stay alive. Gonubie Hotel's best feature, however, is its reflective screen; I shan't spoil any more than that, but it's a fantastically eerie and creepy little addition, and I swore like a docker when I realised what was going on. (Via Indie Games)
There are not enough superlatives to describe One Tap Quest, a deceptively simple but smartly designed RPG where your only input is a single click, right at the beginning of the game. The trick lies in when and where you apply this click. There are two stages: the first is a procedurally generated smorgasbord of enemies and power-ups; as in Desktop Dungeons or Half-Minute Hero, you have to direct the hero towards weaker enemies first in order to increase their prowess for the next. If all goes to plan – and remember, this is a plan you initiate with a single tap – your behatted warrior will level up on a few slimes, then snakes, then bandits and so on, while bagging a better weapon and other power-ups along the way. If they manage to make it past the fearsome dragons at the top of the screen, they'll engage in a seemingly stat-based boss battle, and eventually be eliminated if they haven't been sufficiently toughened up.
You'll spend most of One Tap Quest waiting and praying that the roving enemies will either cross your path or narrowly miss your hero. It's excellent design, and with the layout being procedurally generated, you won't mind instantly restarting in order to try for a better score.
I spent half my time with The World the Children Made wishing that James Earl Cox III had made the movement speed a little faster, and the other half smiling at the extraordinary pixel art and synthy '80s/Egyptology-esque soundtrack. It's based on Ray Bradbury's The Veldt; you play as a housewife in a futuristic abode where preparing dinner, cleaning up, and administering chores to your children is as simple as selecting options from a series of handy terminals. Play it for faintly astonishing scenes like this one: