The Best Free Games of the Week
This week's free games picks take you to the Mountains of Madness, deepest space, the rugged Old West, and down, down, down into an ancient temple. If your canteen is full, your quiver is stuffed with arrows, and your knapsack is fit to bursting with essential Curly Wurlys and Snickers bars, you may join me after the break.
The text adventure has morphed into all manner of wonderful things over the last few years, but I do love to see a good old-fashioned fantasy adventure done well. Progression is such a game: a beautifully, and very carefully written tale of two brothers' descent into an ancient structure. Multiple outcomes to encounters are perhaps to be expected, but the Twine-style story progression soon unfolds to reveal a more open system that allows you to look at, talk to or use the various items and people in your vicinity. Sudden deaths are always frustrating—as is having to restart from the very beginning—and I wish there was an equivalent here to jamming your thumb into a Fighting Fantasy book to cheat your way back to a 'checkpoint', but it doesn't take too long to click your way back to your last position, and there's usually an untrammelled tangent or two to explore along the way.
Originally an Ouya game, r0x EP has migrated to PC, with an optional price tag and keyboard support. It's worth playing by anyone with even a passing interest in shmups, for the following reason: it's great. The demoscene dubstep soundtrack will be a thing of personal taste, but it's hard to imagine any shmup enthusiast taking issue with the lovely spritework and tactical avoid-'em-up action. In r0x you only have a limited number of bullets, a limited number of screen-clearing special attacks, and a boost function that causes the world around you to speed up alongside you when used. Bullets are returned as you graze meteors, bullets, ships and the like, and there are plenty of score-giving gems and stranded astronauts to pick up along the way. Tough, fully featured survival bullet hell, and a great timewaster of an afternoon. (Via Warp Door)
This slow-walkin' adventure could do with another draft—the writing needs polishing, and the text needs better placement and a more readable colour choice—but it's a solid take on Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, the adept pacing and strong pixel art creating a rich, intriguing, slow-burn atmosphere. Some games, like r0x up there, can get their hooks into you in any environment, but Shilov's game is one to settle down to with a nice cup of tea, an open mind, and a bit of patience.
When they weren't practicing competitive bean-farting, folks in the Old West loved nothing better than to shoot each other repeatedly in the desert. Wesstreen takes us back to this bygone era with its simple, solid take on twin-stick shooting. Shoot as many cowboys as you can before you die, pressing the spacebar to initiate the nifty bullet-time ability that's become a staple of the Wild, Wild West genre. I particularly like that you can shoot bullets out of mid-air: it's a small, fun design choice, and the sort of thing that makes Tom van den Boogaart's games stand out. The world around you hums with a barren atmosphere: wind howls, eagles squark, Eastwoods whistle, (rideable) horses skitter about, and blood and footsteps stick around in the dirt, a reminder of what you've done.