Free games of the week

Sunrise by EckartG

What an inventive way to present a text-based story. Your role in the stylish Sunrise is to run right from screen to screen, while the reason for your escape is made clear via bits of text that float up in the air. Sunrise makes full use of its screen estate, putting the (well-written) text over here, or away over there, with often gulfs of emptiness between. The other elements on the screen: a pixelated shadow representing the player, and gorgeous abstract geometry. For all that, this is functionally a game where you hold the right arrow key, but I was excited to see what sights lay around each corner.

Everything Dies by Ludipe

I didn't twig what was going on the first time I played this, which is a little silly considering the name. But suddenly it clicked, the second time I loaded up Everything Dies: a lovely, sad platformer set in a small world that's gradually being deleted as you play. The fiction has it that the game data has been corrupted, and so elements are being erased by the computer as you jump around. NPCs are removed from history, a vital key is quickly taken away from you, and even the (catchy) soundtrack is soon deleted, leaving only eerie silence. It's a little heartbreaking, watching the world being obliterated around you.

Insignificant Little Vermin by Filip Hracek, Juan Pablo Vega, Ryan Jeffrey Shea, Mark Aragona

This year's Interactive Fiction Competition wrapped up recently, with around 80 entries you should make some time to peruse yourself, if you're a fan of text adventures. I've only looked at a few so far, but Insignificant Little Vermin is a clear highlight, offering a well-written, traditional fantasy adventure built in what's shaping up to be a sophisticated role-playing engine.

There's a lot of combat in Vermin, which isn't a bad thing at all given that die rolls have infiltrated this IF adventure. Many of your choices are dependent on a little chance wheel that appears underneath the relevant text: a box that automatically rolls five icons that determine whether your action succeeds or fails. Three or more hearts means you successfully execute the move in question, while three or more Xs means, well, you don't. It's a lightweight and easy-to-grasp system, and it works a treat in this old-fashioned fantasy tale.

Salt by Gareth Damian Martin

I appreciate a work of interactive fiction that does novel things with its presentation, perhaps by adding a soundtrack or even images. Salt features a shifting background and a soft, enveloping soundscape, but it goes beyond that by offering timed button inputs as well—yep, the text adventure meets the rhythm game, at last (?)

I'm only being half facetious with that, as the only input required of you is to hit the space button, repeatedly, to swim. Fail to keep up with your depleting stamina bar and the current story beat will ebb away, returning you to the strange, shimmering beach where our story begins. But you'll want to swim out for as long as you're able, to read as much as you can of the elegant, terse narrative that plays automatically at the top of Salt's playing field.

The Tower at Tortenna by Tower Team

Here's an impressively made, puzzley walking sim set in a believably constructed tower environment. Many walk-'em-ups I've played consist of boxy cities or a big empty field, but would you just look at The Tower at Tortenna, with its dense congregation of vertical structures, its lived-in spaces, its arcane equipment strewn all over, and the few written notes that supply backstory snippets. There is a central puzzle, and an ending, but I was content to just stroll about, peering over the side of the dauntingly high settlement, generally immersing myself in this vaguely Myst-like fantasy world.