Indie

The Best Free Games of the Week

Tom Sykes at

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!


The Best Free Games of the Week

Tom Sykes at

A teensy shipwreck RPG, foxes on hoverbikes, the tale of Cyrano and ginormous honker – all that and slightly more awaits you in our regular free games roundup, which this week has been cobbled together out of various public domain words such as “flipbook” and “groin”. I've assembled these words in a (hopefully) pleasing order below, so hop aboard your flying cycle and join me, foxlike after the break.


We Need to go Deeper: a Jules Verne-inspired roguelike set under the sea

Tom Sykes at

It's rare to find something genuinely fresh in a roguelike, what with 74.8% of the genre being both top-down and ascii-based, but We Need to Go Deeper is the rare example of a RL that grabbed my attention out of left-field. First there's that visual style, which presents an illustrated storybook world of giant squids, sharks, crabs and soggy mermen. Then there's the setting: a Beatles-style yellow submarine under the sea. Lastly there's the promise of an AI director guiding the two-to-four-player, co-op-heavy experience. You'll find a rather exciting trailer 20,000 leagues under the break.


The Best Free Games of the Week

Tom Sykes at

The night belongs to ninjas, shadowy monsters attempting to eat sleeping children, keyboard-based snogging simulators, momentous jumping, cute wickle robots, and Games That Are A Bit Like Flashback. Now that I've neatly teased all six games that lie in wait beneath the break, it's time for you to brew a hot beverage, and sit down at your desk/sofa/beanbag/hammock to get stuck in. Enjoy!


Be a creepy robot in The Fall, first episode on Steam this month

Emanuel Maiberg at

Sentient robots really need to rethink their public relations strategy. The mainstream media will have you believe that they’re all T-800s, IG-88s, chrome skulls, and glowing red eyes, but as Metroid-inspired indie game The Fall proves, not all killer robots are evil. They’re all pretty creepy still, but some of them kill on our behalf.


The Best Free Games of the Week

Tom Sykes at

You won't need an unreliable spy camera to play any of this week's free games – your trusty mouse-and-keyboard will serve you well, as always. Read on for slooooo-mooooo acrobatic shooting, precision-timed shmupping referencing Jean Michel Jarre, modern-day Minesweeping in a Puzzle Quest stylee, and yet more low-rez Low-Rez Jam games. Enjoy!


Twenties-set mystery RPG Witchmarsh takes to Kickstarter, marvel at its moody pixel art

Tom Sykes at

I have a folder on my computer entitled 'Awesome pixel art', in which the jazzy Witchmarsh's expressive and moodily-paletted characters feature heavily. I'm expecting that folder to expand a bit with the news that Inglenook's *deep breath* sidescrolling 1920s-set supernatural co-op action RPG has taken to Kickstarter, supported by a brief but footage-packed pitch video, tons of information, and more GIFs than it's possible for a human to digest in a single sitting. Phil might be looking forward to getting lost in space, Joey Tribbiani style, with Elite: Dangerous, but I can't wait to be lost in the roaring supernatural alternate-twenties, a time when life was 2D, mystery-laden, and accompanied by a toe-tapping jazz/blues soundtrack.


Fleish and Cherry sets a puzzle-filled adventure in a 1930s cartoon

Omri Petitte at

Most of us weren't born early enough to witness the pioneering of American animation during the early 1900s. Classics such as Steamboat Willie, Betty Boop, and Felix the Cat brightened many faces troubled by the Great Depression with a distinctive, bouncy style—a humble hand-drawn origin for the richly colored CGI of today's films. As games reflect the kind of art we enjoy in our culture, I'm glad for the extra attention given to Fleish & Cherry, a Greenlit puzzler themed after Fleischer-esque cartoons with a tale of rescue, jealousy, and obligatory slapstick humor.


Studio Pixel's Kero Blaster, and its soundtrack, out now

Tom Sykes at

Studio Pixel's Cave Story was a pillar of the formative indie scene - and now a follow-up of sorts has emerged in the form of his sidescrolling platform shooter Kero Blaster, which releases today. It's a momentous, nostalgic and slightly melancholy occasion - how much has changed in the world of independently created games in just six or seven years. I can't say if Kero Blaster is any good or not yet - its free prologue Pink Hour was too brief and too difficult to really get to grips with - but a recent trailer hit all the right notes, so I'm hopeful that the old Pixel magic is there.


The Best Free Games of the Week

Tom Sykes at

It's a packed week for free games this week, what with Ludum Dare and LowRezJam and other stray delights, so let's get straight to business with an excellent visual novel about the ins and outs and mysteries of school life, a 32x32 pyramid game, Tie-dye Unity weirdness, several games that lie beneath the surface (of the break), and the foxiest game you'll play all week. Because *cough* it stars a fox. Enjoy!


Mother Russia Bleeds: a sidescrolling beat-'em-up channeling Hotline Miami

Tom Sykes at

The 2D beat-'em-up has been given curiously little attention by indie developers over the years, so it's refreshing to see a team tackling this decidedly out-of-favour genre, even if they're doing so while borrowing Hotline Miami's seamy 1980s setting and focus on extreme pixel violence. Mother Russia Bleeds is that (fantastically named) game, a sidescrolling beat-'em-up set in the U.S.S.R. in an alternate 1986. You'll play an "imprisoned antihero with a crippling drug addiction" named Sergei, who "breaks free and barrels down a journey of hate-filled vengeance", much like I did after the 08.51 to Bath was delayed yet again. You can see a trailer that lives up to this premise below.


The Best Free Games of the Week

Tom Sykes at

The world's your oyster in this week's Best Free Games thing, which once again collects the great and the good and the pretty cool of the week's free games releases (or thereabouts), presenting them in a linear order for your consideration. Among other activities, you'll roam a pitch-black cave, feed a cowman a tasty herb, contribute to a massive narrative sandbox experiment, and explore an electronic album from the inside. Enjoy!


Ludum Dare 29 breaks a record: 2,497 games developed in one weekend

Ian Birnbaum at

Ludum Dare 29, the merely days-long game development competition, took place this past weekend. In addition to the usual screenshots, panic, and lack of sleep on display in developer Twitter feeds, this weekend’s Ludum Dare hit a record: 2,497 games were submitted to the competition, an all-time high. The theme for this weekend was “Beneath the Surface,” so most of the games involve mining, digging, or swimming in one way or another. Phil took a look at Beneath The City, but that's just one of the free games to come out of the weekend.

Beneath The City: a free turn-based stealth game inspired by Thief

Phil Savage at

It's been another record-breaking Ludum Dare, with 2,497 games made and submitted for the 29th run of the game-making competition. With so many new games now available to try, it'll take a while longer for the best to be found. Even so, some highlights are starting to surface, of which the turn-based, Thief-inspired Beneath The City is undoubtedly one.


Monochroma trailer sets the scene on a dystopian puzzler

Phil Savage at

It's hard to know the extent to which this "cinematic" Monochroma teaser reflects the final game—especially as its claimed the finished thing will contain no cut-scenes. Nevertheless, I am smitten with the animation, which is what I imagine South Park would look like had it been made in Arstotzka. And the regular art style is no less striking, showing a grey and red world for the story's two brothers to puzzle-platform across.


Rogue Shooter is more interesting than the name suggests, game and demo out now

Tom Sykes at

With all the possible top-down, isometric and platforming roguelikes having already been made, developers have, with some inevitability, moved on to the first-person roguelikes, as evidenced by the likes of Paranautical Activity and Eldritch. Rogue Shooter is perhaps the most extravagant of the lot, despite a name so cookie-cutter it could be used as a Steam tag or to, y'know, cut cookies. It should be called Procedurally Generated First-Person Kicking and Ridiculous Guns Game. We mentioned the existence of Procedurally Generated First-Person Kicking and Ridiculous Guns Game back in August last year, and now Procedurally Generated First-Person Kicking and Ridiculous Guns Game is out on Steam.


The Best Free Games of the Week

Tom Sykes at

Someone must have asciid for an expansive roguelikey JRPG rendered entirely in textart, as we've received one in the form of the delightful SanctuaryRPG. It's a streamlined and grind-free take on Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest and early Ultima and Things Like That, and if I were to hand out badges in this column it would win the coveted Best RPG Featuring Ascii Slimes award (sponsored by that Ghostbusters ectoplasm I used to love when I was a kid). Elsewhere this week: a serene, freeform farming lifesim appeared, along with two very different platformers at opposite ends of the minimalism/maximalism spectrum. Enjoy!


Goat Simulator devs plan new map, local multiplayer, and goat parkour

Emanuel Maiberg at

Earlier this month, Coffee Stain Studios made the case for giving their customers free DLC. Now the goat experts are doing exactly that in the first big patch for Goat Simulator. On its blog, Coffee Stain has detailed what the free DLC will include. Are you ready for goat parkour?


Meet Aztez, the Aztec-themed brawler with impeccable style

Ian Birnbaum at

Trends and fads come and go in gaming, just like they do everywhere else. First came the Zombies, then came the roguelikes, then, well… zombies again. If Aztez, an Aztec-themed brawler, is part of a new trend in historic side-scrollers with incredible art styles, then it is a trend I heartily endorse.


Infinite Space 3: Sea of Stars makes the jump to Steam Early Access

Patrick Carlson at

Indie developer Digital Eel has released the third of its roguelike space adventure Infinite Space series, Sea of Stars, to Steam Early Access. A single-player strategy game with turn-based movement but real-time combat, the move to Steam follows the developer's developer successful Kickstarter funding campaign from 2013.