The Best Free Games of the Week

Tom Sykes

Some guy once said that the only certainties in life are death, taxes, the endless geyser of internet anger, and good games that happen to be free. I can't do much about the first three (sorry), but I've cherry-picked the best of the last one and stuffed them into this here weekly column for your edification. Read on for a charming fishing game, a maddening rotational platformer, the world's first beard-based puzzle game (I assume), and a safari adventure starring arguably the greatest predator of all: man a marble. Enjoy!

Maddening Relapse by Andrew McCluskey

Download it here

Andrew McCluskey has been making madnessMADNESSmadness games since 2009; his latest adds new procedural generation tricks, visual themes and a distracting zoom feature, which I haven't quite managed to get the hang of. As before, your sharply suited Don Draper-esque hero has to evade arrays of deadly spikes – not to mention the yawning abyss beneath his feat – on a starkly black, endlessly revolving planetoid. Death is greeted by a poetic demise message, and the chance to instantly try again in order to hear more of the game's catchy soundtrack. As mentioned before, the new zoom mechanic – which sees the level shrink whenever you leap into the air – makes judging jumps a particularly troublesome affair, but I dare say the dedicated will be able to master Maddening Relapse before long.

Here's a little taste of it in action:

Fishy Waters by Fabian Van Dommelen, Joris Van Leeuwen, Ivo Van Dijk

Play it online here

Not every game has to contain spikes and grisly death, and I may have found the polar opposite of Maddening Relapse in Fishy Waters, a delightful adventure that has you plundering a lake of its piscine inhabitants in order to honour the memory of your departed father. (He was gobbled up by a whale in the opening cutscene.) You'll roam the waters on a small fishing boat, collecting and selling fish in order to upgrade your equipment or to access new parts of the lake. It's not quite a game you'll give yourself over to, but Fishy Waters should make for a calming comedown after you've skewered yourself on a spike pit or fallen down a hole for the umpteenth time.

Where is my Beard by Keenblaze

Play it online here

I generally keep my beard just under, and on, my chin, which makes it easy to find when a puzzle game asks me to locate it for reasons that are best left unscrutinised. In Where is My Beard you have to make a bunch of unbearded shapes more hirsute, by engineering it so that they touch bearded ones – face fungus being contagious, as you know. You do this by dropping them into the scene and pressing the play button; if you've aligned said shapes correctly, they'll bash into each other with PHYSICS and set off a wonderfully beardy chain reaction. Not one for pogonophobes, obviously, but for everyone else this is a lavishly illustrated slice of hairy silliness.

Architects EP by Various Artists

Download / play online here

This third Braingale EP collects short games, short short games, and the odd visual/aural scrap, from the likes of Todd Luke (Winnose), Sean Hogan (Anodyne) and Alec Stamos (Tales of the Renegade Sector). It's a wonderful jumble bag of stuff. You can download the whole lot in one go, or grab each game individually, but I've plucked three out I'd particularly recommend.

Marble Safari (pictured above) is a surprisingly expansive desert exploration title, set in an alien ecosystem of burrowing worms and beetles, with the twist that you control (for the most part) a giant marble. Yep. Sean Hogan's Superstructure is a lightly Broughian game of rule-breaking and illicit exploration, while Andrew Marrero's [Up] (it's actually the upward arrow symbol, but I can't find that on my keyboard) asks you to craft your own platforms as you ascend a randomly generated tower. I doubt any of the links on the Architects EP site will steer you wrong though, so mosey on over and poke around to see what other jewels you can uncover. (Via IndieGames )

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