69. Sigils of Elohim
Developer: Croteam | Link: www.bit.ly/SigilsElohim
Phil: Sigils of Elohim feels like it should form the basis of a public service announcement about the misuse of Tetris blocks. It's all wrong: rather than a frantic parable about Sisyphean wall construction, it's a slow-paced and methodical puzzle game about oddly shaped blocks that never disappear.
Created as a mini-game prelude to The Talos Principle, your job is to place the Tetris blocks so that they fit together in a rectangle. It offers a satisfying if overlong challenge – the almost 100 levels being more than anyone could need.
Developer: Nimbly Games | Link: www.bit.ly/AltitudePC
Phil: Altitude is a multiplayer arcade dogfighter, in which two teams battle it out across 2D skies. It originally came out in 2009, but has now been re-released for free.
The control scheme makes flying a simple affair. The plane follows mouse movement, and is unconcerned by such things as accurate modelling of gravity or acceleration. You can stall your plane, but only if you fly into an object.
It's quick, enjoyable and offers plenty of variety. There are multiple modes to try, and an unlock system that rewards ace piloting.
67. All The Way Down
Developer: Sanctuary Interactive | Link: www.bit.ly/LocalGame
Phil: Small English villages can be the perfect setting for creepy and unsettling horror stories. That's because small English villages are inherently creepy and unsettling. As someone who once walked into an unfamiliar country pub, only to have unwelcoming locals silently turn and stare, I understand the plight of All The Way Down's protagonist. Okay, not entirely – the only ancient evil I had to avoid was a suspicious jar of pickled eggs.
Caught in a blizzard, this unnamed outsider stumbles across an insular community. The locals aren't friendly, but his need for shelter overrides his need to stay away from rambling weirdos. This, as it turns out, is a mistake.
All The Way Down is a point and click adventure, and that means escaping its particular peril requires some light inventory puzzling. It's simple stuff, with solutions never spanning more than the room you're currently in. Some steps require pixel hunting to find the particular item you need to manipulate, but mostly the puzzles take a back seat to the story.
It's a decent tale, although the short length means it ends abruptly. Nevertheless, there are some interesting ideas at work. All The Way Down's horror, while mythical in nature, is kept rooted by locations that feel natural and mundane.
66. Floating Point
Developer: Suspicious Developments | Link: www.bit.ly/FloatingPC
Phil: Originally designed for the Ludum Dare gamejam, Floating Point [disclaimer: developer Tom Francis used to be PC Gamer's section editor] outgrew the weekend-long deadline and became a bigger project. It's now available for free, and can be downloaded directly from Steam.
It's based around a grappling hook system, similar to that used in the Worms games. Once attached to one of the procedurally generated floating platforms, you can swing to gain momentum and release to soar across the level. The smoother your arc, the more the red bars on each platform elongate. It's these you must collect to progress to the next map.
It can be tricky to control at first – getting a smooth parabola takes some practice, and even once you're gracefully swinging between points, it can fall apart as you queue up the next motion. It's especially difficult in each level's underwater section, where physics is dramatically altered. Luckily, the penalty for failure is minimal, meaning you've plenty of room to experiment. Get it right and you're rewarded with an intensifying tail and a much bigger score.
65. Black Lodge 2600
Developer: Jak Locke | Link: www.bit.ly/BlackLodge2600
Phil: Twin Peaks is coming back for a new series, and what better way to celebrate than by playing a game based on the ending to the second (and, at the time, final) series? You know, apart from rewatching the show, or listening to its theme tune on repeat for hours.
Black Lodge 2600 is notable not just for being based on David Lynch's eerie soap opera, but also for mimicking the style of the Atari 2600. It's incredibly basic – abandoning the show's building narrative in favour of a score attack game about working your way through endless red-curtained rooms. Sometimes there's an owl shooting minigame.
Your objective is always the top-right corner, which leads to the next room and increases your point total. A few rooms in, Agent Cooper's doppelganger begins to chase, and, if he catches you, it'll reduce one of your three lives. Not only does he go faster as you go, but the residents of the lodge will also impede your progress. Laura Palmer is a particular hindrance – her screams disorienting Cooper and reversing the game's controls.
According to the game's faithfully created manual, "something special" will happen if you can get to 5,000 points. I don't know what it is. I haven't come close.
Developer: Milkbag Games | Link: www.bit.ly/Photo7DFPS
Phil: Photobomb is an investigative "shooter" about crime and social media. Set after an explosion in a town square, your job is to find the perpetrator by searching a timeline of photos and matching them to the scene.
Every photo contains one of the suspects, each depicted by a different colour. Find the exact location of the shot, and you can take a picture – painting the suspects so that they can be identified as they move around the map. It's up to you to find the one that planted the bomb on the designated bench.
You can scrub back and forwards through both the social feed and the square itself. Despite this, there's a hard time limit of two minutes, after which you're forced to choose and kill one of the suspects.
The time constraint makes it extremely difficult to accurately identify the perpetrator. That's deliberate, as is the fact that the feed may not contain the information you need. While the main objective is compelling, Photobomb also serves as a critique on the dangers of trial by social media. There's no punishment for killing the wrong suspect. In fact, you're thanked even if you erroneously end an innocent's life.
63. Super Wolfenstein HD
Developer: Free Lives | Link: www.bit.ly/WolfensteinHD
Phil: I am out of throwing knives. This is bad, because flinging throwing knives at stuff (read: people) is fun. What I do have is a shovel, and a dead Nazi who, for reasons related to my predicament, is wearing an abundance of knives. By hitting the aforementioned Nazi with the aforementioned shovel, I can dislodge the knives and subsequently pick them back up. This is why Super Wolfenstein HD is a good game.
SWHD is a reimagining of Wolfenstein 3D with added physics. It was created for the Indies vs PewDiePie game jam, a 72 hour challenge to make something dumb and fun. In this, it succeeded.
Thanks to the added physics, the rubber-faced Nazis wobble about the map, flailing their arms around as they shoot. Despite this, they're remarkably deadly and your initial ammo is limited – at least until you get the shovel. You do, however, have access to a neat trick or two. Every wall is destructible, letting you open passages from which to ambush unsuspecting enemies.
Super Wolfenstein HD is short and highly entertaining. There's not much depth to it, but it's always amusing to watch your enemies ragdoll around.
62. Death Ray Manta
Developer: Rob Fearon | Link: www.bagfullofwrong.co.uk/bagfullofwords/
Tom: Rob Fearon makes shooty, arcadey, Mintery games called things like War Twat and Squid Harder, and he's just made his entire oeuvre available for free (minus the game he's currently working on, natch). This is not a time-limited offer: he's decided that he's made quite enough money off these games thankyouverymuch, and he'd like to give something back to the gaming world.
His newly free games include Death Ray Manta, which can be topically abbreviated to DRM. (There's no DRM. That's the joke.) DRM, like his other games, is a game about shooting colourful space things with colourful space lasers, as explosions and lights and funny text and arrghhh what's going on happen all around you and now I'm dead. The scoring system is beautifully simple: one point for beating a stage, another point for grabbing the 'space tiffin' along the way.
61. International Jetpack Conference
Developers: Rob Dubbin and Allison Parrish | Link: http://jetpackconference.biz/
Phil: This month's winner of the Best Name Award is International Jetpack Conference. It's an adventure game made in ZZT, the DOS operated ANSI-based game creation tool. If that wasn't strange enough, it stars a freelance journalism, and explores themes of self-discovery and rampant militarisation.
You play as Taylor, a freelance journalist tasked with covering the International Jetpack Conference. Once inside, you can explore the small conference floor; looking at exhibits and talking to their owners. Lee, for instance, is a pun-loving creator of jetpack capacitors.
Also on the floor is the "designated protest area," and its sole protester. Its here that you pick up the mission that sparks the rest of the game: bringing down the conference. What follows next is best experienced unspoiled – it's strange, surreal and often very funny.
To an extent, the conversation-driven nature of the game fits awkwardly in its engine. To talk to characters you need to repeatedly walk into them, and more advanced actions are even further abstracted. Really, though, it adds to the charm of the piece. International Jetpack Conference cleverly plays with its roguelike aesthetic to a calculated and disarming extent.
Developers: Kevin Zuhn, Kevin Geisler, Chris Stallman, Devon Scott-Tunkin | Link: www.bit.ly/Antbassador
Phil: Antbassador was the winner of the Ludum Dare 30 "jam" – a separate three-day event with more relaxed rules than the official competition. It still used the theme "connected worlds," which here has been taken to mean a diplomatic visit between two very different nations.
One is a nation of ants; the other a nation of giant fingers. Both were, until recently, at war. You play as an ambassadorial finger sent to formalise the peace treaty, and that means being on your best behaviour. Unfortunately, as a giant, lumbering digit, you need to be extremely careful not squish any of the small, vulnerable ants. You'll need to perform some delicate actions using a mouse-driven control scheme that is entirely unsuited to the task.
It's funny. The action leans towards QWOP-style slapstick comedy, and the brief story is filled with silly detail. The ants have a hat-based society – their headwear defining their position in life. In order to gain the trust of your wary new friends, you'll have to retrieve or remove these hats as ordered.