The revival of an ancient text adventure, a demade Johann Sebastian Joust, a Bionic Commando-esque NES game and Commies on Venus - we're through the looking glass, people. The '80s has successfully infiltrated all of indie gaming. The '80s is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you're wearing an ironic Thundercats t-shirt. So I say: give in. Don a Zack Morris-style denim shirt, wear a giant clock around your neck, and recite this mantra: "Greed is good. Greed is good. Greed is good." Now let's have a look at some shamefully free webgames...
Zenobi have been making interactive fiction since the early 80s. Basically, if you owned a ZX Spectrum or Atari ST, then you've probably played at least one of their comedic fantasy adventures. It's been around fifteen years since their last release - in the meantime they've been releasing compilation DVDs - but they've finally returned to IF with Behind Closed Doors 5, which continues the series started in, blimey, 1988. To cut a short story...shorter, you play as Balrog, who's locked inside his house. Getting out will involve numerous tangents, some lovely descriptions, and Balrog's arse.
Johann Sebastian Joust is one of those games you've probably heard of, but never had the chance to play - mainly because it only seems to exist in convention form. It's tough to describe, but it seems to be a cross between musical chairs and stuck-in-the-mud; it uses motion controllers but no graphical display, and it's really meant to be played with four people. the goal is to rush at your opponent when the music speeds up - but if you keep moving when it returns to normal, you'll lose the game.
Pippin Barr's Ludwig Von Beatdown is a lo-fi, browser version of the above. It supports zero, one or two players, plus there's an added, Twister-like element as you both have to huddle around the one keyboard. With no live play element, something has obviously been lost in the translation, but if nothing else, it's nice to be able to finally play Johann Sebastian Joust in some form.
Unless you still own a NES, or you enjoy funding TERRORISM by playing games via emulator, you'll have to make do with the browser version of STREEMERZ, which is still a fine way to spend anyone's time. It's pretty much Bionic Commando reimagined as a puzzle game, and thanks to the authentic colour palette and soundtrack, it's almost indistinguishable from a 'proper' NES game. A word of warning though: despite boasting a name that evokes a third-rate brand of party poppers, STREEMERZ is brutally hard.
Feeling stressed at work? The horror of working in an abattoir, a morgue or - brrr - even an estate agents getting you down? Then you need, preferably, another job, but in this economic climate you may have to make do with a relaxing first-person exploration game instead. It's not quite Proteus , but The Secret Garden succeeds at serenity by giving you small stretch of quiet woodland to poke around in. You can pick stuff up - trees, boxes etc. - and move them around, with all the physicsy goodness that comes from being a Unity game. PROTIP: keep an eye out for that lovely statue.
This top-down shooter posits the very relevant question, "What if the Commies had colonised Venus?" Then follows it up by saying: "Who cares, just go and shoot them all anyway." Though this browser demo only contains parts of two levels of Venusian Vengeance - you can get the rest here, for a small fee - there's more than enough Commie-blasting to be getting on with in the meantime. Despite the premise, this is a pretty straightforward overhead shooter, but I do love that main character sprite. His weirdly featureless portrait reflects your current health, like in Doom! (Am I the only one excited by that?)