There's some fairly substantial free gaming goodness to discuss this week. Most notable is Dead Cyborg, a fully-fledged 3D adventure game with an oppressive atmosphere to rival the darkest professional releases. Elsewhere, you can manage a sweatshop, shout the word 'balls' at an MP with the name 'Balls', and change the adventure genre from the inside out. Read on for this week's freebie picks.
Dead Cyborg - Episode 1
Endre Barath . Grab it from the game's website .
This is an absolutely superb adventure game offered on a donations model. It's free to download and play, but there's a 'donate' button on the menu screen. I downloaded it for the purposes of this column, and now I'm pretty sure I'm going to donate a reasonable sum, because oh !
It's a first-person, 3D adventure. Think Penumbra when it didn't try to be about combat. You awake in a cryogenic tube, apparently with no memory, and it seems something has gone very wrong wherever you are. Everything's broken and delapidated. Radiation spills everywhere. Robots wander around, guarding corridors. The old amnesia trick might be overdone, but the sense of exploring a scary new world is phenomenal.
This is a game that knows how to ramp up the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the puzzles don't always match - many are about scanning the scene for objects you may have missed, and the ones that aren't have a tendency to slip into obscurity now and then. Still, there's a walkthrough available should you need it. And I'd thoroughly recommend that you have a go at this. The first episode will last you a couple of hours, most likely, and there are two more instalments to come.
LittleLoud . Play it on the official website .
Once again working on behalf of the UK's Channel 4, LittleLoud have created Sweatshop, a game designed to teach about the ills of dodgy factories around the world. It's slightly more up-front about its educational nature than their last game, The Curfew, was - but it still understands that the best way to teach is to make sure the lesson is fun.
You're an aspiring sweatshop manager and it's your job to hire, fire and hopefully not injure or kill your increasingly dishevelled workforce. There are many different facets to consider when embarking on production. Kids are cheap labour but slow and inexperienced workers. Other workers have areas of specialism - such as putting together hats or shirts or shoes. You've to hire the right people, in the right quantities, to construct your products by the time the raw materials reach the end of the conveyor belt.
It's an exceptionally funny game at times, but there's some dark humour involved, and it only gets darker the further you push into the game - and realise that, ultimately, you've lapsed into the habit of ruthlessly overworking your employees, and you barely even noticed it happening.
Adventure: All in the Game
Akril . Download it from BigBlueCup .
Oh, this is smart. And just a little bit knowing. It's the follow-up to a 2008 game I'd never heard of, but totally intend to go back and play now. Baically: an adventure game about adventure games - their past, their present, their problems, and how to fix them.
Games commentary in game form might sound just a little bit worrying, but developer Akril has made it work better than you might expect. That's thanks in large to a hilarious script that references (either explicitly or implicitly, depending on your adventure game knowledge settings. Yes, I know) a whole host of titles from adventure history.
More than that, the story sees you entering a range of famous adventure titles from years gone by, and the art style and puzzles change up to reflect the title in question. And while the parody is laid on thick, it's never spiteful. This is, at its heart, a love letter to the adventure genre - an examination of why players fell in love with it, warts and all.
Prime Minister's Questions
Pixel Politics . Grab it from the dev's website .
This is a game in which you play as Prime Minister David Cameron.
You can't make him fall off a cliff or anything, should you be that way inclined. This isn't that sort of game. You can, however, make him shout "Balls balls balls!" at Ed Balls MP, which makes this game immediately worth playing.
It's basically Insult Swordfighting from Monkey Island. You're asked a hard-hitting question and it's your job to respond to it. You can do so by picking the appropriate reply from a list, or by going for a special attack, attempting to throw your opponent off-course - but you've to be wary with these, as they've not got an amazing success rate, even though they're mightily effective when they do work.
This is a silly game, and not especially substantial, but it raises a smile. Try it out.