As Noddy Holder once screeched, "it's Chriiiiiiistmaaaaaaaas" next week, so the next time you see me rounding up the week's best free PC games it'll be either just before or just after the New Year. No bother, though: before then we'll be counting down the top 10 PC freebies of the year, and this week there's a nice collection of titles to get stuck into, including a gorgeous platformer, a point-and-click adventure set within an angry space station, and a game I enjoyed but in which I have no idea what the hell happened.
Armed With Wings: Culmination
Sun Studios . Play it on Kongregate .
Across the Armed With Wings series, creator Daniel Sun has been striving to perfect his hack-and-slash platformer formula. Culmination is, as the name would suggest, a statement of all he's learned over the past several years - and it's quite remarkable.
With smooth platforming movement and surprisingly solid combat mechanics, it's a game designed to bring the big-budget action feel to a smaller indie release. But the production values shine through. Gorgeous, desaturated landscapes are populated by intimidating silhouettes that convey a surprising amount of detail, while an initially low-key soundtrack swells and builds to an astonishing post-rock crescendo.
Playing through the game on the lower difficulty level unlock the hard setting, which presents a completely different game. Meanwhile, finishing each level unlocks it to play at your leisure, outside the story mode. It's rare to find such an accomplished all-round package as Culmination without paying a penny. Take the opportunity to experience it.
Crystal Shard. Download it from Big Blue Cup .
A traditional, low-resolution point-and-click adventure built in the ever-useful Adventure Game Studio, Quasar begins with a good old argument. You've been stuck on this bloomin' space station for goodness knows how long, and patience between its staff is wearing thin. Before long, everyone's stormed off - and it's your opening task to make things right again.
The game's aim is to explore relationships between characters, and to experiment with multiple player characters to boot. It does a decent job, with mostly well-written dialogue and some convincing traits.
Its puzzles fall into the trap of being 'easy once you know how', with even its small number of rooms requiring plenty of exploration and experimentation right from the start. But once you get into its vibe, it's a competent and surprisingly pretty little adventure game that satisfyingly achieves what it set out to do.
These Robotic Hearts of Mine
Alan Hazelden . Play it on Newgrounds .
These Robotic Hearts of Mine already won plaudits on iOS and Android, and it's not difficult to see why. In Alan Hazelden's latest puzzle game, it's your job to ensure that every heart on the screen is standing upright. To do this you must manipulate them by turning cogs, completing your aims within the fewest moves possible.
But the simple idea is improved tenfold by the mysterious story that begins to unravel between levels, and by the surprising atmosphere that the low-key soundtrack and consistent visual design work together to create. The result is a game that impresses far more than you initially assume it will.
Increpare/Hayden Scott-Baron . Play it on the Increpare website .
The utterly surreal Pirouette might have confused me more than any other game I've played in the last few months, but it also managed to grab me and keep me captivated throughout its short running time - and the ending, bizarre and incomprehensible as it is, hints at some fabulously deranged ideas.
It would be silly to spoil too much, so let's leave it at this: You walk from left to right, as baroque strings play a delightful tune, speaking to your many wives during the last moments before they die. The writing is striking in its unrelenting strangeness, too: a weird mix of overly formal and surprisingly chatty works wonders for a game this odd.
PCGamer.com's Best Free PC Games Features are brought to you in association with Virgin Media 50 Mb Broadband. Get ultrafast broadband now at virginmedia.com/gaming or call 0800 052 0273