The Best Free Games of the Week
Happy new year! Things are pretty darn quiet in the world of big budget shoot the men/drive the car fast gaming, but in the less explosiony provence of indie games, 2014 is already off to a cracking start. If you've quite recovered from the hootenannying and rampant boogie-woogying of New Year's Eve, read on for desert adventures, spaceship puzzle combat, contest-winning dungeon exploration and an art game that is literally about art. Enjoy!
Tandoor is essentially that desert bit in Secret of Evermore (or alternatively, that desert bit in Breath of Fire III) spun out into a fascinating, endless experience. Jake Clover's game also reminds me of one of the best things about Fallout: wandering across the wasteland, stumbling into weird random encounters along the way. When I say 'endless', I mean, it: the desert goes on forever, so when you tire of walking towards a horizon that never comes, you'll have to end things yourself by pressing Escape.
Things to do in the desert, before you get bored: shoot bandits and lizards (holding the right mouse button does the iron sights thing), explore toilets (you can pick stuff up, but it's never clear what any of it does, if anything), look at things on the hazy horizon and wonder what they are. There's not much more to Tandoor than that, but – as with that seemingly endless desert in one of my favourite ever SNES games – the mere act of exploring this huge and potentially mystery-filled environment is enough.
Sprite pack maestro Oryx started a contest a little while ago, in which he challenged game makers to make a title with his Ultimate Roguelike Tileset. Entries were then judged by a panel including Glenn Wichman, creator of the original Rogue and Ido Yehieli, creator of Cardinal Quest. The winners were announced the other day, and Adventuring Company has deservedly taken the top spot. (Many of the other entries are worth a look too, particularly the 2nd and 3rd place winners, which feature Final Fantasy-style turn-based battles and local co-op, respectively.)
So yes, Adventuring Company. It's a roguelike about clicking tiles to remove the fog-of-war. You'll uncover items, gold, the stairway down, or enemies spoiling for a rumble, the latter of which can be optionally dispatched to shore up your gold reserves. Gold is particularly important here: you'll need it to return to the tavern to rest up and hire new heroes, and for some reason you lose a small amount with every unmasked tile. It's a novel and well-implemented take on the traditional RL formula, and I'm glad to see that Slothwerks is continuing development.
It was a long time before I mostly deciphered (Flixel creator) Adam Saltsman's sci-fi puzzle game Cubic Space, and all it took was for me to realise there was a big 'Help' button in the corner of the menu screen. It's a game about dice, essentially; each round you're presented with four enemies or power-ups, and to survive until the next round you have to click on them in the right order. Click on the green power-ups to refuel your lasers, on the blue ones to restore your shields, and on the red enemies to engage them in battle (either by firing lasers or blocking with your shields). The numbers on each dice/cube – which are a little difficult to parse at first – are enormously important, as they determine the strengths of everyone's lasers and shields. That there's more to Cubic Space than that should indicate just how complex and original this streamlined puzzle game really is – but also how utterly baffling it seems at first. Break through that wall and I think you'll enjoy it, but I imagine a lot of people will bounce right off. (Via IndieGames)
You might remember Lucas Molina for his lovely 19th century painting sim Avant-Garde, which I recommended early last year. He's back with the similarly art-focused Painters Guild, a sim that lets you manage a guild of painters by accepting commissions, producing artworks and keeping an eye on your bank balance, as patrons line up outside your delightfully rustic shack asking you to arrange oil on canvas in a pleasing manner.
The full game will focus on art history from the 1400s to the 1600s and feature the likes of Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Sofonisba Anguissola, but this alpha version zeroes in on one Leonardo Da Vinci, who in a refreshing turn of events isn't involved in some sort of nonsensical 'code'. On the evidence of this alpha, Painters Guild is a smart, streamlined, robust and above all fun management sim, and one I'm interested to see expand over the next few months. If it sounds like your cup of tea, you can vote for it over on Steam Greenlight.