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Battle a dastardly animator in free, painterly shoot-'em-up Zoe

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The animator is your enemy in painterly shoot-'em-up Zoe, as the brush-wielding maniac is intent on creating enemies and bullets to destroy you (you being a gun-toting triangle-thing). As a floating paintbrush peppers the screen with splodgy bullets, you have to run and jump and fly around the screen, taking out as many as you can, to score as many points as possible before the persistent painter finally does you in.

This is an endless, platformy shmup, but with a lovely colour palette, fluid animation, and a pretty confusing system for restoring your own health and energy. While you're avoiding bullets, and shooting them down with your own projectiles, you have to remember to ground-pound coloured dots on the floor, releasing power-ups that will replenish your ability to fly, as well as your health. There's a lot going on in Zoe, and you're dumped right in it, so it will likely take a few goes before you get the hang of it.

But, wow, would you look at it: this arcade-style shoot-'em-up that looks and feels and even sounds the part, thanks to the jazzy, old-timey soundtrack accompanying the action. Zoe could do a little more to ease players onboard, but as it's still in development, improvements are likely on the way. You can download the current version of Zoe here.

For more great free experiences, check out our roundup of the best free PC games.

Tom loves exploring in games, whether it’s going the wrong way in a platformer or burgling an apartment in Deus Ex. His favourite game worlds—Stalker, Dark Souls, Thief—have an atmosphere you could wallop with a blackjack. He enjoys horror, adventure, puzzle games and RPGs, and played the Japanese version of Final Fantasy VIII with a translated script he printed off from the internet. Tom has been writing about free games for PC Gamer since 2012. If he were packing for a desert island, he’d take his giant Columbo boxset and a laptop stuffed with PuzzleScript games.