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Free games of the week

Maiden & Spell (demo) by Nicholas Watson

Here's a demo of a clever bullet hell-style shoot-'em-up that swaps scrolling stages for more intimate, one-on-one duels. It's a combination that works rather well, as you dart around the screen, stopping to pop off a few shots before re-positioning to fire off several more. There's bags of Persona-esque style to this game, and I particularly like that you can see your collision mask by entering the time-slowing Focus mode—I'm never sure how safe I am during bullet hell games, and it's nice to finally know.

Daydreams in Red by David Cribb

Daydreams in Red takes you on a journey. A softly sad journey from your bed to the subway train, to work, to a lonely dinner and back to bed. For the most part, it's a largely non-interactive story that only allows you to move the camera, as your character is shunted from scene to scene in time to an indie rock backing track. That limitation neatly communicates the hopelessness that the main character seems to be feeling, before the game suddenly, darkly opens up.

Temple of the Wumpus by whatnot

I never did manage to find the titular wumpus in this smart and inventive platform game, which ditches the traditional combat and trap-dodging in favour of a cerebral spook-hunt in a confusingly connected complex. You're trying to find the wumpus: a strange, deific figure invisibly located somewhere inside. You have five goes, at the start, to guess at the wumpus' location, by praying, lighting a candle, and hoping the wumpus will be there to greet you.

Hints are plastered around the place in the form of copious notes and messages. As you piece together the mystery you'll begin to scrutinise the environment in a somewhat paranoid manner—does this statue hint that the wumpus is nearby? As I said, I never managed to find it, but will you?

Cyberpet Graveyard by Nathalie Lawhead

Nathalie Lawhead builds upon her past *dons monocle and top hat* oeuvre *removes monocle and top hat* with the fantastic Cyberpet Graveyard, it being a fragmented collection of little executable files and accompanying supplementary materials. Most games would define themselves as one main EXE where everything supposedly important takes place (especially now that manuals have largely gone the way of the dodo), but Lawhead posits that everything is the game—and it's never been so thrilling poking around in a tangled pile of game folders.

There are many other bits and bobs included in this zip file, from word documents to images, but the meat of the cyberpet graveyard lies in a bunch of executable files, each creating an enjoyably annoying pop-up window on your desktop. Each of these windows is a supposedly cursed cyberpet, and part of you will believe it as the pop-ups jump around the screen, spewing out new game windows, or just plain flying out of sight, so fast it can sometimes be difficult to close the windows down. Lawhead's games invite you to look at the form (and supposed boundaries) of video games in an entirely new way, but even putting that aside for a moment, Cyberpet Graveyard is also really funny.

Cashbags by Sand Gardeners

I don't say 'wowza' very often, but here's a game that calls for it, so here goes. OK. Ahem. Wowza. Cashbags has followed the evolutionary line from Papers, Please, but rather than being set in a grim, dystopic state, it's in a wonderfully strange and funny hotel that's a little bit Gregory Horror Show, a little bit Rusty Lake. You're running the hotel's reception desk, meaning you have to greet the guests, take their money, and give them their keys, while dealing with frequent interruptions in the form of phone calls, emails, and nuisance guests. (Via Warp Door.)