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Free games of the week

Concluse by Studio Snowspot, T Allen Studios

Concluse is a word which here means, 'my dictionary's all the way over there', so let's pretend it instead translates to 'a damned fine, PS1-style horror adventure'. On the surface, Concluse looks like any one of those cheap first-person horrors clogging up Itch.io and Game Jolt, but it differentiates itself through the use of (pretty impressive) CGI cutscenes, not to mention its surprisingly hefty length.

You forget how much proper cutscenes add to a game, now that they've largely fallen out of fashion in favour of in-engine cinematics that would never dare to take you out of 'the action'. Turns out I like being taken out of 'the action' by a grainy video file that swoops around boxy environments, revealing horrid, demonic horrors that don't quite penetrate the game itself. In place of fighting or hiding, prepare for puzzle-solving, as you fiddle with Silent Hill-style mechanisms, and collect key after key after key.

Don't mistake that for snark: while you'd never mistake this for a Konami adventure, Concluse comes admirably close to the technology, the spirit of mid-1990s survival horror. There's just one big flaw in the form of the game's collectible notes, which are almost unintelligible, but not quite.

A Wish Upon A Star by Fabian Denter

If you used that star-wish to ask for a delightfully tactile, refreshingly difficult puzzle game, then hey, your dream has just come true (and, in a way, I admire your boldness in not wishing for the old 'world peace'). Fabian Denter's cute puzzler, about a girl who can shift platforms up and down, and who has to reach a series of exit portals as the player constantly rotates the screen, unfortunately comes with one major caveat in the form of a difficulty curve resembling Game of Thrones' The Wall. I got stuck in level 2 (where a key platform is deviously hidden from view), and stuck again on level 4, where my brain pressed the ejector button and flew out of my skull, accompanied by a tiny parachute. Not that it was adding much, but be warned: this one's for smarty-pants only.

sandcastles by eevee

Like a lot of Bitsy games, eevee's sandcastles is short and sweet, and, no, I've never managed to decide one way or the other whether I should impose Uppercase Letters on game titles and developers Or Not. eevee's sandcastles (I even had to correct the word processor that time) is short and sweet, like I just said, telling a day in the life of a sandcastle, from its origins as a tiny fortress through its evolution as a sandy citadel, to its ultimate fate (spoiler) as a big wet pile of soggy sand. It's a thoughtful, and just the right amount of sad, browser game with a nice soundtrack and a gorgeous colour palette. (Via Warp Door.)

Pico Tennis by paranoidcactus

I have two little Pico-8 games to round off this week's selection, the first being a rather astonishing, lightweight tennis game. Pico Tennis gives you a proper game of football, sorry, cricket to play, while adding a neat mechanic in the form of a power bar that fills up as you volley back and forth. With a full bar, you can press Pico-8's other action button (X) to do a nifty power lob, sending the ball flying at a positively Sharapovian rate of fire. But whether you win or lose the set, look out for the hugely swish 3D effect that plays as you swap from one side of the court to another.

Little Dragon Adventure by Mush

I'm not sure how many metroidvanias I've flung in your general direction over the years, but the ace Little Dragon Adventure is up there with the best. There are no real gimmicks here: this is just a well-designed, well-laid-out exploratory platformer that makes the most of Pico-8's many limitations. The map feats neatly into the lower half of the screen, while your suite of abilities does a lot with just two buttons.