Prepare to walk, prepare to stalk, and prepare to talk in this week's free games roundup, along with some other stuff that doesn't end in 'alk'. Stuff like war, indie music, murder investigation, and a thoughtful discussion of game narratives that finds time to use the excellent word 'dickbags'. Enjoy!
Temporality by James Earl Cox III
Temporality is a game about predetermination and the horror of war. It's also a game about holding D for a really long time, while occasionally switching to A to attempt to undo the death of a brother-in-arms. Try as you might, death comes for us all in the end, and in a way you're its facilitator here. Time in the game stands still if no keys are held: it's only by moving the action forward with D that the game's nameless soldiers meet their untimely ends. Temporality got to me, as I suspect it will you. The music, the effective flashbacks, and the novel method of interaction combine to form something really quite powerful and unique.
Vile Halicarnassus by DetectiveDeathMachine
A short visual novel starring a couple of serial killer-investigating cops. One of them's a bit fussy, the other's a bit messy—wait, isn't that the premise for some mid-'90s Comedy Central sitcom? Either way, both characters are nicely sketched out here, and some strong writing and attractive, Ace Attorney-ish presentation help to elevate Vile Halicarnassus (argh!) above its peers. A follow-up story or several featuring the same set of characters would be lovely. HINT, DetectiveDeathmachine, HINT HINT.
Glory in the Afternoon by Vid
I try my best to figure a game out before I write about it here, but after clicking and poking and flipping and dragging my way around Glory in the Afternoon's puzzle box of a room, I'm no closer to unravelling its secrets. It's a Rubick's Cube of a game: there are several devices and instruments in a slatted, dimly lit room, and a train that comes and ends the game after a while. I can tell you about the atmosphere and music, both of which reminded me of slow-burning espionage dramas such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy or Rubicon; I can tell you that it's probably not going to run on your old laptop, at least at more than six frames per second; what I can't tell you is what the hell you're supposed to do in it—if you're supposed to do anything, that is. I'm hoping you can help me with that part.
Creatures Such as We by Lynnea Glasser
Lynnea Glasser is one of my favourite IF writers, so it's no surprise that Creatures Such as We—an entry in the 2014 Interactive Fiction competition—is such an extraordinary game. It's three games in one, really. The first part is a space tourism game where you have to keep a group of tourists happy and not dead while minor and not-so-minor incidents occur around you; the second takes place inside the titular, Mass Effect 3-style game you play when you're not overseeing space holidays; while the third offers a discussion of game endings and romance mechanics, as your character chats about Mass Ef...sorry, Creatures Such as We's disappointing ending with the game's developers. I smiled particularly broadly when I realised Glasser's game was going to introduce its own romance mechanic, and broader still when I saw how well done it was. A wonderfully written, funny, truthful gem of a game, and a surprisingly lengthy one too.
Keep Walking EP by YCJY
Keep Walking plays out a little like a hipster version of Paperboy, only with a coolwalking, indie-listening guy in place of an industrious child being terrorised by his neighbours and their dogs. Each level places said guy in a series of buildings, with oncoming pedestrians threatening to topple you over, spilling your precious coins, beer and ciggies all over the floor. Weirdly, he strolls from building to building without so much as a connecting door, but the act of avoiding and collecting was satisfying enough to keep me sauntering onwards, particularly with such lovely music and pixel art to appreciate along the way. There's a lo-fi, indie spirit to Keep Walking that I really appreciate—it's largely a vehicle for its licensed, lesser-known music, but I enjoyed that aspect quite a bit. Those of you with other tastes may want to swerve clear.