I was tempted to include Lara Croft and the Spear of Infinite Spearing (opens in new tab) in this week's roundup, which as you may be aware has just been transmuted into a browser game (opens in new tab) . But then I remembered the 'free' part of this column, and having to swallow Spotify-style adverts hardly seems in the spirit of things. So here, instead, are five games with much smaller production values but much bigger hearts - except GRINDSTAR, which is delightfully full of hate. Enjoy!
GRINDSTAR by failnaut(opens in new tab)
You'll probably give up on GRINDSTAR at the same point I did: when you're asked to click the 'Grind' button an extra 750 times in order to defeat the latest boss. I'll back up. GRINDSTAR was created for the Fuck This Jam (opens in new tab) jam, which asks developers to create a game in a genre they despise. failnaut seems to hate grindy RPGs, so it's only natural that he's made one that's pure grind. There's not much of a game here, but thanks to the great music and art I found myself clicking away regardless. THAT'S HOW THEY GET YOU.
Mutant Alien Assault by Chris Suffern
Remember how much you like dubstep? How you squeal with joy every time a game trailer comes on that's positively rolling in the wub wub? No, there's no point trying to run away - I've locked the doors to the internet. You're going to play this Super Crate Box-inspired survival arcade game, and you're going to enjoy it - mainly because it's pretty good. Several levels of frantic fun (sorta modelled after famous sci-fi shows) await, including one topically based on Red Dwarf. You'll know it when you see it. It's called 'Red Dwarf'.
Dream of Pixels by Dawn of Play(opens in new tab)
This reverse Tetris seems deceptively simple - you click to subtract blocks from a falling mass of interconnected shapes - but as the blocks pile up, er, down , you come to know your true enemy: stray squares that don't conform to any pattern. As in un-reverse Tetris, when the blocks pile... down to the... bottom of the screen, you lose. I mean, you win. No - I was right the first time. This is just the prototype version of Dream of Pixels - you can find the full one on an iDevice - but there's enough here to sink your L-shaped teeth into of an afternoon.
Soulcaster by MagicalTimeBean(opens in new tab)
Soulcaster! Soulcaster is inspired, mixing two genres I wouldn't have thought to chuck into the same cauldron, and emerging with a delicious, viscous substance that tastes better than anything else in this list. It's tower defence meets roguelike, basically, adding summonable, stationary allies to the normally solitary business of dungeon-crawling. I've only had time to sample Soulcaster, but it's immediately clear what you're supposed to do, and how the genres combine - and they come together more readily than you might think. It's almost fate. If you don't want to play it in your browser (incidentally, Chrome is your best bet - the sound's a bit weird in Firefox), you can buy the game and its sequel (opens in new tab) for a pittance. If you like either genre, this is highly recommended in any form.
Mushbits by Z3lf(opens in new tab)
This cute puzzle game asks you to "unite the bunnies with their like-coloured mushrooms", but it's actually quite a bit smarter than that. The two bunnies, pink and blue, can only cross squares of the same colour, but when they do so they transform them to the opposite colour. To succeed, you have to work together, with yourself - or another player, if you feel like passing the mouse around. This is bright, boisterous, slick puzzle fun.