Spare a thought for your poor browser tabs, the oft-neglected part of the Internet experience. Do you think your email account wants to rub shoulders with that GIF of a surprised cat, or your ongoing Facebook chat with one of your enemies from school? Best keep them separated with a good old-fashioned webgame, preferably of the 'free' variety. As it happens we've harvested the cream of this week's browser-based crop, and presented them below for your consideration. Read on for fear, gravity, puzzles and swoooords, probably actually in that order.
esPoir by Leo-Games
Platformers are hard enough these days without adding the element of fear. Moody lo-fi pit-dodger EsPoir features a hideous monster-blob that's literally all mouth, apart from one eye that resides unsettlingly behind its teeth. To open each level exit, you need to find the appropriate key, while leaping over spike pits, fighting the occasionally sticky controls and, oh yes, keeping one step ahead of the mouth-thing that stalks you at all times.
It's a short game, but with one great idea that we hope bigger entries in the 'murderously hard platformer' genre will steal down the line. Imagine watching a live stream of I Wanna Be The Guy and seeing Slender Man turn up two rooms in. The frustration. The fear. The Internet would probably implode.
...As I Drift Away by Edd Harwood
Look past the flowery writing and presentation and there are some lovely ideas at play here. ...As I Drift Away is a puzzle game with a neat gravitational gimmick, similar to rotate-o-platformer And Yet It Moves. As a speck of brain matter stuck in your own head (we think), your day typically involves living inside a geometrically weird structure that resembles a Rubik's Cube, and trying your hardest to get out. You do this by aligning yourself to the ceiling or walls, by moving blocks about a bit, and by generally recreating the stunning hotel sequence from Inception, only with significantly less Gordon-Levitt.
Creator Edd Harwood developed the game for the 10th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, which featured the theme 'escape.' Edd's contribution, in his own words, is a “lesson in escaping... mass, mind, memory and me.” And giant Rubik's cubes, presumably.
Xenotrap by Doomwizard Games
If you prefer your first-person puzzlers with a little more blood, the surprising Xenotrap should suffice. The guts of Doom have been twisted into a devious puzzle game that uses enemies as mere expendable pawns. To finish each stage, you must eliminate all aliens – but in practice this proves slightly more difficult than putting the red keycard in the right slot. There are switches, bombs, tricky timed elements, and a strange Mood feature that I couldn't quite figure out. Perhaps it's related to the wonderfully obtuse control scheme (N fires your gun, obviously), which could well drive some into fits of rage.
SWOOOORDS! Colon Lords of the Sword by nihilocrat
I'm not sure what the extra Os are for, but I agree with that exclamation point. SWOOOORDS! is what happens when you take the timing-reliant crowd combat of Assassin's Creed or Batman: Arkham City and shove it into an isometric action game. To survive each randomly generated, deadly-spiky floor, your little sword-wielding dude has to roll over traps, and defeat wave after wave of primitively polygonal knights.
The latter is achieved by blocking at the right moment, following up with a flurry of stabs and slices. As sword-dude descends, he's presented with a number of different swoooords, and a greater variety of enemy types begin to rear their ugly, ugly heads. If you play the downloadable version you can also do all that in co-op, but this browser version is sadly limited to single-player. Either way, it probably wouldn't survive too scrutinous a cross-examination, but we appreciate a game that's short and to the point.
Want more? Have a loot at last week's free webgame round-up.