Live Free, Play Hard: The Week’s Finest Free Indie Games

By Porpentine on November 4th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

“It’s a weird, macho subculture centered around tiny birds.” Real time interactive fiction. Butterfly skull. I think all these text games try to kill you.

Asphyx by Droqen

Asphyx is a platformer where you hold your breath underwater. In real life. Asphyx uses the air in your lungs as a resource.

Feelings: the defiance of holding my breath, the consternation of missing my jump and falling through several screens of water when I’m already at my limit, the triumph of going past my limit and finding a patch of air. FANTASTIC.

Walking Story by Michael Brough

Walking Story is a text adventure, a rushed text adventure made in one evening, but not in a nervously sitting there strumming one note sort of way, more like a frenzied polka or careening jazz session, whirling up poetry and threats and adventure and funny only to culminate in a demand to your honesty.

Caves, cliffs, and the horrible things glimpsed in them by lowercase lines–typography as aperture.

TRASH GYRE by antibesnice

TRASH GYRE, best game about dehydrating to death on a humid island of trash. Each play is a 5-15 second scrap of hallucination on a stinking, shadeless mass that smells like melting plastic and rotting sea carrion. Beware the marlin…

Towa Towa by Aaron Oldenburg

“Bird racing is a sport played in Guyana and Trinidad as well as in the immigrant communities in Queens. It is actually more like bird-debating, as they sit two birds next to each other and see which one can tweet the fastest and angriest…It’s a weird, macho subculture centered around tiny birds.” I look up bird-racing, which is really interesting, and I find out some birds sell for thousands, they smuggle them in through hair curlers. Reminds me of my spider-fighting days, but that’s a story…for another time. *stares wistfully off into the distance*

Hyper-specific games make me happy–game making so ubiquitous that everyone can encase a shard of their day or a facet of their culture and share it with others. Towa Towa isn’t a minigame with a bird racing theme pasted on. This is you literally counting the chirps these birds make as you judge this contest. That’s GREAT. That’s all there is. That’s enough.

Super Original by Casper Friis Farsøe

Super Original presents a simple, satisfying proposition: you’re a dot racing around the screen trying to elude other dots as they home in on you. They grow bigger as you grow slower. Getting somewhere between 17-20 seconds is good. Anything below that, You’re Not A Real Gamer. Or whatever.

Atticus and Boy Electronic by Bloomengine

The first thing I notice is that Atticus and Boy Electronic looks immaculate. Like Bloomengine’s previous game, the Binary, this is the cleanest hypertext gets. AaBE is fully illustrated–splendid vector art landscapes, conversation as a cascade of emoting heads and bodies, like a storybook that you poke until it unfolds.

The plot is about a robot boy and his dog on a search for feelings–a cute, sometimes ominous tale involving frog students, goat guides, and the mysterious Cloud Kingdom.

The Visit by Marius Fietzek, Benedikt Hummel, Irina Gross

The Visit takes place across a short walk. There are six endings. It has cute crabs. I can say no more.

Mothhead by Massive Black

The creatures of Mothhead are headless constructs waiting for insects to land on their neckstems and control them. This is amazing. Why am I even playing games with normal heads?

There’s a cave, but it’s really a little hole in some rocks, because you’re quite small. Outside is the most beautiful backyard in the world, from a certain point of view. You can fly around in normal moth form or walk around in mothhead form. HARNESS BOTH FORMS TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS.

You meet someone with a flyhead. Non-verbal communication ensues. This is essentially a tech demo/art showcase but I’d play a whole game in this world of insect-walkers. Don’t even talk to me if your game has normal heads.

Panic! by Astrid Bin

Panic! is a real time work of interactive fiction, that alone makes it notable. What was the last intfic to play in real time? Infocom’s 1987 spy game Border Zone, at certain parts, or maybe Journey to Alpha Centurai (In Real Time) which “…holds the distinction of being the video game with the longest minimum play time to complete – slightly more than three thousand years.”

What’s the game about!? You’ve been caught in a burning building! You have six seconds to make each decision! You have six seconds to read this review! You died! You burnt up somehow! Ahhhh piss!

Katabasis by trsnell

Katabasis is a horror story set in the Russian wilderness. It begins with you and your son sitting around a campfire near the black outline of a river. Around you, the dark forest.

As you start to move, as you must, the rushing of water, the sound of insects, and the crackling underbrush creates a world of apprehension, a world where things live. Where things live, they can move, and where they can move, they can appear behind me, or so I tell myself. Katabasis is good at making me look around all the time.

There is no dialogue, no diary notes, no audiologs, no gameshit, just seeing what you see. At most there are stones daubed with crude pictograms depicting–I’m not sure I completely understand, but it’s scarier that way, glimpsing the edges of this dread narrative. Katabasis doesn’t tell you how to think, it lets you live with your own thoughts, which are the scariest thing of all.

Katabasis was draining to play. Tense, lonely, hopeless. You click around a bit at the beginning–nope, no attack button. This control restraint sets the mood.

I’m wandering through the forest, higher and higher up the mountain. The feeling of my own insignificance grows stronger as I see the immensity of my surroundings. But I keep moving, because I must move or reject the game entirely and shut it off, and it’s a good game so I don’t.

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24 Comments »

  1. StranaMente says:

    I’d like to suggest the games made by Jonas Kyratzes, (here you find them listed). They’re free except for “The sea will claim everything”, and can be played on line.
    Try them out even if the art style might be a turn off for you, because they are really well written and fantastic.

  2. Premium User Badge LTK says:

    Asphyx is an absolutely brilliant idea. I wish there were more games that have trust in their player as a central premise.

    Super Original is basically an exercise in circle-strafing.

    • Tacroy says:

      Is it even possible to get up to the “press x to ascend” part?

      • Premium User Badge LTK says:

        I don’t know what you’re talking about. After drowning near the end, I was told I was ‘worthy’, and it put me back above the water, and then walked back to the start.

    • The Random One says:

      I tend to hold my breath along with my character in all games (well, maybe not Monkey Island) so this game seems perfect for me.

    • Pirate says:

      It’s fun but if you don’t put a clip on your nose it’s cheating. This should be in the description.

    • Jackablade says:

      Sounds like an exercise in making swimming in games an even more deeply unpleasant experience.

  3. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    Katabasis isn’t really a game. It is about as interactive as the encarta 3D virtual tours. Those had some atmosphere too.

  4. Geen says:

    The Visit is fantastic.
    You can still move in the courtroom.
    That is all.

  5. Drayk says:

    Asphyx is superb… I just tried once and drowned after several minutes, falling from one of those perilous ledges… Brilliant !

  6. Premium User Badge Harlander says:

    I guess “inhalation” is a harder word to spell than I thought. The 6-second move is a cool idea, though.

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