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

By Porpentine on February 24th, 2013 at 12:33 pm.

THIS WEEK: Now logging into GiantTranshumanBabyNet. Two enemies, one spacebar. Cyborg bounty hunter. RAW ANIME TERROR.

Shotguns in the Dark by Droqen

A brilliant piece of two player one keyboard action from Droqen, a maze shooter where each player can:

1) press the fire button so you shoot in all directions, instantly killing your opponent if you hit them BUT you take a second to recharge, during which you’re helpless, so missing is the perfect opportunity for the other player to step in and calmly destroy you.

2) hold down Spacebar to make both players invisible (two enemies sharing the same key!) BUT the plus signs scattered around the level still get blacked out when you pass over them, like a silhouette passing against the light, adding a thrilling aspect of prediction.

Shotguns in the Dark has risk

mind games

sudden reversals

in other words it’s fun to play with HUMAN BEINGS and it thinks about WHY games are fun to play with human beings.

 

Sluggish Morss by Jake Clover and Jack King-Spooner

Sluggish Morss is a set of collaborations between two of the coolest new weirdgame talents (loved Jake’s post-apocalyptic ghost story Nuign Specter and Jack’s Dantean claymation odyssey Will You Ever Return).

Recurring figures pass through both games, unsettling elephantine spirits and grotesque mega babies, but beyond their shared universe, beyond their collagescape approach, each has a distinct mood.

Jake’s game feels like a journey through space and death, a cyclic voyage in a reggae time-ship full of shining star-creatures and drugged-out crewmembers. You wander the corridors guided by coins–this is the psychedelic hell of our coin zeitgeist–you want coins, you shall have them, until you are driven insane. Coins and gems have always been the purest signifier of what we want, distilled, glittering need, and despite their dissonance in this setting, they still exert the same pull.

 

Sluggish Morss: A Delicate Time in History by Jack King-Spooner and Jake Clover

Jack’s, on the other hand, is full of portent, transcendence, the sense of being on the cusp of an inarticulable change. You’re traveling through space-time on the Sluggish Morss as a member of far-future sublimated humanity.

Remnants of the past remain–a passed-down version of Beyonce’s Halo performed by a robot mannequin, medical facilities constructed purely as a facetious gesture. Everyone is blurred, identity in flux, ascended to a stage where appearing as human seems purely optional. A Delicate History in Time evokes atemporal emotions, the loosened time sense of dreams.

One character’s utterance of the Don DeLillo line “We want to be stones in a field.” sparked thoughts about how humans crave protection and structure to the point of becoming inhuman, trading squishy underbellies for mindless invincibility, a fitting phrase for a posthuman setting.

The Id tunnels stayed with me as well, ghostly children ambling animal in the warm light.

So basically Sluggish Morss dragged all these esoteric feelings out of my subconscious that I’d forgotten about or didn’t even know I had. These are beautiful games.

From an interview with Jack:

I kind of started making games so as to have a nice place for my songs and pictures then it went a bit off the tracks.

 

Actual Sunlight by Will O’Neill

The only thing remotely approaching a puzzle in Actual Sunslight is trying to find a place to sit on the bus that isn’t too close to another human being.

That’s Actual Sunlight.

The protagonist is locked inside a directionless, apolitical, frustrated rage that can only see the symptoms of problems, not their causes. His relationships with women are dysfunctional to non-existent, but he can’t understand why. He repeats cycles of eating and gaming that leave him with crippling self-loathing.

He’s always fantasizing about the perfect time to turn it all around–an agonizing form of psychic torture.

Actual Sunlight is about the possibility that things can’t change, about reaching fatal inertia. This is an important feeling to acknowledge.

As for the sunlight of the title, it’s a moving description of a society where working hours are so long that many don’t even see their homes by the light of the day.

And the brutal irony is, as the game discusses, that much of the work is meaningless, made-up, with no connection to how people live, to what people actually need. For the egos and paychecks of bosses, for customers who can’t tell the difference between nutrition and shit. Artificial busywork on a mass scale, a collaborative nightmare where everyone is too greedy or scared to stop.

See also John Walker’s previous writing about Actual Sunlight on RPS.

 

Mad Father by Miscreants Room

A girl lives alone with her father in a creepy mansion. He does experiments in the basement, the kind where you hear screams. But he’s all she’s got and they love each other. Then he disappears.

YOU WON’T BE SEEING HIM AGAIN UNLESS YOU GET SOME GEMS AND SOLVE SOME PUZZLES

Mad Father is the kind of Japanese horror RPG where you guide an adorable little girl through a mansion full of terrifying creatures. It strikes a good balance between scary and fun, sort of an accessible Clock Tower feel?

Tip: You can stand next to things and go into your inventory to do things to them. There’s hints and a walkthrough on the author’s page if you get stuck.

 

The King of the Wood by allen

The King of the Wood is a Bladerunneresque short that serves as a superb example of efficient storytelling, recommended for FPS fans who prefer 30 Flights of Loving to turgid manshoots.

Your job is to break into a mansion and kill a cyborg. After all, they’re just playing at being human. Why let yourself be affected by their simulated emotions?

Rush too fast and you’ll miss details like, what’s on the laptop screens, or that the books scattered throughout are invented scraps from various genres, all written by the same author, Lee Williams.

 

ViViD by The Layabouts

“OH MY GOD THIS GAME arghhhhhh”

“It starts out normal, then the game learns hatred”

“You repeat the same level over and over and it gets more fucked up with spikes and shit”

“Like I’m upside-down right now and my controls are reversed”

“I’m on level 5 and everything hurts”

“I THOUGHT MASOCORE DIED IN THAT FIRE TEN YEARS AGO”

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23 Comments »

  1. Dariush says:

    Finally this is free of shitty select-a-word-text-’games’. ((Geddit? Free? Oh god, I’m so bad at this.))

  2. Ksempac says:

    My head hurts…
    I’m dizzy…
    Everything is spinning
    What hpanedped ???
    I remember taking my Vivid pills on Monday and then…I went…somewhere..and…
    w-h-a-t ? it’s Sunday already ?
    omg…siiiiiick

  3. SimulatedMan says:

    Is it weird that I started trying to read the binary text in the 3rd screenshot; without resorting to an ascii-table?

  4. identifierad says:

    ViViD hurts my eyes, I might need some pills soon. God damn.

    Finished the game in a little more than half an hour, but man, it was all about “I’m not gonna let this “#¤/(& game beat me” once the split-screen zoom-shear effect was introduced. That and the time dilation was probably the most difficult obstacles. Warrgh. Interestingly, the solution to many difficult parts in a game about vision was memorizing the timing so that you didn’t really have to look at the screen. I guess the game is trying to teach you this with the greyout mechanic, and it’s up to you to use it for other segments.

    Cool but frustrating game with many neat ideas.

    • The Random One says:

      I stopped playing on Day 8 when I realized the arrows that randomly change directions wouldn’t go away. They just take control away from the player and turn it into a gamble.

      • identifierad says:

        I agree that they are horribly annoying, but then again the game is basically a big “fuck you” to the player past the first few days. There was an interesting discussion about frustration in games here recently, and I think that this game could be an interesting entry into that debate.

        I mean, why did I even finish the game? It quit being properly enjoyable long before its finale, but still the challenge itself held my attention and I dutifully powered through, silently cursing the ridiculous way they fucked with my interface. The story was fairly interesting, but I could probably have walked away happy. I’m not sure what this says about me and games in general.

        • The Random One says:

          I get what you mean; I guess the arrows changing randomly (or at a frequency I perceived to be random) went over a line for me, through which I had to depend on a PRNG’s good graces to proceed instead of my own ability. All other changes to the game made it harder to process the screens, but didn’t change the actual gameplay, only obscure it. I guess that not everyone will have that line in the same place, though.

          • Nixitur says:

            You mean the way they change directions precisely every second, every single one of them swapping directions at the same time?
            I have no clue how you could ever perceive that as “random”.

    • Geen says:

      My brain is shitting itself

  5. The Random One says:

    Wow. This is the WTF edition of LFPH.

  6. schachmatt says:

    The mansion of King of the Woods has the exact same layout as the one from Deus Ex1.
    What is the video playing on the laptop from?
    Also, the books are by different authors.

  7. JackShandy says:

    Totally missed opportunity to call that game Mad Dad.

  8. Cunning Linguist says:

    gawd, this stuff looks awful. Like it’s all from the early 80s or something. HORROR.

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