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

By Porpentine on April 7th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

THIS WEEK: Four out of four tears. WALKING DOWN THE STREET I GET PUNCHED. Massively multiplayer void of eerily ringing telephones. Feral arcade games.

 

The River by Courtney Stanton

The River is about a young girl who goes down to the stream to catch a fish.

Courtney’s writing is powerful but restrained, trusting me to fill in the gaps (suggestion vs. description–if suggestion is using words to cause firecracker bursts of micro-hallucination, description is trying to get high by arranging pills to spell DRUGS).

It lulls me with sparkling ASCII waters, with my simple pride at weaving a net for my mother. I feel pure as a child, unencumbered by the filters of adulthood.

I’d play before reading more (CW: sexual violence). It’s short.

This is part of a series about women in Kubrick films (“he’s my favorite director and he has a glaring woman problem” says Courtney) with a focus on humanizing women with two-dimensional roles and bit parts.

I was reminded of that one Jeepform game where the victim decides how the attackers feel.

The decision to give me control over some of the assault, as the victim, had three key effects, in my mind.

1) It touches on post-abuse thought patterns–if only I did something different I could have avoided what happened.

2) At the same time, this interactivity asserts the truth that rape doesn’t turn you into an object, that you’re still a human being doing the best you can, in whatever way is left to you.

The River stays tightly focused on the girl’s feelings and agency, avoiding her original fate as a cheap sacrifice in some lofty masculine quest. This is an attempt to get her out of the refrigerator.

3) Being permitted the possibility of hope is heartbreaking.

I’m trying this new review system where I rate everything in tears. The score isn’t displayed anywhere except on my eyes.

 

HOWLER? by Andi McClure and Liz Ryerson

I’m conducting four discs in a sea of liquid color. Each element is tied to Liz Ryerson’s music in some way. Thrashing drums, crashing cymbals, piercing drones, and with the right settings, I can isolate cute synth plinks and electronic cries.

Of all Andi’s music games, HOWLER? has the most interesting spectrum. I was able to mold it to my mood, roaming from violence to calm, from epilepsy sky to sonorous void.

There are four ways to tweak HOWLER?: Radius, intensity, dragging the discs around, and making the discs invisible. From these variables pour planes of brilliant oil, lava lamp ovoids, burning rainbows.

PUNKSNOTDEAD by Zak Ayles

WALKING DOWN THE STREET

I GET PUNCHED

WALKING DOWN THE STREET

I GET PUNCHED

YOU’RE WALKING DOWN THE STREET

YOU GET PUNCHED

WALKING DOWN THE STREET

I GET PUNCHED PUNCHED PUNCHED PUNCHED

Bwak by Tom van den Boogaart

One-button game about watching TV late at night. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

 

Full Moon Rising by Drunkdevs

Here’s the situation: your girlfriend wants raw passionate werewolf sex, but to turn into a werewolf you need the Moon Rock, which lies on the other side of town.

The first half of the journey you play in man form (this is the platformer). The second half you play as wolf (this is the BLOOD FRENZY). Then you realize that was just the beginning of a wild crescendo.

 

Composition 37 by Nuprahtor

A stark isle in the void, populated only by phone booths. Sometimes they ring. I race from phone to phone, wondering if reaching them in time is even possible.

At first I thought that was the entire experience, which would have been enough for me–a horrifying fixation on the thing itself.

After all, Nuprahtor has the intellectual integrity to focus on the texture of an object without introducing unnecessary elements. If we’re going to talk about games on par with cinema and literature, this is the kind of cerebral experimentation we should be paying attention to.

But there’s more.

You can pick up the phone when it rings.

The phones ring when other people call from their game.

Composition 37 turns us into haunted phone lines, desperate spirits forever seeking.

That means the best time to play is now, while eyes are on this page (although you can call yourself by opening multiple tabs).

As months pass, the experience of finding anyone else will become increasingly lonely and delicate. Now all I can think about is how creepy it would be to play this a year later and hear a ring.

 

2x0ng by David O’Toole

A Snakelike creature leaves a deadly prismatic trail to the north. Surrounding me are erratic paddles escaped from Breakout, hungry for pixelated blood.

2x0ng feels like a bunch of arcade games abandoned in a petri dish, mutated and feral. They populate the procedurally generated levels in growing abundance and all of them kill you in one hit, complicating the otherwise simple task of reaching the exit.

You have a weapon.

This weapon is a boomerang crossed with a key crossed with an eyedropper tool. It can change colors (by hitting blocks) and destroy barriers (if it matches their color).

This weapon is interesting because the fling has a variable refractory period, ranging from quick bounces to elaborate pinball odysseys.

This period is a blend of smooth (traveling through empty space) and crunchy (striking objects). Smooth acts as a pleasure multiplier for crunch as long as you hit something and that interaction doesn’t descend into bad crunch (weapon trapped on the other side of some blocks as enemies mob you). Bad smooth and bad crunch both waste time and leave you with nothing exciting to do until your weapon returns.

Your weapon can be boring and skill is the avoidance of that boredom.

This weapon is fun because it bounces off enemies. Hitting one enemy is boring. Three enemies die faster than one.

They explode in bursts of pink blue confetti. Hitting them make a digitized BOING. Hitting multiple enemies gives you more confetti and more boings. You will do this even when you don’t have to.

This is the best emotion of 2x0ng.

, .

37 Comments »

  1. Kaira- says:

    Full Moon Rising is brilliant and you should play it. That’s all.

    • MSJ says:

      I’d never thought I would see a game that begins the plot with a woman’s desire for werewolf sex. You only ever find this kind of things in one of those games you buy wearing a trench coat and sunglasses (or download from less reputable parts of the internet). Maybe more should learn from Indigo Prophecy, who managed to sneak in zombie sex into a mass market game.

      But it isn’t really strange once you consider the nightmarish hellhole town they live in, what with the murderous hobos roaming about.

    • Niko says:

      It left me craving for more werewolf action, if I may say so.

    • dethtoll says:

      The dialogue is really the high point of my week.

    • JFS says:

      Fuck yeah. This is why I still visit RPS.

    • sbs says:

      Thta boss fight was real hard. I needed like 10 attempts,

  2. DiFiasco says:

    hmm…..0_o

  3. Jorum says:

    well don’t read RPS any more. It didn’t cost you anything.
    Or just skip the stuff that disturbs your worldview. Pretty sure you don’t have to read all the articles.
    Or go and make your own better website. Won’t cost you anything.

  4. Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

    I have no idea what’s happening in Bawk. Do you have to skim past the scary channels fast enough to recover, or something?

    • cowardly says:

      Basically, yeah, when you get to a scary channel you have to switch fast enough to not die. Once you get high up, it becomes intensely difficult to do so.

    • mouton says:

      Yes, you just need to zap through and calm a bit in the next (hopefully) safe channel.

  5. cowardly says:

    It seems that my eyes have adapted Porpentine’s review system, and the River is rating far too high…

  6. Premium User Badge Harlander says:

    I found it really hard to tell which phone was ringing in Composition 37.

    • cowardly says:

      I managed to pick up a ringing phone, and was mildly disappointed I didn’t get to interact with other players in any other way. The idea is excellent, and the atmosphere is chilling, but I find myself left wanting.

  7. Astrosaur says:

    Every week it’s just a repost of the best games from FreeIndieGam.es, and IndieGames.com blog. What is the purpose of this? If the purpose is giving these games and developers more publicity, then I wish you guys would dig a little deeper, into forums and more obscure blogs.

    • Bhazor says:

      Porpentine runs, or is at least a major node, of freeindiegam.es. A website that trawls forums and blogs for obscure new games.

    • The Random One says:

      The purpose is to allow people like me, who like indie games but don’t feel like trawling the many daily posts of freeindiegam.es, to play the best indie games that came out/rose to attention this week.

    • Porpentine says:

      you wouldn’t believe how deep we go to get some of the games we get

    • Lanfranc says:

      The purpose is to let us LIVE FREE and PLAY HARD! *guitar solo*

    • Shepardus says:

      Considering that Porpentine runs a lot of freeindiegam.es, if it appears here Porpentine would have also posted it in freeindiegam.es.

    • Premium User Badge Gap Gen says:

      You don’t want to know how deep this thing goes. Dark CIA flash games, twisted text adventures leaked from the Pentagon databases, even a little platformer by the President himself.

  8. The Random One says:

    Here’s a great game that was glossed over on this week’s article for some strange and unfathomable reason: http://aliendovecote.com/uploads/twine/powerful.html#5 (You’ve probably seen it already if you read the Sunday Papers, though.)

    • Bakuraptor says:

      I’m assuming it’s because she doesn’t plug her own stuff, but all I want is for my friends to be insanely powerful, linked above, is indeed wonderful, and everyone should play it. I’m still trying to work out exactly why it made me so happy, but it is amazing nonetheless.

    • Bluerps says:

      Her other stuff is great too! :)

    • tobecooper says:

      That was really cool. Though by the end I felt milk in my throat and pink goo on my brain.
      Which is all right, I guess ;D

    • finbikkifin says:

      I liked this a lot, too: http://aliendovecote.com/uploads/twine/atlantean.html#7

      Sound is essential, the remix of Wandering Star during the self-repair scene is stuck in my head.

    • cowardly says:

      I hesitated to post this myself, just so that I could thank Porpentine for this, but then I thought it was already (indirectly) there over at the Sunday Papers and gave up.
      But since you’re being more sensible that me, let me say this : thank you, Porpentine. For all your other stuff too, of course, but this came at just the right time for me. The first part resonated very strongly, and that just made the sheer joy I felt by the end that much stronger.
      Thank you.

  9. TheBarringGaffner says:

    So was PUNKSNOTDEAD a metaphor for the necessity of violence in a violent environment, and the paranoia the constant threat of death brings?

  10. Muzman says:

    I have to share

  11. Branthog says:

    No Kickstarter Katchup, this week?

  12. roguewombat says:

    2x0ng is legit, guys.

    • The Random One says:

      It keeps freezing on me :-(

      • dto1138 says:

        Hello. Are you using 64-bit Windows? There is a new version of the Windows download available on the project home page, which should fix crashes related to 64-bit Windows.

  13. Daniel Klein says:

    The River is amazing. It does half of what GR does, in that it directs your attention as the victim to the attackers’ choices. I’ve yet to play GR for obvious reasons (it not being the easiest game to find people to play with, even among my higher-than-normal threshold for artsy fartsy games friends), but I would love to see how the other part of that loop feels like.

    In GR, the victim dictates what the attackers feel while the attackers dictate what the victim does. It’s physical vs emotional determinism. In The River, it’s the in-between places between the actual highlighted scenes that become interesting, and yes, just the hope that maybe, maybe there’s a combination of choices that leads to a fate other than the crack in the back of the head. I’ve tried twice, which is all that I have tears for now, and there doesn’t seem to be.

    Wonderful game.