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Live Free, Play Hard: The Week In Free Indie Games

Olympdics, Ruin Diver III, A Game By Its Cover

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Porpentine of Free Indie Games returns with another selection of the web’s weirdest and wonderfullest indie fare from across the last few days. What have you got for us this time, Porpentine?

Enter a well-oiled dungeon death machine. Hallucinatory multiplayer Olympics with cats and horse-men. If you like HAM, you’ll love LIPS. Grand Theft Memorization Auto. Your phone is mutating. Inhale weed, exhale stories.
Ruin Diver III

Ruin Diver III is hard. Lasting longer than eight seconds is a big deal. Something like Spelunky in fast forward. You control one of eight characters, letting you approach the game from a variety of playing styles. The Guru has lots of health and can make traps, The Knowledge Fairie can fly, The Ninjette can walljump, Dude with Bombs can…I’ll let you figure that out.

Each level begins with a tombstone marking the number of your deaths. Death is always with you. The number crawls higher and higher as you feed your blood to this dungeon machine. The death summary is fun–“Claimed by the swamp – 200pts”, “ENTERED GRINDER – 250pts”, “CURIOUS / Entered Fae ruins – 300 pts”. I like this little story of my adventure, much nicer than soulless numeric tallies.

The levels are procedurally generated, descending down two screens. The second screen is a constant, in that it’s always a shaft of spike-encrusted platforms whirling with razor disks, something resembling the esophagus of a monstrous metal hell-worm. This is called the Grinder. Merely entering the Grinder is worth 250 points. Getting to the bottom is a zero-forgiveness proposition–nearly every inch of every platform is covered in spikes. And if you get to the bottom…*horrifying laughter*

Playing a MegaZeux game is painless: just download MegaZeux, open it up, and point it at the game. This is a fast-paced, full-featured platforming dungeon run, another fun little world full of gems and death.

Olympdics

Olympdics is a garishly, fantastically hand-drawn mini-game compilation for two players. Imagine the Olympics designed by drugs and horses from hell. The games run the gamut from simple enough to hellishly unforgiving, from something as ordinary as ping pong all the way to soaring through the sky grabbing candy and avoiding the cats that live in the clouds.

A sport where you outrun a train through a tunnel filled with ravenous rats and burning barrels. Round up equestrians as a giant horse-headed man. Do a sprint where you try to collect as many drugs as possible while avoiding all the vegetables (an eerily voyeuristic gaze into my own life). I reached peak appreciation of this game when I discovered on a hunch that you can hit your opponent with your javelin during the sharp stick tossing contest and make them lose points in a spray of blood. Or you can just hurl your stick at all the blind-folded people acting as targets. Welcome to Olympdics.

A Game By Its Cover

A Game By Its Cover finished this week, with entries based on the following idea: pick one of the made-up Famicom cartridge covers from the Famicase exhibitions and make it into an actual game. Here are some highlights:

Argument Champion

Argument Champion already got extensive coverage here and elsewhere, so this is for the one person out there who hasn’t played it already: go play this funny debate simulator powered by MIT’s ConceptNet that pits ridiculous random concepts together and lets you argue that loving HAM means you must love LIPS.

Getaway to Nowhere

Getaway to Nowhere is Simon reinvented as a bank robbery getaway racing game. Instead of a little electronic gadget smugly chortling (or so I imagine) when you fail to memorize its sequence of colors, you get hunted down by cop cars. Follow conveniently posted signs down a series of roads in a sun-bleached desert town. With each circuit the signs break, another road is added to the pattern, and you must race on memory alone. The creator outsources the soundtrack to Juno Reactor’s Pistolero, a perfect fit.

FAM-PHONE

In FAM-PHONE you’ve been dosed with Cryptwyrm, the most powerful hallucinogen ever devised. At the bottom of a cliff, bones broken, you gaze at your phone as it begs you to live and begins warping through drug-haze and pain referred to as “iridescent, incandescent, and ultraviolet”. This is essentially a visualizer toy with thousands of possible combinations. Stare into the phone and it stares back. If by “stares” you mean mutates, melts, and sings.

Sister’s Little Helper

Super Friendship Club’s Ritual Pageant is one of the more interesting comps I’ve seen, with enough incredibly diverse talent and intriguing inventions to fill another article. Sister’s Little Helper was one of the few games to avoid the mystical or religious definition of the ritual theme and go for the mundane.This is a graphical interactive fiction slice of life starring disaffected punk girl Chloe who can’t sleep without rolling up a spliff and telling herself bedtime stories. Naturally you help her do both.

Every time she stops telling the story, you prompt her from a set of options, making each play a fresh drift through freeform storytelling–jokes, horror stories, adventures, parables, self-analysis. Made me think about friends I had growing up, kids who got so they couldn’t fall asleep or function without smoking because their environment was so dull, empty, and poisonous, burning out in the suburbs while their parents sleepwalked through life at their children’s expense. This game is a lot lighter than that, but it still reminded me of something real.

Sister’s Little Helper captures the teen feel of being unable to imagine becoming anything other than what you are at that point in time. I like how every night I got better at rolling joints. I grew to enjoy the ritual. This is a cozy game to curl up with.

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