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Live Free, Play Hard: The Week's Best Free Indie Games

Stalking like dinosaurs against the horizon

Featured post Middens

Point and click horror. Ludotravelogue. WAR RUG FACE. Oregon Trail with a physics engine. Collage ecosystem.

Deep Sleep by scriptwelder

Wake up to an architectural, Silent Hill-esque nightmarescape in Deep Sleep, a point-and-click horror adventure, scary as fuck, that transcends the fairly static nature of the genre with visceral touches that I won’t spoil. The puzzle difficulty is tuned just right, abstaining from esoteric solutions that might have distracted from the excellent atmosphere.

The service bell in one of the rooms is the most ingenious touch. I can’t imagine anything creepier than a bell in the middle of a deserted building.

The Gametrekking Omnibus by Jordan Magnuson

The Gametrekking Omnibus is a collection of minimalist games inspired by Jordan Magnuson’s travels through Asia. This is the project’s final release, the fruits of his travels compiled into a multimedia scrapbook full of fantastic photography and poignant microgames tied together by human observations.

What we feel comes through our fingertips, through resistance, through pushing the game forward in taps, presses, clicks. These are poems that use physics instead of words. Some work for me, others less so. Freedom Bridge was my favorite, powerful, just the right length. Leaf through, there’s so much scattered here that you’re sure to find something that sticks with you.

Farsh by Mahdi Bahrami

Dedicated to the author’s mother “who spent her youth weaving carpets”, Farsh has you guiding a Persian carpet through the void by manipulating the rules of various squares. Rolling across intricate, vibrant tiles to Moslem Rasouli’s meandering, bittersweet music is ideal for someone like me who doesn’t really care for puzzle games, a calming environment with space to think through the increasingly difficult problems.

Researching rugs on Wikipedia lead me to discover war rugs, so don’t despair, there’s still room for a rug-themed first person shooter (WAR RUG FACE?). “Little is known about the circumstances of war rugs’ production and distribution, or their makers’ intentions.”

Due to sanctions against Iran, Mahdi can’t enter competitions that require paying an entry fee, and despite winning the IndiePub Community Favorite a couple years back, isn’t likely to see the $5000 reward money. I’m glad he’s sticking around despite these obstacles.

So Long, Oregon! by Justin Smith

So Long, Oregon! is Oregon Trail as a fast-paced wagon surfing game that compresses everything in Oregon Trail into minutes, seconds. I’m cartwheeling through the air firing at rabbits, I think I bought a turkey at that fort, that village just cursed me, why are other wagons bumping into me like blind, deranged cows.

My God I have landed in the river and Pa has dysentery. The death of a party member has none of the original title’s solemnity–no time to stop, the wagon just shits out tombstones as you race toward El Dorado, which I reached with the majestic slide of a baserunner going for homeplate, except upside-down and laden with endless wealth that magically popped into my, what do you call it, wagon space, wagon void, the empty space inside a wagon. Then I fell off a cliff.

Realistic Summer Sports Simulator by Justin Smith

What if Olympic athletes were controlled by some god with all the power and finesse of a hurtling meteorite? Suddenly you wake up and realize, it wasn’t just imagination times…it was this game!

Realistic Summer Sports Simulator is sports filtered through a hilarious physics engine. Practice until you manage to avoid flinging yourself hundreds of feet merely trying to string a bow, pick some boring real nation to represent or go (as you should) for the random nation generator (“Macedoden”, “Tahitaly”, “Torkey”), then start the ceremony! And don’t forget that everything can be physicsed, even during the solemn lighting of the torch.

Forrester by inmate2993

Forrester’s setting is an amnesiac world with an allegorical feel, diverse puzzles, and fast-paced gameplay. Unlike some games dealing with emotional subjects, Forrester has no need to conflate slow walking speed with pacing. You’ll need that speed to deal with the dragons, something called the Demon, and the other people trapped in this rift of memories who’ve grown bitter, complacent, or deranged over time and seek to impose their ideals on you.

Things to know: F9 quicksaves, F10 quickloads, P skips cutscenes.

I’m trying to articulate why MegaZeux/ZZT games are so interesting to play. Maybe it’s that the machinery of the world feels more visible, that the distance between toolkit and invention is much closer here. Compare a polished 3D title, all cinematic gloss, with its origins: pages of code that resemble the living breathing product as much as a human body resembles its DNA. MegaZeux games feel more like Lego creations where you can still see the spare bricks swept to the side.

Middens by John Clowder

Spined lamp-posts, swarms of walking cars, giant hands with mouths stalking like dinosaurs against the horizon, Middens has more going on in 10 seconds than most games do in their entirety. John Clowder’s collages and Shaina Nordlund’s watercolors come together to describe a brilliant, alien world that really does feel like a midden heap, a place of delirious detritus and cosmic debris, piecemeal creatures living in patchwork biomes.

The writing is consistently interesting and I’m guessing some of the one-liners from creatures you meet are either from the “Dialogue excised from occult tomes and the last words of executed convicts” mentioned on Middens’ tumblr or a reasonable facsimile thereof. The talking femme fatale-lipped gun is my favorite NPC in a long time. Sly, playful, sinister, purringly spurring you on through a disorienting plane of ontological chaos.

Middens is a hallucinatory ecosystem, not a flashy reskin of something that already exists. Nothing in this game is familiar so every step is deliciously uncertain. I can no longer tell the inside from the outside.

When I say ecosystem, I mean more than “feels like a living universe”, I mean “violence is meaningful”. You can shoot anyone and they’ll stay dead. Forever. Shoot the person who saves your game. You can’t save there any more. Shoot the entity in charge of fast travel. Hope you like walking. This is fantastic.

!!!Pro Gamer Tips!!! Lining up the top of your head with the top of the target seems like the sweet spot for aiming. When a creature has little progeny swarming around it, target the creature, the spawn don’t have hitboxes. Alt + Enter = full screen.

I haven’t beaten Middens yet but I have no problem recommending it because even if it were to suddenly become the worst game in the world the second after I left off, my time was well spent just for the sheer creativity and mood experienced so far. So play this. Also, if you ever happen to be slandered I’ll do my best to clear your good name.

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