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

THIS WEEK: Anne Hathaway’s erotic mouthscape. Arkham Horror crossed with Sailor Moon. The Yellow Wallpaper 3D. PROFANE BEAST SOLDIER.

Reveal by Marie Lazar, Mike Prinke, Tim Liedel, Patrick O’Malley

Reveal feels like a spin on The Yellow Wallpaper with body image themes, a concept realized with absolute purity of design. One room, no exits. Just you and the wallpaper and the magazines.

I’ve always loved things like Cube, Haze, Silent Hill, anything where the architecture is suspended within the darkness of your uncertain thoughts. The constant question, what’s outside? But in contrast to everything I’ve mentioned, Reveal manages to surprise yet make perfect sense. Take the time (like a minute) to experience this beautiful claustrophobia.



Press [X] To Give Up by Anders Børup, Bram Michielsen, Henrike Lode, Jonas Maaløe, Jonatan Van Hove, Mads Johansen, Thomas Ryder

Matador glitch arena. Do you surrender to the short lived pleasure of hitting X, or do you fight the bull? Do you give in to digital erosion or keep fighting, keep raising your sword to stab at just the right moment?

The game doesn’t end if you get gored. It has a much more interesting way of describing your defeat–disintegrating the game itself, not your character.

The audio is fantastic, from the tragic high voice just before piercing the bull to the melodramatic lurching horn of the bull’s horrifying reaction, and all throughout, the screaming distortion of glitchiness waiting to burst out of everything.



Nineteen by Elizabeth Sampat

After I heard about Aaron Swartz on Sat., I made a Twine game about when I tried to kill myself. It was 19 years ago.

I saw cartoonist Mia Schwartz say “making twine games as self-care” on Twitter and yeah, making a little Twine game can be therapeutic. A knitting of concepts and feelings.

I’ve seen backlash against Twine lately (which feels linked in a way to the recent discussion over “confessional” writing): the idea that people are being gratuitously personal as an easy way of circumventing criticism or achieving renown or whatever.

From what I’ve seen, writers of personal games are making them as healing and conversation. From what I’ve seen, they don’t care about anything but making games and sharing with friends. I don’t think an exploitative model (pernicious relic of AAA gaming’s obsession with monetization) applies to Twine. These are creators who don’t care about money or high art or definition and that is scary to some.

For the first time in a long time people can make whatever they want, whether it’s with Twine or any of the other free makers out there. Some make personal games, some make games more complicated than most mainstream games, a lot of people make both. Make games or don’t. Play them or don’t.

Fiction didn’t die when humans started publishing themselves on blogs. Film didn’t die with the advent of YouTube. We live in a world full of coercive things, but Twine isn’t one of them. It’s just another canvas.

Nineteen ends with some powerful lines and an act of even more powerful praxis, the kind of direct action that has always helped me more than anything else.



Anne Hathaway’s Erotic Mouthscape by Lillian Behrendt

Ever wanted to read a sexy story about being inside Anne Hathaway’s mouth? You’re in luck! This is a sexy story about being inside Anne Hathaway’s mouth!

A toothsome, mouth-watering tale of erotic brilliance, framed in luscious ASCII and glowing stylings.


A Trip to the Clinic by Wojit

A Trip to the Clinic is a satire on gatekeeping, which, in this context, is when doctors deny or control access to medical resources for bad reasons. A broken arm is something you can see, something that usually gets privileged over equally valid problems that aren’t immediately visible or haven’t acquired widespread recognition (like certain chronic pain disorders or gender transition, for example).

It is better to let others speak.

NHS Psych told me I wanted to transition to male cos Iwas too ugly to live as a woman. Also told me I’d never pass as male

Insistence on genital exam before chest xray for chest pain

had it supposed that I wasn’t really trans because I played D&D and Jess was apparently just a new character for me

in the 1990s, the UK’s largest gender clinic would insist you divorced prior to treatment.








Simmons by Ashton Raze

Simmons is a bad man.

Simmons is horror hypertext, a riveting short story full of inarticulable dread. Sometimes your choices are wrong. Simmons will correct you. Simmons plays with player agency in a character building way.

Simmons seems like a masculine power fantasy at the outset but becomes something much more vulnerable and real. I felt like this was talking about abuse. The idea that the real monster is just how you feel about yourself, not anything you did, strikes me hard.



BUBBLEGUM SLAUGHTER by merritt kopas

What happens when you cross Arkham Horror with Sailor Moon?

You get this CYOA-boardgame hybrid about a magical girl running around closing portals to save the earth from demonic invasion. Fight monsters, forge armor, explore locations, but remember, each action takes time, and when midnight hits, all is lost.

BUBBLEGUM SLAUGHTER’s writing glistens with an innocence so immaculately described it verges into eroticism–sailor scout puberty in the face of apocalypse. The story is tautened by the tension of gathering crystals to gain power vs. shutting down the last portal before the clock runs out, a good example of using resource management to strengthen a narrative.

We’re seeing increasing amounts of systems-based Twines–as much as they get stereotyped as personal little games, there’s a lot of mechanical experimentation going on. I’ve seen minimaps, real time text adventures, integrations of Unity and Twine, roguelike ASCII maps, just to name a handful of cool shit. What began as a simple text game maker is turning into an experimental vat, and a lot of the stuff crawling out looks great.

BUBBLEGUM SLAUGHTER takes a strategic interface (build, explore, fight) and artfully balances it with narrative. Five eldritch endings to this cutest of cosmic horrors.


  1. Crimsoneer says:

    The Anne Hathaway thing is pretty dang weird.

    • Skeletor68 says:

      Scared me too. Nothing will ruin Anne for me though.

      N O T H I N G.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Here’s one: no matter what kind of shape she’s in, she always has old-lady wattles on her upper arms. Seriously, go find any picture of her with her arms exposed. It’s creepy.

    • Kestrel says:

      Apparently sex with teeth is a new fetish or something. Either way… WHAT DID I JUST READ.

    • DrScuttles says:

      It certainly provoked some funny feelings in me.

    • MrLebanon says:

      I have the weirdest boner right now

  2. Dilapinated says:

    This is a great selection.

  3. finbikkifin says:

    This remains my favourite regular column on RPS. I’ve already played half the games each week, but that’s hardly a bad thing!

    E: I hadn’t played A Trip to the Clinic. Now I have. It’s good, play it.

    • D3xter says:

      Call me old fashioned, but for something to count as a game it should have some gamey elements to it, back in the mid 90s when it was in we didn’t call VRML tours “games” just because you could move freely through a 3D area.

      A lot of this also reminds me of the people painting a wall with their own bodily fluids and everybody going “ooh, how deep, I bet this is supposed to show the inner torment of the artist and his dislocation from the world”, because art!

      • finbikkifin says:

        It’s a piece of interactive fiction that effectively gets across just how frustrating something can be, it has options, it’s funny in a depressing way, and you can win or lose. It’s not Call of Duty but it’s more of a game than some games I’ve experienced.

        • Bugamn says:

          I feel however that most of those Twine stories aren’t really using those characteristics. Most of them feel like short stories written in hypertext that you need to click to advance or read a footnote.
          For example, take the story “PROFANE BEAST SOLDIER”. At a certain point you can do two actions to a man. Later you will be punished for one of them, even if you didn’t chose it.

          • Dilapinated says:

            I played Halo and I didn’t want to shoot that guy, but it wouldn’t let me continue unless I’d shot that guy. I refused, hoping the narrative would branch and I’d form some sort of lasting bond with that guy I saved, going on to establish a discourse between our peoples and maybe, someday a peace.

            Eventually one of my buddies shot him anyway.

            What I’m saying is that Twine games often give a smaller selection of options that are on the whole more meaningful. There is room for both, and people angrily professing that X is A Game and Y is Not A Game don’t really have a leg to stand on.

          • Bugamn says:

            Aren’t you exagerating a bit?
            I was pointing that I think that most twine stories aren’t more than short stories with a click to continue.
            I cited as example one of those that I played and I felt cheated because what it gave me as a choice was ignored later.
            Your example from Halo looks better, because it didn’t ignore your choice, it acknowledge that and worked around it to keep the story going.
            I don’t expect full branching. I’m fine with linear games. But I expect to do more than just “turning the pages”.

          • The Random One says:

            Well, OK. Replace Halo with, say, Far Cry 2 and replace “one of my buddies shot him” with “the dude shot me until I died at which point I had to replay the section, and could not proceed until I had shot all the dudes”. What’s the game in which you’re just clicking at stuff to proceed now?

          • Bugamn says:

            I feel you are being too defensive.
            I’m not talking about all Twine. I’ve just read one that used the choices in a more interesting way.
            And I feel Far Cry 2 wouldn’t be good for your example. I haven’t found many situations in that game had one exact solution. Besides, it’s not just clicking, that’s oversimplifying the situation.

          • The Random One says:

            I agree, Far Cry 2 was perhaps a poor example.

            link to Here’s a more fitting one.

          • Bugamn says:

            I haven’t played that one and I don’t think I will, as I prefer single player and its single player looks more like a movie than a game.

  4. Hoaxfish says:

    Could we get a little less Twine games next time? It feels like a bit of a cop-out if only 2 of 8 actually “play” with something more than basic text links.

    • finbikkifin says:

      Could we get a few more non-Twine games next time? The current number of Twine games is fine for me but I suppose more of those would be good too. I guess what I’m saying is more good games, and that I can play Twine games on my PC-destroying iOS device without getting out of bed.

      I like Twine.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        I’d assumed the reason for Twine’s dominance was at least some padding in terms of a lack of finding non-Twines… guess I’m being a half-empty today.

        • Porpentine says:

          multiple factors…1) massive twine jam recently so figames is packed with twine games

          2) twine is wildly more prevalent as an indie game making tool nowadays

          even setting those reasons aside, i can’t imagine leaving a single one of those games off a list of this week’s best indie games 8)

    • Tacroy says:

      If it’s this week in indie games, and indie games this week were primarily Twine… why wouldn’t the list be made primarily of Twine games?

      I mean, it’s not like Porpentine can magically will more indie games into existence just because you want fewer Twine games.

  5. Low Life says:

    This was kinda neat, even if only as a proof of concept: link to

    Requires a computer and a smartphone (iPhone 4, 4s or 5, some Android phones also work). Basically the game plays in your computer’s browser and you control it with your phone, all this without any special applications.

    A bit glitchy (at least with my Galaxy Nexus), cool nonetheless.

    • cloudnein says:

      Love the left and right, but the lack of forward motion is frustrating. Or is this a zen racing game?

      (Perhaps I’m missing the throttle control…I pressed every key on my keyboard to no effect (except the car facing left and right.)

      • edwardoka says:

        I suspect it’s multimodal, given that it instructs you to load a URL on your phone before starting.

        • Low Life says:

          Yes, you would be quite right. It controls with the phone while the game itself plays on your computer. I’ll edit in some extra info :)

  6. Kaira- says:

    Will Live Free Play Hard be sharing Global Game Jam ’13 games next week or will we see an article dedicated for those games?

  7. cloudnein says:

    Somebody has GOT to do a tower defense game about defending an ER against the horde of the injured.

    • Grygus says:

      It would of course be named, “Triage,” and the bosses for each wave would be lawyers.

  8. Tretiak says:

    A recommendation: link to
    Don’t miss it! ;)

  9. psepho says:

    I really liked Reveal. For me, at least, it built a real sense of uncertainty as it progressed while also stimulating some interesting thoughts about superficiality. It’s impressive to do so much with so little.

  10. puffball says:

    loved this selection. bubblegum slaughter in particular blew me away.

    • The Random One says:

      It was pretty impressive. I wish it was a bit longer (not much, since being concise works in its favour) and a bit more explicit on its mechanics, but still pretty amazing, especially for a 48h jam.

  11. Dances to Podcasts says:

    “NHS Psych told me I wanted to transition to male cos I was too ugly to live as a woman.”

    As a spectacularly handsome male I am deeply insulted.

  12. LionsPhil says:

    “Press X to Give Up” seems to be trying to hard, really. The best part about it is the simple timing game mechanic, but all the fluff built around that is desperately trite or on already ground that’s been trodden so extensively that it’s down to the bedrock.

    • the_p says:

      Yes. Yes, yes, thankyou, yes. It’s a cheap shot. Going for the big effect without doing any of the necessary build-up, just pulling out the little revelation and hoping you’ll feel something. Bah!

  13. Acorino says:

    There’s an end to Nineteen? Because I couldn’t find one. I’m fine with it either way. I’m just new to the whole “twine game” business…

  14. MadTinkerer says:

    Considering how often Magical Girl shows accidentally and/or deliberately contain horror elements when played straight, and the fact that some Sailor Moon episodes in particular definitely crossed over into horror territory, Bubblegum Slaughter just makes sense.

    Pretty tame compared to Madoka Magica (You want a Magical Girl show crossed with cosmic horror? Be careful what you wish for.), but then most things are.