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

THIS WEEK: Ten player Twine game. Martial arts breakup. International Art English. DEATH END.

Art Game by Pippin Barr

Art Game, well WHERE have I heard THOSE two words before, in close proximity, just hanging out, STRAIGHT UP CHILLING.

No, this isn’t about that whole “debate”, Ha Ha Ha, Art Game is just a cool game that happens to be about art.

You pick one of three artists and each has a different medium and each medium is a classic game.

Cicero Sassoon works with Tetris, building bleak edifices of black blocks that of course signify something absolutely brilliant.

I can’t seem to make many popular paintings with Alexandra Tetranov–subtle commentary on sexism or maybe I’m just bad at Snake?

The twins William Edge and Susan Needle have an Asteroids-style game for two players–I play it with my friend and spend a couple seconds clumsily spinning around before slamming into the star at the center of the screen–”This is just so primal,” said the gallery-goer. Yeah. Yes. Yesss.

Mmhm. Transcendent works of genius. That’s exactly what I was going for. Art Game pokes fun at “people reading way too much into things sometimes” and “people using fancy words to dress things up” without feeling like lazy reactionism.

If you’re interested in the grandiose vocabulary of the art world, this article or this essay on International Art English makes good reading.

AE always uses “more rather than fewer words”. Sometimes it uses them with absurd looseness: “Ordinary words take on non-specific alien functions…And sometimes it deploys words with faddish precision: “Usage of the word speculative spiked unaccountably in 2009; 2011 saw a sudden rage for rupture; transversal now seems poised to have its best year ever.”


You Will Select a Decision, № 1: Small Child in Woods by Brendan Patrick Hennessy

A Soviet-era Choose Your Own Adventure book with many choices to ensure the development of proper citizenship and childmanship skills.

I don’t like things that rely on “haha silly foreigners”–I didn’t get that vibe from this. Instead, the device of the bad translation is used to play around with language and make something that is both funny and interesting to read. Every other page I was compelled to stop reading and yell out the description of my latest fate, that’s how good these endings are.

Play Small Child in Woods if you miss the bizarre deaths of classic kid’s adventure books (I swear I remember being teleported inside a rock). Play this if you feel like playing a fun game.


The Vermin Throne by Damian Sommer

The Vermin Throne is a 4 to 10 player multiplayer Twine game (playable on phone) designed to encourage “Roleplaying, alliances, backstabbing, whispering, and shouting”. I can’t actually test it at the moment unless I start rapidly multiplying, but these digital flirtations with tabletop gaming excite me.

The premise entails rival rats rallying to roust each other from the regency. Build a character out of various stats, randomize your name until you get something suitably pretty or absurd sounding (Princet Rainpoison the Decorous, Princess Soulblub the Glum), then take turns going to various locations training your skills or fighting your siblings (should they be so unlucky as to cross your path).


A Slow Speed of Light by MIT Game Lab

You’re a dead child’s spirit trying to ascend with the light but it’s too fast for your nubby little ghost legs so you’ve got to find all the spirit eyeballs so they can slow down the speed of light to your walking speed. Naturally this expands your visible color spectrum, saturating your vision with eerie ultraviolet and infrared.

This is MIT Game Lab’s demonstration of their OpenRelativity tech, which is set to be released sometime this year “to allow others to produce more simulations and games about traveling near the speed of light.” It’s difficult not to have at least a particle of interest in this upcoming wave of light-based games.


Think Outside the Box by Stuart Madafiglio

Think Outside the Box is about finding multiple solutions to the same problem, a series of escapes from every angle. See, the box universe has evil kitties, greedy pirates, and stubborn clowns, all conspiring to keep you trapped. Fortunately each room is full of objects that can be applied and combined in many ways ranging from the obvious to the arcane.

Find five escapes to a room to unlock a new ending. I got the one involving coconut milk.


Split Fighters by Pierrec

Pierrec’s narrative experiments are always interesting. This one is a 2D fighter/conversation hybrid, turn-based Street Fighter with relationship issues.

You can block, charge up energy, shoot, and if you charge up a lot, do an unblockable FURY MOVE. Figuring out each enemy’s pattern is key to progressing through your brutal martial arts breakup.

I say enemy, but the game constantly challenges that notion by providing many ways to talk about the breakup.

There are three endings based on your use (or disuse) of Actually Talking About Your Problems.

Like Think Outside The Box (made in RPGMaker), Pierrec uses Adventure Game Studio to make games outside the normal output of his chosen program–useful chassis for independent creators.


Starwhal: Just the Tip by Breakfall

Two players jousting with narwhals drenched in dramatic slow-mo and the 80’s. Fly around trying to stab the other critter in the heart while avoiding a horn in your own. The main reason I’m posting this is because you look really cute flopping around trying to kill each other.


Descension by Elektron

Another minimal black and white indie platformer? But Descension is good minimal, the kind that lives up to the whole point of minimal, every element perfectly in place, a taut instrument that feels good to hold.

Navigate a ball through tunnels of spikes as the timer ticks down, a timer sometimes bound to a single room, sometimes stretched across multiple chambers.


“This is hard.”

“This is hard and relaxing.”

“Oh nooooo spikey…” * 100x

Moments of hesitation come back to kill you–I finished many descents with 0 seconds remaining. Each death sends you back a screen, teaching the finely-tuned controls until once-lethal rooms become second nature. You can’t rush this, only serene confidence will be accepted.

The ambient, chime-strewn soundtrack is well chosen for navigating these austere caves–soothing but purposeful, a dampener against frustration. Descension is hard but worth it.


  1. Merus says:

    Descension: “teaching the finely-tuned controls”, you say? This is odd, because the author has put the jump button on the up arrow. Generally, the only thing fine relating to this regrettably common decision is the kind of motor control I’ll lose later in life trying to operate these keys precisely with one hand.

    I wonder what the space bar did to indie platformer developers to make them hate it so.

    • Priestman says:

      I actually like games that require only one hand (and no it’s not because of what I may be doing with the other hand, ooer). If anything it’s more causal and relaxing that way. Perhaps with some games it’s a little more awkward but generally I do enjoy the causal feel of it, and when a game is hard such as this then anything that relaxes you and grants a more slumped position helps, I find.

    • Tacroy says:

      Whenever possible I bind jump away from space and onto something ilke Z, after the incident where I nearly broke my laptop’s space key in the week I got it because I was playing N so much.

    • The Random One says:

      That’s what Joy2Key exists for.

      Cue a thousand of BLARGH PC GAMERS OUGHT NOT TO USE THE INFERIOR GAMEPAD comments. Honestly I found last week’s Westerado to be unplayable on the keyboard, and the excellent Super Puzzle Platformer PLUS to be even excellenter (then again that also has jump bound to the up key).

      • dE says:

        »Professor, please I beg of you, let’s stop this absurd hunt now«
        The backdrop is a rainy day in the city outside of time – this time. Place doesn’t matter though. Neither does time.
        »I will find it. I will not be ridiculed again«
        »But Professor, all we ever found were traces. Nothing but Strawman Totems, Illogical Fairytales and hear-say«
        »Come rain, come storm, I will it into existence, therefore it exists«
        »Yes Professor. But the thing is probably just a fallacy, a creature within liminal places, a ritual scapegoat«
        Place still don’t matter. Time might.
        »See this poor gamepad here? It was gnawed, smashed… there are bitemarks and that mark here? Definitely bodily fluids«
        »As you wish, Professor«
        Lightning. A dozen for good measure. It’s still raining isn’t it, never said it stopped, so there’s that.
        »I will find you, PC-Elitist, you and your tribe of self-entitled barbarian fallacies. I will get you and prove your existence!«
        Still Lightning. Actually might be a stroboscope. Yeah, definitely a stroboscope. Bummer.

        • The Random One says:

          The Professor sits in his chair, a broken husk of a man. How long has his search gone on? Years? Does time even hold meaning? Science is a search of the truth, but if his theories are wrong, what has he worked for all his life? Has it been all for naught? Perish the thought – a lifetime of study, only to prove how correct the opposing view was.

          He stared sadly at the calm night. It just hadn’t been the same since the stroboscope broke down. No one would give him enough funding to fix it.

          He was wrong. He couldn’t go on. Sunk cost fallacy. It would be better to end it now – to free his assistants, so they would not waste their lives on his wrong vision. He reached for the phone-

          One of his assistants crashes through the door, quite literally, falling flat on his feet. His clothes are torn, ragged. He can barely stand up, so breathless that he is, squirming forward like a worm. “I have found it” he shouts hoarsely, the words scratching his throat.

          The Professor does not allow his excitement to show. “Are you certain? Are they not perhaps being ironic?”

          The assistant gets to his feet, and half-limps, half stumbles to the desk. “You tell me”, he replies, depositing a single, crumbled URL on it.

          link to

          It was too early for celebration. More tests would be needed. Perhaps this one too would turn out to be a fluke. But now, for the first time in ages, he allowed himself to smile.

  2. Bhazor says:

    I love that Meer took Art Game seriously and Porpentine is just taking it as a joke.

    • JP says:

      Maybe they’re both right! ART!!!!!

      • Porpentine says:

        a bunch of things can be true about something at once, especially something as well made as Art Game

  3. dE says:

    It feels a bit strange, to see Twine becoming increasingly synonymous for Interactive Fiction in articles all over the web, Twitter Feeds and similar things. Makes me want to shout “But there was IF before Twine!”. At the end of the day, it’s irrelevant how it is called. But still… I swear there really was IF before Twine.

    • The Random One says:

      Not all IF is twine, but almost all twine is IF. Since twine is so easy to use – it’s both easy to create games for it and easy to play without having to wrestle with a parser – they have been booming lately. The older IF communities have been kind of stagnant over the last few years – not in that they haven’t been producing games, but in that they’ve been making more variations on a theme rather than the new weird stuff Pooooorp likes.

      That’s like complaining that with all this talk of computer games, you swear there used to be games before computers…

      • dE says:

        1) I’m not complaining.
        2) Still not complaining.
        3) Let me give you a massage, might ease your tension.
        4) Maybe now… nah, nope. Sorry. Not a single ounce of complaining to be found. Sorry.

        • The Random One says:

          Uh, I was just speculating as to what was the reasons for it, and mentioning that I thought your specific enunciation was strange. I didn’t think you were complaining. But, if your offer for the massage is still up, I’ll take it.

  4. Skabooga says:

    Man, some of those endings to “You Will select a Decision” are something else. Kyrgyz children are mad hardcore and shed tears for no one, however lightning bolty their fate.

    • Fenix says:

      Seriously! I have to say, the sheer brilliance of the game and how amazingly bad English is used (I already enjoy bad English by itself) almost made my mind implode and explode at the same time. Figuratively speaking, of course, or I’d be another ending for “You Will Select a Decision”.

      The Werewolf ending had me howling at the computer screen.

      • writerryan says:

        “You slam your fist down on the button with force, as if ordering a cool glass of fermented horse milk from the local malt shop.”

        Please tell me that’s badly mangled English and not something Soviet era children would actually relish drinking.

  5. kupofatu says:

    upto I looked at the receipt ov $6404, I didnt believe that my best friend was trully bringing in money in their spare time from there pretty old laptop.. there mums best friend had bean doing this 4 less than eleven months and at present paid the morgage on there cottage and got a top of the range McLaren F1. read more at,

  6. Tretiak says:

    More recommendations:

    Samsara, Limbro/Braid clone:
    link to

    The Summoning, about… summoning evil minions:
    link to

  7. appropriate touching says:

    an Asteroids-style game for two players

    It’s Spacewar, one of the very earliest games; a precursor to Star Control.

  8. The Random One says:

    Split Fighters is really great. I like how it subverts AGS’ engine.

    But I was kind of expecting it’d be like the ‘schmooze fights in the MS Paint Adventures fan thing Deadbeat:

    link to

    Where hostile conversations were performed through an RPG style command system.