In this new column, Brendan will be rounding up the best free games every week. Because, let’s face it, we are all broke.
Hello! The great Porpentine may have stepped down from her giant pixellated throne when she decided to end her column “Live Free, Play Hard” but that does not mean RPS can slack off. There’s a skipload of free games out there, just sitting in the street. This cannot be allowed. So they have recruited me (sorry) to dive into that giant steel container and rummage around like some sort of game-crazed raccoon. I may not be able to do justice to our errant Cyberqueen’s dream, but I can honour her with lots of HOT PINK TEXT. If you have something I might like, please fire it at me via the tweets. I am @Brendy_C.
Anyway, let’s get started.
VHS vs BETAMAX by Adam R and Max H
A wonderfully neon video-chucking battle arena. VHS vs BETAMAX is Smash Bros with a neon 80s vibe and a lot of Kanji script ferociously assaulting your eyeballs. Two to four players wobble around a classic platform arena, firing old tapes at each other. Keep your shield up with one bumper and fire with the other. Watch as your blindingly yellow body bends 90 degrees and points to the sky in a back-breaking gesture of celebration. This animation alone had me laughing into my Bran Flakes. You can play with dastardly AI opponents if you have no mates but I know you do have mates because I saw you with them outside KFC earlier and it made me jealous.
The Barbershop by Team Shavetastic
Strangely soothing facial hair sculpting game. It’s just you and a whole city of homogeneous blokes who look like Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers. And they all want to get their beard shaved. Starts off pretty slow, with almost everyone wanting the same BORING styles. But stick with it and you’ll be tasked with sideburns, handlebar moustaches and all the other ones. At first I wanted it to be more along the lines of clumsy doctor game Surgeon Simulator 2013, stabbing Johnny in the eye with scissors, but then I found myself holding my tongue between my teeth with genuine concentration. Somewhere between intolerably dull and weirdly calming. Probably a lot like being an actual barber.
Executive Towers by daffodil and others
Psychedelic three-dimensional interview process. Right through that door, sir, says the robotic Japanese secretary. Thus begins your job-seeking adventure. Your character, like all the other applicants you meet, is wearing an aquamarine Adidas tracksuit. Disco forests. Tropical beaches. Soul-cleansing water-elevators. All this and more awaits you at Executive Towers. I was skeptical about my visit at first. But then I found a village of grumpy horses with a Bitcoin-only economy. Thumbs up, weird game people.
Psychic Cat by George Royer
The last game not bonkers enough for you? Well, Psychic Cat also features disturbing green men. This time, they are trying to stomp on you because you are a cat. I’ll be honest, after playing for about 40 minutes, I still don’t know what Psychic Cat is all about. Press X to create a box, click to pick up, click again to throw it at the horrible green stomping men and their red-coloured prayer man. Remember the Cat and the Coup? Well this is like that, if the cat was on catnip, and instead of teaching you history it just walked around saying “whoa”.
No More Kings by Montoya Industries
For those with a soft spot for the aul’ chess. The treacherous Damian Sommer (maker of the Yawhg) has released Chesh this week, a re-skinning of the abstract game with new, randomised rules every time you play. But the swine has only made it available on iOS so far. Also, it costs money. Thus, we must find an alternative. No More Kings is a pleasant (NON-PSYCHEDELIC) puzzle game using the pieces in their usual manner to try and grab the king. Move the knight to capture the bishop and you become the bishop. Move it to nab the rook and you now possess the rook. Repeat until the board is empty and the King is yours. Nothing revolutionary (and extra levels eventually cost you Real Life Money) but a good timewaster if, like me, you just love dat chess.
Artners by Holly Gramazio
Covered earlier in the week by Matt, Artners is a two-player abstract art bullshit-em-up. Make amazing shapes in different colours against the clock using a random set of tools for each new canvas. Infuriate your paint-partner by turning everything you’ve done so far into a hazy red gradient with just 5 seconds left to go. Ruin relationships by flipping all your loved one’s hard work 45 degrees to the right with no time left to recreate their lovely stickwoman. All in all, a fun romp. And reminiscent of Michael Brough and Andi McClure’s “Become a Great Artist In Just 30 Seconds” Silly, throwaway, creative, worth a punt.
Here’s where, each week, we plop out a couple of the best (or most curious, or most disgusting, or most frightening) interactive fiction to be found for $0.
It’s IF Competition season and the 2015 longlist is out for pretty much anyone to see. I had a wallow about in this creative swamp and came back with some soggy freebies. Don’t you want my soggy freebies?
SPY INTRIGUE by furkle
You are a spy. Go into the office. One of the organisation’s requirements, at the bottom of an over-complicated and purposefully boring list of instructions reads: “Permanent disassociation from past acquaintances and relations.” Agree to these terms by clicking away your life, in the game’s words: “I’m ready for a career filled with equal parts espionage and intrigue!”
The second game in this week’s column to feature a robotic secretary, SPY INTRIGUE throws you into the deep end by putting you in an office alone with her. What happened to the other spies? “They all went to an NHL game,” she says. “One of the players gave them mumps and then they all died.” But isn’t mumps quite treatable? “It was SPY -MUMPS,” she answers. “Their faces swelled up until they exploded.”
At first it looks like we’re going down a firm comedy route here. But then, the drop. Flashbacks begin of a life, more recognisable than this weird Spy nightmare, of someone learning religion in a post-religion world and drinking “neuroreplenishment serum” in the same way today’s humans drink cans of beer. The biographical story alternates with the SUPER ESPIONAGE to create an unsettling hybrid of humour and unhappy memory. A bizarre, videogame-literate Lanark-like.
Arcane Intern (Unpaid) by Astrid Dalmady
A short amble through the internship of somebody at a magical publishing house. I liked this because it plays with your expectations. Lots of IF is great at squashing weird fictional concepts into the tedium of everyday life. Arcane Intern (Unpaid) does it other way around. A place that, at first, seems exciting and dangerous, becomes routine and banal. The excitement of a new workplace dwindling away with each trip to the photocopier. Like a lot of internships or work placements, you’ll come out the other end thinking your time at Praecantatio Publishers was either a wasted opportunity or a thoughtless exercise in devaluing your own life.