You awake in a pool of ooze. What colour is it? You don’t know, because it is completely dark. But it definitely feels like ooze. You stand up and claw for the lights, at the spaces on the walls where you think lights ought to be. You can hear a faint sound. Something warm brushes against your leg. Then again. Finally, you find the switch.
Oh God. They’re games. Free games. Oozing all over the floor. More than a dozen of them, stretching and panting and climbing on top of one another, like crabs. The sight of them is making you gag, and yet you cannot turn away. Look at them, they are so pure. So… free.
Anatomically Incorrect Dinosaurs by Nathalie Lawhead
Here it is, your wonderful lab. You have been tasked with putting together a new dinosaur. Your assistant Mishkin, who has graduated from the University of Experiments Gone Wrong with honours, will help you. First, the body. Then the head. The animal starts thrashing, furious that it has no throat with which to scream. But things aren’t helped when the neck comes. The monster begins squealing abuse at you, protesting that these are “not my arms!” and singing loudly: “This situatiooon is beyond reproaaach!”
Another relentless assault of sound and colour from the belching pit of games that is Tetrageddon. Long may such chaos continue.
Knossu by Jonathan Whiting
Blindingly staticky first-person puzzle game. A cross between Antichamber and putting your face right up to a dead television channel until you see shapes and colours. I figured out the goal after some beard-twiddling but I could not puzzle it out to completion because a) I am dumb and b) there is a terrifying yellow light that roams the world like a living sandstorm and it swallows you whole and I don’t know why but that frightens me.
Grandpa Pip’s Birthday by John O’Kane and friends
Wistful, colourful fantasy village walkabout with an “endful runner” game attached. There are dragons attacking the hamlet and everything is on fire. But the inhabitants are not worried. Because it is Grandpa Pip’s birthday and they are going to make him a cake. Cue innocent japes and jokes aplenty. Past the initial story bit, the running game emerges of riding on a horse at a dawdling pace, hitting demons and shielding yourself against arrows and fireballs. It requires annoyingly perfect timing and leaves nothing to error. Two hits and you’re down, right back to the start. I much prefer the simple clicking about and the plodding along of funny village dialogue. I also like that most of the character names are Irish, leaving them unpronounceable to the other 99.94% of the worlds population. In all statistically likelihood, that’s you. Ha ha. Say: “Niamh”. Go on. Try and say it. No! You’re wrong, ha ha. You’re wrong.
TRIAD by Anna Anthropy, Leon Arnott and Liz Ryerson
Short-form puzzle about trying to fit three people with different sleeping habits into a bed. Also, a cat. One person snores, another turns from side to side, and the third rolls over like a sausage on the floor and rebounds off the other bedizens. How will YOU get them all to sleep?
(No really, tell me, I couldn’t figure it out)
Apartment Simulator by whuop
An experimental do-nothing depressogame. It may be called “Apartment Simulator” but since nearly all the people on the TV are speaking Swedish it felt to me more like “Night in a Foreign Hotel Room Simulator”. Which is also fine. Switch the channels, mute the people, watch the adverts. Want to turn the television off? You can never turn the television off.
Excavate! by Scriptwelder
Chewy and compulsive grid-based archaeology game about being a quiet team of unassuming historians in welly boots. Survey the squares, dig the squares, find old bits of tombstone in the squares. It’s all going on in this 12 x 12 plot of overgrown shrubbery. The game seems to have been commissioned by a Polish educational organisation devoted to digging old stuff up. They must be aware of British television show ‘Time Team’ because you can dispatch members of your dig team to court the press and TV for money. I did this once and suffered -20 credibility. Learning is fun!
Ballf by LCStudio
Forget everything you know about Golf. Now try and remember it again. Did it have voxels? Did you have to throw the ball? Were you a cat? If the answer to all these is “possibly” then Ballf is the game for YOU. It is a golf(ish) game of throwing a garish blue ball around medieval towns, the lunar surface and your back yard. Control your swing by powering up the meter, control your accuracy by timing the passing bars. Ballf. All courses have 9 holes and there is a level editor in case you are mad.
This is where I will now mention some PICO-8 games:
Developers Lexaloffle (makers of Voxatron) have recently created something called PICO-8, a tiny virtual machine for making games and other bright stuff. It looks well good. Here is how they pitch it:
PICO-8 is a fantasy console for making, sharing and playing tiny games and other computer programs. When you turn it on, the machine greets you with a shell for typing in Lua commands and provides simple built-in tools for creating your own cartridges.
Sadly, it also costs some £££. But what doesn’t cost £££ is the results of other people’s tinkering with it. So let’s look at three of these wee experiments.
Picoracer-2048 by impbox
Heavily Wipeout-inspired top-down racer with crazy speed, big boosts and tough, grinding turns. Play against three AI opponents or your own ghost in time trial mode. When you bosh off the sides the screen goes a bit crackly. You will bosh off the sides a lot.
Ghoorbaghe by tbsp
“A simple game based on ‘Into the Circle’,” says the Piconaut of this one-button frog game. Charge up your jumps from lily pad to lily pad, see how far you can go before landing in the drink. Try to catch some flies mid-jump for extra kudos. A recent patch note: “You’re now a bit smarter and can cancel jumps!”
Terrain Renderer by J-Fry
Islands are cool. Make an island and cover it in the exact amount of light and shadow that islands ought to be covered in. We all know the correct ratio, who among us would dare to break the mould.
Beautiful Dreamer by Colin Marc
I love going into a piece of IF completely blind, then moving slowly toward a state of semi-comprehension. I say semi-comprehension, because modern IF is worryingly good at never really letting you fully understand things. Beautiful Dreamer is something I want people to go into blind. It’s a soft, finely detailed fantasy probably best read by moonlight. When it isn’t being gentle, it is funny, and when it isn’t being funny, it is being suspiciously clever. I saw a bit of Borges when I dandered through it, but then again, I see that old bastard in everything. I saw him in some hummus earlier.
Secret Agent Cinder by Emily Ryan
An interactive comic following the exploits of the lethal French revolutionary Agent Cinder. Make your way into the Royal Ball at Versailles and escape with the King’s secret plans. I liked this because the comic and directional arrows gave it a good sense of place. You can easily grasp the layout of the ostentatious palace you are waltzing through (with visible disgust on your face). The art is great, the action is funny, and there are a lot of great moments of derring-do. Best of all is the running suggestion that Agent Cinder is constantly having to restrain herself from an outburst of mass psychopathic violence. She is the hero we all need.
If you have a free game you think Brendan would like, send him a Twittertweet: @Brendy_C