I told my brother I had to write a column about free games today and he said: “Free games like when you bundle a load of socks up and then get your mates to add their socks and it keeps growing until you have a football?”
No, I said. But I will mention that, thanks.
Emily is Away by Kyle Seeley
Eagle-eyed free loaders will have spotted Emily is Away gracing the pages of RPS a few weeks ago. Well, the final version has been released. This is a game about instant messaging over the years and (for me at least) the slow death of an old friendship. It can feel a bit friend-zoney-wah-wah in places but it still had me shouting at my computer screen like it was a real MSN cyberdrama from my teens. “It’s been a year!” I yelled when Emily was hung up on something. “YOU were the one who came to ME!” when she seemed to be complaining about something we’d done. And “What’s THAT supposed to mean?” when she made loaded statements about a new love interest in my life.
It’s a game of passive aggressiveness, reading into things and admiring the Windows XP throwbacks. But the best touch is a small one. Whenever you type your ‘messages’ sometimes they quickly delete and edit themselves, as your own character self-censors their feelings. At one point “you’re my best friend” tellingly becomes “you’re one of my best friends”. It reminded me both of the lo-fi feel of Digital: A Love Story and the text messaging system from Catholic-guilt-simulator Catherine. Which are not bad games to be compared to.
Emotion Simulator by floribund
Comical emotion-based mini-games. Stave off doubt, grief and fear by smashing the spacebar. YOU LEARNED DENIAL! Bat away balls of inappropriate thought with the A and D keys. YOU LEARNED REPRESSION! Interacting with humans is hard and exhausting, so run yourself through this happy gauntlet of Mii-like human substitutes in their minimalist town square, complete with a dealer hanging out in an alleyway, selling screams, just like in real human towns.
Leon’s Cool Game by Leon Chang
A cool game for cool people. I don’t even know if that is its proper title. It is played entirely on Twitter. You don’t have to type anything or have your own account to play. Just click on the Twitter handles marked A, B or C to progress. I like the little fat bird who waddles around just trying to do his thing. Each scene is a new account and it is worth playing just to see the names of these (“turtle teens!!”, “teens are mean” and “spooky stairs” are just some of the possibilities). I also enjoy how bad the bird is at everything. At one point you find a poor monster chained up in a room. “You try to hack at a chain,” it says, “but fall and impale yourself. You are dead.”
Skeleton Flower by Loren Schmidt
Short dumpster dive into an old, corrupted operating system. A ‘FileStor’ device has not been accessed for two years, and has subsequently compressed all photographs on this person’s drive down to 1 x 1 pixel size. Obviously, this means the files are just blocks of solid colour, so the whole OS now resembles a catalogue of Dulux paint samples. But the clues are in the captions. At first there doesn’t seem to be any reasoning or continuity to these. But later some vague possibilities emerge. I’d like to hear some interpretations of this one, because it is feels like it can be read in a lot of ways. I have a particular theory of what happened here. But I don’t want to spoil it, because spoiling things is for terrorists and reprobates.
Rejection by qwerty
Nightmare sci-fi memory puzzle. You are trapped in a room with three chunky computer consoles that look like they belong on the Nostromo, and expected to be able to discover a way out. All the buttons have names like “co-routine” or “parameter” or “iterator” or “constructor”. Does this have something to do with it? Or maybe it is something to do with the symbols on the buttons themselves. Or maybe it is the order in which they align? Or the angle they show? Or the colour? This is a game about trying desperately to see patterns in something that feels like it ought to have a scientific solution. I was happy when I finally got out of the room. But only for about five seconds.
Midnight. Swordfight. by Chandler Groover
Time-bending tale of two renaissance duelists fighting over and over again. You play a fool who has been challenged by a deadly countess. Figure out how to change the fight by waltzing through time clockwise and counter-clockwise, flying to the moon, and dressing up like a ridiculous pig. An intriguing and dreamlike sausage-based farce.
Grandma Belinda’s Variety Box by Arthur DiBianca
Bemusing puzzle box in the form of interactive fiction. Slap it, whack it, look at it. Eventually some stuff will happen. It is like the intricate and complex box in The Room except you have to use your imagination. Your filthy, filthy imagination.
Swan Hill by Laura Michet
Sombre homecoming story about a chancellor at a university of magic who visits his duke brother for a big party. The magic of the world is called “natural philosophy” and I thought it was interesting the way it causes pain and has a blood cost. Using even a small amount hurts your hands and arms, which I could relate to, being a moody carpal tunnel syndromite.
Got a free game you think Brendan would like? Throw it at him on Twitter: @Brendy_C.
Premature Evaluation will return next Monday, and Free Loaders will return to its normal Saturday morning slot. Need more free games? Check our list of 50 best free games on PC.