This week’s selection of excellent or otherwise interesting free games features rabid dogs, sharp knives, worms, slime moulds, procedurally generated poops with little smiling faces and, oh yes, a dictatorial owl with severe megalomania.
COME ON IN.
Animal Inspector by Tom Astle and Ben Esposito
If Papers, Please was set in a colourful land of cats and tortoises instead of a horrible Cold War nation state, it would probably look like this. An animal bureaucracy sim that puts you in charge of approving or rejecting critters with a pair of big ol’ stamps. You start work as a ploy to ensure your own pet is approved come the day of its examination. But until that time, you’ve got to tow the line and listen to your superiors. Rejection quotas, tidiness rules, paperwork, red tape – everything is up against you and your workmates (an elderly lady fond of cats and a heartless youngster called Alan who rejects every animal he can… but why?). I especially like the requirement to write down your ad hoc reasoning for each animal. “Old dogs have interesting cultural value,” reads my notes field for one ancient hound. “I love him,” reads another.
Carrots and Cream by Aergia
Absolutely horrific tale involving vitamin-rich carrots and thick, delicious cream. Short but definitely not sweet, it’s mostly a game of clicking and dragging. You shovel up carrots from your vegetable patch and grate said veggies into a nice bowl of dairy goodness. But not before seeing things from a perspective that’s a little more… down to earth. A distressing, mischievous leftover from this year’s Asylum Jam.
sleep start by epicureanistik
Short, cryptic tale of human distress and partner abuse in the glow of a computer screen. Click on the person whose lines you want to hear, or check the messages on the PC. I’m not sure precisely what to make of the scenario that plays out between the man and woman in this story, or either of the endings. Suffice to say their relationship is not the healthiest. But it still has the feel of a tiny piece of thought-provoking theatre.
Actias – A Prelude by Kitty Horrorshow
First-person heebie-jeebie mystery concerning an ancient, unknown being. Six glowing green crystals belong somewhere in this rusted, sandy canyon full of Ozymandian ruins. You are the peon who has to find out where they must go and restore whatever strange otherworldly creature it is that needs your help. The voice that guides you has notes of both a tragic child and an over-proud architect. What’s more, look up. Her words are literally written in the stars.
Paaarty by Increpare
One of Stephen Lavelle‘s fun vignettes. A funette. This one soundly captures the feeling of rocking up to your mate’s place and making an absolute show of yourself until you vomit in the plant pot and pass out against the door frame. You control a single dude at the party. The A-Z keys make up an entire alphabet of micro-actions and rude gestures. Lift your shirt up, sing Irish republican anthems, interrupt someone from across the room. All profound actions, all very close to my heart.
ProcJam 2015, a procedural generation game jam, has unveiled it’s twisted innards to the public. They are disgusting. But they are also very interesting, so let’s take a quick look at some of the entrails. Quick! Before they slither away!
Call of Dudley by Poor Track Design
You are trapped in a labyrinth of stark colours and mysterious telephones. Find and answer the ringing phones (hint: use headphones). After a while it becomes clear there is another person here with you, called Dudley. He soon concludes that you are both victims of a simulation, citing the unnaturally smooth surfaces and the “apparent misappropriation of our feet”. The absurdity unwinds and within a few more phone calls the GHASTLY TRUTH is revealed. If you only pick up one thing from ProcJam, make it this one.
X, a Game of Y Z by yanko
Chesh-like generator of tile-based King-stomping board games complete with mahogany board and finely-crafted pieces. Perhaps you’d like to play Ssapyyama, a game of Tenacious Warlords? Or maybe some Blihipe, a game of Arcadian Robots? It looks pretty chaotic to a chess fiend but some solid rule anchors remain. Pieces are separated, as far as I can tell, into various chessy categories. “Limp” pieces can only move a small amount of spaces, whereas “striding” pieces can move many. “Acrobatic” pieces can leap over others, while “erratic” pieces move in a more complex pattern. Unlike Chesh, the moveset can be deciphered before moving anything. I don’t know if that is an improvement or a step back. But it is something.
KID KOZMIK by Ian Sundstrom
Heroic bear puzzle-platformer with constantly shifting colour scheme. The puzzles themselves are fixed but the colours mix up randomly to create “aesthetically pleasing, cohesive palettes”. Did you hear that? That means it has both purple AND green. TOGETHER.
*stands back to allow stampede of interested parties through*
Mirror Lake by Katie Rose
Cosmic bowl of things growing in a lake. Watch mountains form and branchless trees rise out of the stellar soup. Hit ‘N’ for a new worldpot or just wait and see what appears every couple of minutes or so. A screensaver fit for Heraclitus, aka the bowl man of ancient Greek cosmology.
LifeTime by Skully
Cellular life generator based on some bloody genius I had never heard of. Pop cells down and watch them grow, die and be reborn according to the rules of dangerous mathematical magic. The cells pulsate around the screen slowly, like throbbing slime moulds. Another hypnotic screensaver-style trinket to muse at and say “hmmmm!”
Ad Astra by khalkeus
Constellation and star system generator. A wee toy for creating random mini-galaxies of stars and constellations. Slap enter to get a new web of dots, hover over the stars to see their names and accompanying planets. Watch them slowly rotate like a disassembled strand of DNA.
PoopViz3000 by ilianaaaa
Same as above. But for poop.