Hello there! I’m sorry to bother you like this at your computer screen but I have a cart full of free games here and I heard you were interested. Of course, have a look! Yes, some of them are falling apart, but some of them are precious and rare. What? Oh no, I wouldn’t take that one if I were you. Well, yes, I suppose it does have some intriguing chiselwork. Are you sure? I’m afraid I won’t be back for some time. How much? Ha ha! Didn’t you hear me? It’s free! Anyway, I will be off now. Goodbye, stranger. And… good luck.
*Dark Souls laugh*
Defenders of the Weeping Quasar by Ian MacLarty
Hyper-traditional scrolling space shooter with lovely noise. Yes, please. Throw yourself back into the good life: firing wildly at basic green shapes and munching high scores until your eyes glaze over like yer man from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Fire with X, control with arrows. This is as throwbacky as it gets and yet it feels so pure, so honest. It could be the sound design that draws me in, which makes successive explosions sound like quickfire chiptune improvised on the spot, or it could be the tiny bit of recoil that your ship suffers with each blast, forcing you to keep pulling upwards, into the fray. Arcade purity with no frills. Thumbs up.
TRANSGRESSION by AlexVsCoding
Co-op cops on a mission to clear their neon futurescape of dreadful red pests. Also: they are clones. Since you are supposed to be functionally identical, things begin on an equal footing for both players. But the game quickly starts discriminating against one of you. I didn’t get a chance to play through this properly because I have no friends today, so including it in the roundup is usually against my rules. But it is prominent on itch.io – usually a good sign – and I like it when games use their mechanical cogs to make a point, instead of relying on writing alone, which is something this game reportedly offers. I did get far enough controlling both clones to notice that doors were not always opening for one of the cops, but were working just fine for the other. The enemies will also start to bully one of the players, while ignoring the other. If you have another human available, buddy up and let me know what you reckon. Originally made during last year’s Jam for Leelah.
Rhiannon by Brendan Vance
Short neon-streaked pilgrimage to a city built entirely of towering song lyrics. Wander along a path lit by glowing critters in this dreamlike visitation. For me it felt like some sort of subterranean afterlife sparsely populated with pop stars, a place I didn’t fully understand but nonetheless enjoyed. Inspiration from Fleetwood Mac and the Weeknd is so thick and heavy that it could easily qualify as a love letter to either of them. There are a lot of small moments I liked, including a “live” musical performance. After this concert you find yourself at a bar called the Shit Creeknd, boasting “COCKTAILS”, “BOTTLE SERVICE” and “DESPAIR”. Which is a slogan that would get me into any bar. Even though it is ultra short, I still enjoyed being a tourist in this dark, hazy land.
Space Artist by Talha Kaya
It’s a musical extravaganza this week! This is a small Bowie-inspired game of jet-packing and spike avoiding calmness. You have to thrust out into space and collect the green radios. Hit the spikey things and it’s back to earth for you. The screen splits into a number of sections, all reflecting your actions, which looks pretty yet also kind of distracting. But once you learn to focus on a single “slice” things are fairly straightforward. Then the hard levels come. An odd mix of gentle maneuvering and thoughtless risk-taking is required. Includes a cover of “Heroes” in the credits sequence. Goodbye, space man!
Last Chance to Green by Four Quarters Team
The flying columns of the anarcho-syndalist enclave known as Ludum Dare continue to terrorise the internet with two-button games about growing. This one sees you trying to coax a small green shoot into blossoming in order to spread plant-life back to a devastated planet. Each day you get a forecast for tomorrow, and as the cute little computer controlling the replanting mission, you have to decide what to do out of two options. The first few days are teaching days – you’ll have only one option – but after that it’s down to you. Caterpillars expected? Deploy bug spray! Too much rain? Pump the excess water away! Sometimes, you get two options and neither of them are ideal but you have to just wing it as best you can. Grow, little flower, grow!
Botany? by mimimicee
More horticulture! But this time you are using the witchcraft of speed-typing to grow your plant. Type the letters within the three second time limit to cast magical spells. Starts off with 5 random letters, itself a difficult task to get used to, but after a few successful attempt the length of the incantation increases. Gah. Sorcery is hard. A teeny-tiny Typing of the Dead with a much breezier look about it.
Invasion by Cat Manning
Creeping, fearful pursuit through a lost world of abandoned homes and unknown creatures. Some kind of creature is tracking you like a jaguar and it can only be distracted and slowed by feeding it mementos of your old life, trinkets from before whatever world-destroying event took place. The sweatshirt of an old flame, the ring your grandmother gave you, the bracelets you made with childhood friends. A suspense tale of memory and nightmares, there’s a moment when you realise that interacting with the creatures makes you gag and vomit, as if the very sight and sound of them is poisonous, which reminds me of the Flame Alphabet, a book about a world where children’s speech becomes toxic. It’s almost Doctor Who-ish in the sense that it takes something everyday – your souvenirs, your belongings – and treats them as offerings to be thrown away to satisfy the cravings of an elusive invading force. Something to think about, given what happens when you do sacrifice your possessions and the quote displayed at the beginning of the story.