I was planning to focus this week’s round-up of free games on a watercolour-based walking simulator with lots of flamingos, until I saw that Alice had already coochy-cooed over it. And now I have to write about another spaceship game. A bloody spaceship game in which you have to salvage the pieces of your enemy and click them onto your blocky, Frankenstein vessel and then go shoot things. Okay to be honest I forget why I was complaining.
Lightspeed Frontier by Riveted Games
Build your own spaceship. This is basically a 3D re-imagining of the wonderful Captain Forever. You start at a space station where you buy all the parts you need. Let’s see… armour, satellite dish, mini-guns, reactors, thrusters, shield generator. Yes, yes, all the best space bits. Now you drag and drop them onto your command pod and stick your own ship together like you are piecing together bits of LEGO. Then off you go to explore space and murder scoundrels for cash.
Every destroyed ship leaves behind more pieces for you to salvage. But linger too long and more enemies will appear. If your command pod is destroyed (and you don’t have a backup) then it’s lights out for you spaceman. Back to the nearest space station to rebuild from scratch. There’s some lovely details here, like the way your ship elongates when warping to another system, or the terrifying black hole that resides in one of the systems, whose gravity starts to pull you in.
Spectrum by Dan Smith
Colour-swapping puzzler. You are trapped in a “digital labyrinth” with nothing but a weird electronic device that looks like the world’s most basic smartphone. Use the device to collect and store colours from certain blocks in the world. With the colours stored you can pass through the puzzle chambers. For instance, slurping up all the red from a block will let you pass through a red laser grid. Any other colour in your device and the grid will remain solid.
There’s more than a hint of Portal here, with signs saying “MANY OBSERVE YOU” and computer terminals scattered around offering the creepy testimony from previous puzzle-subjects. The puzzles themselves increase in thoughtfulness as it goes on, introducing new elements like the ability to warp to special “landing pads” or the need to purposefully have the wrong colour so that you can cross grids like they’re a bridge. With 7 levels it’s a short romp, but one that was accomplished enough to win a Young Game Designer award from BAFTA.
Observer: Edge of the Earth by Team Porpoise
Abandoned castle exploration. Step into the elevator in your office building and breathe a sigh of relief after another hard day’s work. Then breathe that sigh all the way back into your body because you are not going home, you are going to an ancient, spooky castle in space. There are red diagrams painted everywhere and not a soul to be seen. Sculptures and stonework is crumbling but the candles are still lit, and papers and scrolls sit at desks. It is the Mary Celeste of castles. Wander through and explore, pulling levers and hitting hidden switches. There’s lots of solid level design in this one fortress, with secret passages leading back to places you have been before. But abandon all hope ye who think you’ll solve the mystery. This is the first of four parts, with the other three planned to come out some time in the who-knows future.
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings by garlic kisses
Driving with strangers simulator. You’ve just been picked up at a gas station. You had no ride and you were hopelessly lost. But now you’re in the warm back seat of a car, with two strangers in the front. The driver is very talkative. He keeps jabbering on about lakes and garlic and his favourite foods. The person in the passenger seat simply looks at their glowing phone the whole time, giving directions and reluctantly answering the driver’s questions. That’s when the urge strikes. You need to go to the bathroom. But can you trust this strange pair not to do something drastic or unpredictable? No, you cannot. What starts off as an uneasy car ride soon becomes a panicked, absurd race against time.
Video Game Critic Simulator by Laura Kate Dale
Review the best generic AAA first-person shooter that has ever been released this year. Type anything with your keyboard to have all the words spill out onto the screen just like that. This is what it is like to be a critic of video games. Plot paragraph? Check. Gun paragraph? Check. 9.5 rating? Check. You are a good critic with excellent speling and grammer. Although it is mostly a piss-take, it still makes good points about the business. This paragraph in particular, focusing on the storyline of the generic FPS, is something that consistently annoys me about the industry and our place in it as reviewers.
“The story tackles surprisingly deep issues for a video game. While that sounds like it’s a compliment to the game, I could easily say the story barely stands up to anything that exists outside this medium. It’s all about framing.”
“But Brendan,” you say, “doesn’t the creator of this game, Laura, write for RPS sometimes? And haven’t you met her in real life?”
Yes, I have. And I would accept all accusations of collusion were it not for the fact that I routinely commit many of the sins pointed out in this simulator.