Free Loaders: Fend off sharks and build nets in Raft

You know that bit in Castaway, starring Tom Hanks and Fed Ex, where he’s drifting at sea in a raft and the poor football he’s been absolute best mates with for years and years croaks it in the big blue and floats away with a sad smile? Would you like to relive that moment, except instead of a friendly football your closest friend is a huge shark? And instead of floating away from you he’s travelling towards you at a menacing speed and with a vicious and unstoppable hunger for your flimsy human flesh?

Me too! Come on in.

Raft by Three Students From Sweden

Adrift-at-sea survival game. I try to avoid posting about self-described “prototypes” because many of them will start as a freebie but eventually become paid-for. But Raft is some good vidgams. You start out on a tiny piece of wood with nothing but a rope with a hook on the end. Luckily, all types of flotsam is coming toward you on the current – wood, thatch, aluminium scrap, a barrel containing a piece of rope and a single raw potato. Throw your hook into the ocean and grab things, then forge them into useful gear. A net to automatically catch things, a fishing rod to get some mackerel, a cooking station to boil water. You can even start expanding your raft, turning it into a floating home away from home. You know what? Being adrift on the open ocean isn’t so bad. Wait. What’s that. Oh no. Oh no. There’s a shark circling your raft. Gliding, weaving, probing. It is going to munch on your floor and when it does it will take whole chunks of your hard work with it. Better get to work on that makeshift spear, bub.

I like this because the gameiness of it is immediately apparent, and survival mechanics suit this setting so well. You do reach the end-point, in terms of things to build, within a very short time but there’s some creativity and fun to be had building your floating casa along the way. Hold down the right mouse button with the hammer out and you can choose from stairs, pillars, walls and some other basic bits and pieces. Enough to make a weird, bobbing driftwood factory, lined with nets – a terrible floating creature in itself. An excellent start to something that’s likely to be a popular with all the rugged and bedraggled suitors on the survival circuit.

Road Trip by Adrian Forest

Relaxing vaoporwave car journey with chatty pals. But actually, now that you mention it, all these pals are talking exclusively in emojis. That’s fine, that’s fine. There’s plenty to talk about during a road trip in every language, even one composed of symbolic nonsense. You can choose your responses out of three (random?) emojis, or just listen to your passengers natter. The mountains pass in the distance to the synthy Resonance, the corn fields go by, a plane glides overhead, the city whooshes past with its towering apartment blocks – a mild and chill adventure. Joanna! Will you please stop talking about [Juggling woman] it is becoming very tiresome! Let’s talk about [Vatican flag] or something. Hey! Joanna! What have I told you? [No smoking sign]! [No smoking sign]! [No smoking sign]!

Forgotten by Sophia Park and Arielle Grimes

Corrupted interactive adventure. You turn on the computer to find it is an old, old machine. You see ‘frgtn.exe’ typed slowly into the command prompt and an ancient game called Forgotten Blade starts up. But this isn’t your mum’s text-based adventure. Or maybe it is. Its lost circuitry become decrepit, sullied with time and rusting with glitches. All the characters you meet seem twisted, broken, as if they are no longer functioning in their designed way, but still yearning to fulfill some greater purpose for the ‘hero’. Which they all do, of course, in their own way, altering the font or messages on screen into busted strings of erroneous characters, or stymied hexadecimal. A cracked visitation, a tragic, dying videogame with the digital equivalent of dementia.

Brain Box by Mukul Negi

Block-pushin’ maze puzzler. This is a part of the ol’ push-blocks-into-the-right-spaces-in-the-right-order-without-making-a-mistake-and-having-to-restart-everything genre. I forget the name. Something Japanese. Ninjitsu? Blockwaifu? Whatever. It’s two worlds of levels in isometric 3D with pits for the blocks – some of the pitfalls are 1 block deep, some more. Later there are wee green fizzleblocks which up the puzzles up a notch. But I’ll let you figure that out for yourself. All in all this feels half-standard, half-sturdy. Something for the spatial awareness and logic freakazoids to devour in a single sitting. Enjoy your puzzlemunch, weirdo!

Jump Doper by Cozy Game Pals

Rope-skipping cactus. Yes. You are a rope-skipping cactus and the rope is deadly and will slice you into smaller and smaller cactus bits every time you hit it. This seems to have the benefit of making you smaller and thus a harder target for the dangerous bladerope, but the thing is speeding up all the time, faster and faster. And your cactus isn’t great at keeping himself stable and upright, sometimes twisting so awkwardly when he hops that he lands on his back (his belly?) meaning your timing has to be that liiiiittle bit different. I once got as many as twenty eight skips before getting decapitated. Here’s a rhyme you can sing while you try to beat that: Little skippy cactus went to France, little skippy cactus couldn’t dance, got caught stealing in a butcher’s shop, the butcher saw him and said ‘hop, hop!’, how many pieces did he chop? 1! 2! 3! 4! 5!

Dating Sim by Kyle Reimergartin

Hello how you? Good nice see. Do you vid game? Here is good play. Do you like sport? Yes some time good sport. Is food nice for you? I believe so also. Date is excellent, night kiss I think. Yes yes yes.

Want more free games? Check out the Best of Free Loaders collection or check our list of the 50 best free games on PC. Got a free game yourself? Give it to @Brendy_C or sink into an abyss of unknowing and unforgiving self-disregard

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18 Comments

  1. Skiv says:

    Raft reminds me of Stranded. Though Stranded was ugly as sin.

    • Zach Fett says:

      Do you mean Stranded Deep?

      • SuperFaex says:

        I think he actually means Stranded. It’s a german game from way back in 2005 but it’s also available in english. There’s even a Stranded II available and a Stranded III in the making. They have nothing to do with Stranded Deep, though. I’ve only played the first game but had a great time with it. The graphics really are horrible but it’s fun, though the second game probably better holds up today.

        Oh, and it’s free, so give it a try if you fancy some island surviving.

  2. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Wilson was a volleyball.

  3. Mr Bismarck says:

    This is the face Wilson makes when you call him a football.

    To be fair, he makes that face a lot.

  4. Syrion says:

    Raft is excellent. It reminds me of how rare it is to have a well made free game with not too shabby production values. “Freeware games”, what a (comparatively) rare oddity nowadays. I know there are lots of free games still, but at least anything that’s seemingly more elaborate can and will be sold nowadays. That’s for the better, of course, as even small devs can generally make money off their games nowadays, but perhaps not as magical a time for pure players.

    Anyway, the game is really good and also reminds me a lot of Stranded, which I used to love so much. Raft may be a bit bare, but what there is is nice and you’re really looking forward to every improvement. Well, I better go have a look what my little palm seedling is doing on the upper floor..

    • wisnoskij says:

      Wait, where are walls, ramps, and other levels?

    • Velthaertirden says:

      Yeah! Raft sounds very interesting. Finally my dreams of a proper Waterworld game seem to be fulfilled.

      • Zach Fett says:

        We already got a Waterworld game a while back that was more about fighting on makeshift boats and stuff, rather than Raft/Stranded Deep which I’d compare to Jaws or Cast Away more than Waterworld.

        Sadly it’s been abandoned and hasn’t seen any patches in 3 months, as is tradition with most Early Access games.

        link to store.steampowered.com

  5. SpiceySlade says:

    In JumpDoper, you start out as a cactus, but you get to be different shapes as your number gets higher. Somewhere around 30, you unlock a car. At 90, you unlock a bottle. That’s as far as I’ve gotten.

  6. bonuswavepilot says:

    There is something very appealing about the block in a suit in that Sokoban clone…

  7. ButteringSundays says:

    Kind of ruined by the fact that this isn’t how sharks work. If we’re going to make stuff up and have a Big Bad Irrational Sea Predator couldn’t it be a Kraken or something?

    Rafts are not natural prey for sharks, and even if they were they wouldn’t work that hard for a single meal…

  8. kalzekdor says:

    Blechhh… Raft has no inverse mouse option…

    • kalzekdor says:

      And you can’t pick up and move things like cooking stations after you’ve placed them…

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    Harlander says:

    I wish that kind of puzzle was named one of the things you’d chosen.

    I’d have been greatly amused by Nethack’s Blockwaifu level.