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Free Loaders: The Good, The Bad and The Mystic

Yeeeehaw. The past couple of weeks have seen cowboy-themed games pouring out of every saloon on the internet. And it's all thanks to the recent Mystic Western Game Jam, which challenged folks to make the best, most spiritual gun-slinging games they could think up. And I'll be damned if these gringos didn't do their darnedest to make us all proud, I reckon. Why don't y'all come see for yourselves?

*spits at pot, misses, looks around to see if anyone noticed*

Looking for more free games? Check out our round up of the best free PC games that you can download and play right now.

Through the Valley of the Starbound Drifters by Lovely Rev

Shoot yer demons. Run the gauntlet of an insincere, skull-headed spirit, through a desert canyon as you are assaulted on all sides by dark bullish forms. They are trying to chase you down and headbutt you to death, or fire strange pink energy blobs at you from atop dusty rock columns. Keep your wits about you, pardner. Make it to the end of the valley and see what's up with that huge black slab of flickering darkness. It's a strange place out on the frontier, and this is only a short, simple adventure. But who cares when it looks this good?

Or this good?

Or THIS good?

Top marks for mystic art.

Black Gold by Conor McCann

Sip beer and chat. Or sip beer and don't chat, since one of the routes this single-scene vignette let's you take is to slug your beer and say nothing as you and your pal watch shooting stars from the back of your pick-up truck under the Texas night sky. Even when you pick the other conversational paths this is what you'd call a "quiet" game. The sparse dialogue explains, little-by-little, what is happening in the lives of these two old friends, as the constellations far above change their appearance with every restart ('constellation' was the additional theme of the jam). Imagine Kentucky Route Zero with one scene and done entirely in monochrome - you've got yourselves Black Gold. And just like Starbound Drifters above, it's short but it's damn purdy.

Sinister Stars by Andrei Mishanin & Wowa Umaniz

Creepy saunter through the desert night. Your horse has been spooked and has galloped away into the darkness. Fetch a torch and investigate. Meanwhile, seven stars have turned red and fallen out of the night sky in an ominous sign of bad tidings. Roaming slowly around the desert you'll find the remnants of these fallen stars, glowing crimson on the ground like embers. Pick them up and try to find the next one. But there's something else out there with you, and your horse is nowhere to be found.

Skele-stories by Mark Calabio, Kris Calabio, Rachel Sala, Laura Michet

Story-telling to skeletons. Appease the bones of the desert plains by stitching together a story from several small bits of text. Will your protagonist fight a rogue for the hand of his lover? Or will he hop out of town with his .50 calibre leaving the sheriff annoyed? I was very proud of my disjointed story about a cackling cowboy who ended up in the pit of a mine shaft, presumably thrown there by upset townsfolk. But the skeleton creatures are the real judges here. "Terrible, no offense," said the skull of a longhorn about my first tale. "A terrible telling." I went back and did a much better story about a moonshiner who became a gun collector and a fierce renegade, but who ended his days looking down the barrel of a shotgun. "You're getting there, I suppose," said the skeleton. Everyone's a fucking critic.


Paper Brexit by Greg Buchanan

Dystopian political wotsit. Britain has voted to leave the European Union (and in the game hahaha help us). This piece of interactive fiction was written shortly before the referendum and explores a nightmarish interview with your boss, the editor of a national newspaper. You start by running through your memories of the vote and the immediate aftermath. Prime Minister "Blameroon" resigned (or was pushed out) as soon-to-be President "Drumpf" was campaigning across the pond. At first, these tones of parody clash with the creepy, serious music but then the dialogue - all loudly typed onto the page in front of you - quickly takes an eerie turn, focusing on the banal malevolence of a divided public. Is everything you're saying the truth? Why does your editor keep looking at you like that? For me it was a weird, pessimistic exploration of the politics of fear. But who knows, maybe you'll choose differently.

There You Go by Octogear Games

Escape the room(s). It's all a matter of perspective in this pixelly palace of riddles. Change your view of each room with the arrow keys to find out what you need to do. It's all here: levers, switches, ventilation shafts and fridges packed with heavy cartons of milk. Even references to old point 'n' clicks. I got stuck on a contraption that sees you mixing colours together to complete a Rube Goldberg gadget but the clue for this part was just hiding on another surface, out of sight until I remembered to take a look around. A pleasant Sunday morning kind of puzzle box.

All Hail The Spider God by Xalavier Nelson Jr

The Spider God gives us the Web, and the Web is Life. So spake the last Spider Prophet (real name: Eric). Amen.

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