First-parser linguistic shooter. Queer pirate plane. You’re a good fleshchaos Charlie Brown. They say if an Emily Short pokes her head above ground at the start of a new year, the > crop will be plentiful.
Looking for more free games? Check out our round up of the best free PC games that you can download and play right now.
Counterfeit Monkey by Emily Short
Anglophone Atlantis has been an independent nation since an April day in 1822, when a well-aimed shot from their depluralizing cannon reduced the British colonizing fleet to one ship.
Counterfeit Monkey is interactive fiction where you’re trying to escape from a language-obsessed island armed only with a device that removes letters from words, transforming the object described by the word. JP LeBreton compared it to “Portal for English”, which is a great way to describe how fast and fun this mechanic is.
Say you have a stone and you’re about to kill me, I can turn it into a tone and let it harmlessly vibrate away. Is that boat a boa or an oat? Depends if I need to scare you or feed you.
The first joy of Counterfeit Monkey is gazing on your environment with the knowledge that it can be linguistically reshaped.
The second joy of Counterfeit Monkey is that puzzles have multiple solutions, making success feel personalized, one of the hardest and most rewarding things to pull off in puzzle design.
The third joy of Counterfeit Monkey is being a secret agent who relies on wits, not weapons. Kind of like Gravity Bone--avant-garde espionage.
Some parser games are tedious to navigate. Counterfeit Monkey has fast travel, suggests possible exits if you’re getting lost, and an exquisite typographic map that tracks your position. This is a friendly parser game, not the kind of > that eats your verbs and nouns and drools mindlessly for more.
I can think of no higher endorsement than the number of times I yelled HOLY SHIT with each zap of my letter gun. With over eight hours of delicious wordplay, Counterfeit Monkey is a powerful start to interactive fiction in 2013.
Queer Pirate Plane by merritt kopas
A game about friends, freedom, and a queer pirate plane, “...put together in a couple of hours...for friends to play at a NYE party”. Escapism that turns outwards, not inwards, untangling and rewriting the real world instead of seeking another. Gift-games, handcrafted games, games that close distance.
Plane mood: drunk
The Circular Ruins by Robert Yang
A superb scifi bedtime story that blends the perspective of a little girl and her powerful uncle (whose identity is intriguingly left to details like “Emperors have been known to bow at my feet”). His tale recounts the hunting of a mysterious criminal known only as...Orchid.
Robert Yang has been hiding this story on his site for three years with no actual links to it that I know of. Too modest.
Mom is Home by Marras
A story about living with hypermobility and an unsupportive family. Marras’ dry, matter of fact style balances humor and fragility, and her background as a visual artist shows in her understated, harmonious color scheme.
I’m thrilled by all the artists delving into Twine, no longer forced to rely on programmers to carve a niche in the game world. Their work is fresh and exciting.
And in what is hopefully part of an increasing literacy of character development, Zolani wrote about choice funneling in Mom is Home, how options are used to convey a “whirlwind of ideas and worries and decisions”.
The Sixth Sleep by Sloane
A visceral alien world of bio-ships and fleshtunnels. You play a monster, right, the drippingest kind, and as the story progresses you catch flashes of what you are in gruesome glances, tantalizing tidbits of “vigilante veins”, “millepede majesty”, “bioluminescent glory”.
This xenomorphic prose leads you through living corridors until you realize a human is running through your maze. How will you interact? Can aliens and humans even hang out?
Sloane, like Marras, is another comic artist playing with interactivity. This story was inspired by her free short comic The Labyrinth's Lament, a delightful look at being a sadistic alien warden in a biological prison.
Fantastic Game by fantasticaneer
To over-describe Fantastic Game would be a disservice--the fun lies in discovering all the hidden interactions. Imagine someone's hard drive clutter reinterpreted as 3D props for your exploration pleasure, a land painted with random JPEGS and MP3s and textures, which is pretty personal if you think about it.
The design philosophy seems to be “this sounds fun I’ll put that in there”. What more could I ask for?
Giant singing eggs, I guess.
Shorn Face by fnmsp
In Shorn Face, a poem serves as a hub for vignettes on the subject of identity and oppression. I was struck by the precision of fnmsp's delivery, the control over each word, like someone speaking after all emotion has left their voice but what they have to say is so important they cannot stop.
You listen to the OSTs of obscure video games and anime. You also enjoy a select few chiptune artists.
Fantastic scenes interspersed with monotonous, eery labor at a cult-like corporation. Modern life, heartrending dreams, ageless violence.
You time each ring of the handbell with your footsteps. As soon as a bare foot feels the ground's approach, you flick your wrist: a wedding bell for flesh and dirt's chaste kiss.
Yet somehow the terrible calm persists, giving the impression of someone deeply aware of the immensity of power. The dignity of the martyr.
Dreaming by Kim Moss
A nightmarish look at being horny and depressed and awake. That terrible in-between zone where everyone you know is sleeping and you only have your own mind to devour like an animal starving in a cage that starts to gnaw on its own leg, horror and masturbation roiling together in a story that captures that late-night feeling of nothing else existing outside your bedroom except opaque darkness.
M A S T A B A S N O O P Y by gods17
Peanuts body horror text adventure taken to the utmost extremity of its premise. The fact that I said “Peanuts body horror” should be review enough, but yeah MASTABA SNOOPY is really good and deserves the popularity it’s been getting.
What kind of society would arise in a post-reality world with a copy of Peanuts as its sole substrate? What would those inhabitants look like? What is the fate of a lone Woodsnoopy 799 wandering through the hellscape of the Fiefdom of Mounds? THANK GOD THIS GAME EXISTS TO CLUE YOU IN.
In the words of Leon Arnott: I feel like the Peanuts characters are uniquely predisposed to accepting their loathsome, meaningless existence in this game.