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Live Free, Play Hard: Then Mystical Snake Shit Happened

Swords ricochet

THIS WEEK: Slapstick fencing. DESTROY YOUR HOME. Mystical snake shit.

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

EGGNOGG by Paul Pridham and Connor Pridham

Niddhogg is amazing, but it isn’t out yet.

So this is a cover of Niddhogg that captures a lot of the greatness of the original--slapstick two-player fencing with chasing and stabbing and sudden death--while bringing its own ideas to the mix. Swords ricochet when you throw them instead of dropping to the ground, you raise and lower your sword incrementally rather than in stances, everything is a little cuter, etc.

As always, each player wants to reach the opposite end of the map. If you kill your opponent, you have a chance to advance to the next screen, if you're fast enough. Advance enough screens and you win, that is, you throw yourself into a pool of lava.

You know you won though because the word WINNER flashes across the screen. Defeat means rebirth into this plane of eternal duelists, victory is permanent death. The loser LIVES.

You die in one hit, which encourages mind games. Are they lunging high? Going low? Throwing their sword? Jumping around like a goofball? Everything happens so fast that luck and skill collide and you're not always sure which played a factor. These constant reversals are joyous.

None of which would matter if it didn't FEEL GOOD. Not stabbing feels good because you evoke the archetype of the poised musketeer who differentiates themselves from Other People With Swords by Not Stabbing Immediately and Being Fancy For a Few Seconds While Thinking About Sword Science. If you're good at blocking, you can smirk as they loose their cool and thus gain social dominance.

But failing to kill someone feels good too because the act of a sword blocking another sword causes a metallic ping, a spray of sparks, and a wobble--a delicious sensory nugget of visual, audio, and motion feedback.

And stabbing feels good because they DIE and being stabbed doesn't feel terrible because you respawn in a few seconds and now they're in a position of vulnerability, forced to present their back to you in order to make any progress.

At this point you might need to throw your sword to kill them before they escape. Unlike the other emotions in the game, which are mostly based on instantly dying or instantly not dying, throwing your sword is a delayed emotion with lots of swish. This is the video game equivalent of throwing a cracker at someone's mouth and seeing if they catch it, except the cracker is a sword and they're trying to get the fuck away from you, you monster. Failure leaves you unarmed, imbuing the swish with the added weight of sacrifice. Gambling with swords.


Misadventure by Matzerath

Demons have invaded your retro game console and they’re trying to kill you inside the game and if you don’t beat it fast enough they’ll kill you outside the game. This was the perfect thing to show me as I came down from a terrifying bad reaction to cough syrup, thank you Increpare for sending me this melting demonic glitchspace.

I like this because it combines the game itself with all this organic intrusion. Trying to obey the rules as the rules get spattered all over the wall.


We are in the woods by between

This is perfect, better played than read about.

What a way to play with short form. Which games become possible when, and only when, we make them 20 seconds long? 10 seconds? 5? 1?

And it is shortform in the way only a game could be, summoned up in a burst of interaction, confused fingers and eyeballs suddenly snapping into comprehension.

Robert Yang might say this plays with focalization, with our expectations of how consciousness is distributed throughout a game.


Explain menstrual periods to me like IAMA [cis] man by Kevin McGowan

Began as a Reddit thread designed to explain heavy periods to cis men, but a useful lesson to anyone who doesn't have a uterus.

There’s a lot of mysticism over periods in mainstream culture--men are taught to be grossed out, women are told to conceal them. This ancient monthly cycle is frequently the subject of sexist humor (classic jokes like "what bleeds for a week and doesn't die" that connote the period as "not only abohorrent but potentially non-human") and a common insult when someone of any gender displays emotion.

So maybe understanding what a period actually signifies is worth our time.


Notes by Droqen

It’s a platformer with significant metatext. That is, you can’t get the high score of 8 points without consulting the notes written alongside the game.

The notes seem helpful at first. Type “111” to get a super jump, for instance. It’s made for people who like cheat codes, who thrill at playing God with just a few keystrokes.

But follow the notes faithfully and you’ll score nothing. So you have to experiment. The cool thing is going back after you score 8 points and reverse engineering how the codes work, if you have that kind of brain (it might appeal to a certain kind of programmer more than anyone else).


Canon by sparkleswirl

Make the cubes jump so they don’t get hit by other cubes. Four sides, four arrow keys. You can’t fix your eye on any one part like you would leaping through a platformer, you have to take in the whole screen and listen to the music of jumping. In Canon, leaping correctly is a tune, to the point where you could probably play blind if you tried hard enough. So it exercises peripheral vision and tunefulness as much as any amount of reflex.


Destroy your home by fabienporee

Destroy your home!

You have no weapons, no fists, all you can do is hurtle your body into your house over and over again until it breaks!

There’s a doggy too! The doggy has a secret!

I like that the premise of this game is that you destroy your house in the middle of an infinite grass wasteland under a gorgeous sky as a dog watches. That’s the kind of “outside perspective” we need in games.





Doodal by Pishtaco


Tweak the position of the blue rectangle for FRACTAL ZOOMING. According to Terry, “This is the bit that's AWESOME. Grab one of the corners and move it around and you'll see!”

Under “fractal tools” you can add and remove layers, enable complex roots, that sort of thing.

Colors can be mixed like a palette, by selecting one of the white squares in the third row down, holding shift, and clicking on colors to mix them.


The Queen of Snakes by JO99 and Kronsilds

The Queen of Snakes is a point and click adventure in a truly eerie temple full of petrified snakepeople and nigh-hallucinogenic textures. Every inch is crawling with JO99’s intricate, hyper-detailed art, a lush, byzantine density that feeds the mind as you search for clues.

Kronsild’s music starts out with a hypnotic rattle and the slow, ominous beat of drums, building at your descent into the almost alien corridors. Every item you take sounds like you disturbed a rattlesnake.

Alien, yeah, otherworldly menace, not the fantasy world equivalent of a bunch of office cubicles reskinned with rock textures. It feels like a place where a snake queen lived and mystical snake shit happened.

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