This month you can travel to the icy wastes of the frozen north or to the legendary Dragon Peninsula. Horror fans can look into supernatural murders, pursue a dark force across the Wild West, or investigate a haunted house. For lighter, more surreal fare, you might travel to another dimension with a well-known series, find the truth about the Unfolding Spider, or go on imaginative adventures with two children’s cartoon characters. Alternatively, you could enjoy a dark take on a classic fairy tale, or control the life of a young woman trapped in a secret facility. All these await you in this month’s roundup of releases from the freeware scene.
Nick Toldy: Legend of Dragon Peninsula
Nick Toldy has travelled to the legendary Dragon Peninsula, determined to achieve fame and fortune as a brave knight. But all is not well when he arrives. The inventor McAlec appears to be up to no good and there are even rumours that the dragon at the top of the mountain may be no more. If Nick is going to find the recognition he craves, he will have to get to the bottom of these mysteries. Yet he won’t even be leaving the entry port if he can’t prove himself worthy of the knight permit needed to explore the wilderness beyond.
Red Herring Labs have definitely demonstrated the influence of Monkey Island in this tale of a young man seeking to become a mighty knight. You’ll start off in the docks and subsequently travel across barren moorlands, through the big city and ultimately into the caves of Dragon Mountain itself. The character graphics are line-drawn figures with simple shading while the backgrounds have a more detailed, pastel-drawn style. The characters are smoothly animated, though the more detailed backgrounds remain static, even when scenery such as a windmill might be expected to move. The music is a variety of jaunty tunes, and the cutscene at the start of the game is fully voiced.
This game not only has the look of Monkey Island games, but the feel as well, with strange characters and sometimes surreal solutions. The quest to obtain a knight permit involves passing three challenges. Completing these challenges requires a certain amount of trickery, as they cannot be achieved by entirely honest means. In acquiring a stallion, you will also meet a horse seller whose hand-waving may seem oddly familiar. Inventory, dialogue and spotting combinations hidden in plain sight all have their role in the challenges players face. Whilst the similarities to its inspiration risk tough comparisons, the humour is also handled reasonably well.
Nick Toldy: Legend of Dragon Peninsula can be played online at GamesGames.
You Led Me Here
In a secret underground structure, a young woman lies imprisoned in a darkened cell. Elsewhere a mysterious figure powers up a complex console. The lights flicker on and the door to the cell opens. Though fearful of what she may find beyond, the woman hesitantly ventures forth. Is this the beginning of a journey that will see her escape to the surface, or simply another torment thought up by her captors?
Whilst Alex Marmo’s game may not be entirely original, it is still an impressive piece of work for a solo developer. The Unreal 3 Engine has been used, allowing for fully detailed 3D modelling throughout. The look of the underground base is dark and dismal, with more than an air of neglect about it. Despite this slightly decrepit look, the machinery within the complex appears fully functional, from the cell door to some mechanical pistons. Both machines and the unfortunate prisoner are fluidly animated. This is all quite graphics-intensive, so a reasonably powerful video card will be required to run this game smoothly. There is no musical soundtrack, though mechanical noises back up most of the action.
The operator of the console turns out to be none other than the player. The left-half of the screen is taken up with the console, full of unlabelled controls, with the right half occupied by a monitor with a row of buttons beneath it. The buttons allow you to switch between cameras whilst the console controls allow you to operate various mechanisms around the complex. Clicking on the monitor also allows you to zoom in on the camera view, though the console controls are unavailable in these close-ups. Most of the controls will only operate when the camera view shows the machinery affected, so switching views and experimenting is necessary to find out what each control does. On occasion it is also necessary to use a control in one view and switch to another quickly to operate a separate mechanism within a short space of time.
You Led Me Here can be downloaded from the developer’s website.
On a set of remote arctic islands, a family lives happily together. Happy, that is, until the day when a freak wind blows all but one of them off the island where their home cave is located. As the last remaining member of the family, one man must embark on a perilous quest to unlock the secrets of the local archipelago and recover his lost relations.
In keeping with its simple premise, Luke Thompson’s game also adopts simplicity in its presentation. The graphics are artistically stylised, with both scenery and characters made up of solid-blocks of colour rather than shading. The only exception is the sky in the far background, which has a white misty quality near sea level. This look effectively conveys the starkness of the polar landscape, without detracting from the feel of the game at all. Whilst their heavy winter clothing mostly masks their bodies, the characters are smoothly animated, as are the various mechanisms you will need to operate on your journey. Outside, the whistling of the arctic wind provides the background to your quest, replaced by a light and pleasant piano piece for the cave interiors. There are also appropriate sound effects for mechanisms and certain actions.
The gameplay is similarly simple, with a one-click interface and inventory being used automatically when required. Magic campfires are scattered around which, once lit, allow instant travel to any other lit campfire. There are no dialogue puzzles, as short conversations consist of a series of pictures exchanged between characters. The only text appears in hints available by clicking an on-screen “?” for most challenges. Apart from locating inventory, puzzles consist largely of trying to work out the functions of various machines scattered across the island. You’ll need to operate a lift system, put together a broken passageway and fling large steel balls across an abyss. For the most part, puzzles can be solved in any order, reducing the chance that players will get stuck with nothing else to do.
Brother can be played online at the developer’s website.Continued on the next page...
Platform(s): PC, Mac
Platform(s): PC, Mac
Platform(s): iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, Mac, PC
Platform(s): PC, Mac
Platform(s): PC, Mac