This month you can play a cat who has napped too much among the stars, or a test pilot trapped in the dark depths of the earth. Those looking for a variety of player characters can play a homicide detective on the trail of a serial killer, a small robot hunting for a vital crystal, or a US president seeking to destroy the One Ring. Alternately, you might prefer a remake of a 1993 fantasy classic or simply trying to find the money to pay the rent on your student accommodation. There's even something for escapist Android users to play on the go. All these await in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
For an anthropomorphic feline, an assignment on a space station facing a sun is a plum job. Unfortunately for our hero Wentworth, repeatedly taking naps in warm sunbeams could have dire consequences. His commanding officer is visiting in an hour and is planning to review the progress of the sapling he sent for planting six months ago. With the sapling still unplanted, Wentworth hatches a cunning plan. A quick sprinkling of stardust will accelerate the sapling’s growth to a six-month level, saving his job. As long as he doesn’t accidentally get any dust on anything else, everything will be fine.
The latest game from ClickShake takes their trademark humour to a new world. The bright cartoon style of their previous titles is evident here. Wentworth is an irrepressibly cheerful character, confident that everything will work out fine, in stark contrast to his dour robot assistant. The protagonist is fluidly animated, as are the many other strange and varied characters in the game. The locations are also depicted in detail, from Wentworth’s space station base to a dark forest and an underground cave. An otherwordly tune with occasional dramatic overtones forms a fitting background to the action.
Whilst the initial setting is space, the inhabitants of the planet would not feel out of place in ClickShake’s Reemus fantasy series. A troll refuses you passage across a bridge and a grumpy gnome needs something to lift him out of depression. Wentworth is full of surreal and silly humour, such as the troll exhibiting internet trolling behaviour, and a squirrel offering a nut-storage service. Inventory and dialogue both play their part in progress. However, the key to many puzzles is the duster Wentworth carries with him. At first this only contains space dust, allowing you to accelerate the growth of plants, but you will later acquire two further types of dust. Both have their own special property, and the majority of puzzles require use of varied combinations of dust to achieve your goal.
Wentworth can be played online at the developer's website.
Wages of Darkness
Military test pilot Marina has been stationed at a secret research base for some time now. Disaster has struck the facility, and now she finds herself injured and lost in the bowels of the structure. She knows she only has a short time to make it to the base shelter before security protocol 13 is activated across the entire base. But with the lights out, Marina is going to have to feel her way to safety, and she is not alone in the dark.
This game is a polished version of Baron’s winning entry in the April 2012 MAGS competition. With the theme “Distorted Senses”, the central premise of the game is that Marina – and hence the player – are unable to see their surroundings. Surrounded by a decorative frame, the gameplay area is entirely blank, forcing the player to "feel" around for scenery and items. This lack of vision is carried over to the inventory slots at the bottom of the screen, with objects shown solely in silhouette to depict how they feel. Atmospheric sounds such as running water and creaking hatches bring the hidden world to life. There is also a slow, ominous soundtrack that switches to a frenzied tune when immediate danger threatens. There is even a small amount of voice work towards the end of the game.
The gameplay takes the concept of a pixel hunt and turns this normally frustrating activity into a key part of the horror atmosphere. As you sweep the cursor around the screen, a label constantly shows what you are currently pointing at. Walls and floors have their own descriptive feels, while the hotspots for useful objects are moderately generous, making them challenging but not impossible to locate. You will acquire a handful of items and use them in the environment and with each other to advance. The horror tone is very effectively conveyed. When danger threatens, it is all too easy to slip into the same panicked state as the protagonist, flailing around for what you need to escape. The game has both an easy and hard difficulty mode, with death only possible in the latter.
Wages of Darkness can be downloaded from the AGS website.
On his way to a party, a small robot takes the opportunity to recharge his batteries for the fun time ahead. Unfortunately, the automated flight controls steering the rock his house is built on are not up to the task, crashing it into a cliff. With the vital red crystal needed to run the engines shattered, our diminutive mechanical hero will have to set out to find a replacement. The party awaits, and they won’t hold up the start for him.
This game from Glauzer and AdM244 offers a charming teaser of a proposed larger production. The graphics are done in a simple but effective cartoon style. The eponymous Robo is a squat machine, with a square head and body and stubby lines for arms and legs, all decently animated. The house is simply furnished and the robot appears to have crashed in a small industrial area outside a large city. Simplistically but effectively rendered, the tall city buildings form a backdrop to the action. You will also visit an electricity substation and a mine. Audio is limited to the sound of the robot’s footsteps, which change according to the surface being walked on, and a varied beeping noise to simulate robotic speech whenever our hero makes an observation.
It would seem that the house is not the only thing to be suffering a power loss, as the city also has no electricity. Your task therefore mainly becomes one of restarting the city grid, which will also reboot a mining robot to loosen the crystal you seek. With all other robots powered down, inventory use and interaction with the environment is the order of the day. The normally frail Robo is also fitted with a strength module which, when activated, allows the protagonist to perform incredible muscular feats. Should a larger game be made, a wider variety of modules is proposed. The tone is light and humorous throughout, the robot making tongue-in-cheek observations about anything you look at.
Robo Quest can be downloaded from the AGS website.
Black Sect Remake
Many centuries ago, the village of Issegeac fell prey to the Black Sect. Villagers vanished without warning and there seemed to be nothing that could be done to stop the raids. Then the exorcist, Homorius, brought the Grimoire to the village, and used the spells within to banish the Sect. Since that time, the Grimoire has been passed down from generation to generation, its presence protecting the town from harm. But now your grandfather, the current keeper, has been cruelly slain and the Grimoire stolen. It is up to you to find and retrieve this magical tome before the village falls under the shadow of the Sect once more.
HandsFree’s remake of Lankhor's 1993 commercial game shows a number of improvements over the original. Whilst still adopting the first-person slideshow presentation of its predecessor, the graphics are noticeably enhanced. The overall appearance of each location is unchanged, but higher resolution and more colours provide more easily discernible detail, be it the warming fire of the tavern or the cracked paving stones of an ancient ruin. There are also some animations, such as a cat grooming itself in the village square. A dramatic musical piece plays over the opening, but sound within the game is limited to location-appropriate effects like the trickling of a fountain.
The gameplay has also undergone an upgrade. Rather than advancing continuously, allowing players to miss key events, the game clock now advances solely when you undertake certain actions. As well as avoiding dead ends, this also does away with the need to wait for events to happen The many death scenes are still part of the remake, but now a single click will reverse the fatal decision. The interface has also been improved, with the point-and-click cursor now lighting up over hotspots. Inventory and dialogue puzzles similar to the original provide the challenge, with a handful of new puzzles as well. The overall tone is of a serious fantasy tale.
Black Sect Remake can be downloaded from the AGS website.Continued on the next page...
Platform(s): Mac, PC
Platform(s): Mac, PC
Platform(s): Mac, PC