Following Freeware: January 2013

Following Freeware: January 2013 releases

This month you can search for your kidnapped sister, a missing friend or a lost hat. Elsewhere, you might find the end of the world surprisingly pleasant in Canada, or rush to save the planet from an alien invasion. More personal quests include a scientist trying to return from a fantasy world, a photographer facing up to a horror from the past and a troll trying to escape from a subterranean prison. Alternatively, you could even adopt the pumpkin head of a truly peculiar detective. All these await in this month’s roundup of releases from the freeware scene.
 



Patchwork


For Daniel, all his hard work is about to pay off as human teleportation becomes a reality. Elsewhere, all Lin's efforts are about to be rewarded as she attempts a practice summoning just prior to her mage exam. But suddenly these two lives collide as their experiments merge, drawing Daniel into Lin’s world and merging half his laboratory with her house. With Daniel stuck having an unpowered teleporting machine and Lin wondering how she is going to explain the loss of her uncle’s library of magic tomes, the two must work together to set things right.

Originally created for the pay-what-you-want Summerbatch bundle, this game from Ilyich is a truly magical adventure with a hand-drawn fine art style that is a joy to behold. Both the austere lines of the lab and the more rural setting of Lin’s world are depicted with a huge amount of detail, from clouds in the sky to individual flowers on the ground. This detail is carried over to the game characters, with full-face close-ups showing expressive faces when speaking. These characters are also smoothly animated, fitting well with the realism of the backgrounds. The background music contains a variety of gentle tunes that are well suited to the light fantasy setting that forms the larger part of gameplay. This is adapted to the locations, with an almost ambient echoing tune playing in an eerie cave.

Initially you control the two characters on their own, taking them through the actions leading up to the accident. Once the merging has taken place, the two characters agree to work together to reverse the process. From this point onwards you can switch between the two at will, and you will need the skills of both if you are to succeed. Whilst Daniel searches for the materials to create a lightning rod for his disconnected machinery, Lin’s main focus is on a spell to call down that much-needed lightning. The reactions of others differ toward the two, with Lin able to obtain some materials from a blacksmith, whilst Daniel may be able to offer a solution to a problem the smith is encountering. As well as their varying skills, the world changes subtly between characters, with Lin seeing a fire spirit where Daniel can only see warm coals. 

Patchwork can be downloaded from the AGS website.

 

Shapik: The Quest


The day dawned sunny and bright, and a walk through the woods with your little sister seemed an ideal way to pass the time. Sadly, the woodlands proved not as safe as they appeared, with a hidden net suddenly whisking your sister away, knocking you to the ground. Now you must travel through strange lands in search of your lost sibling. As the greenery of the forests gives way to the industrial home of the kidnappers, you may be called upon to undertake a greater task.

This Samorost-like production by paulp is more than just a pale imitation. The game is rendered in a fine art style which compares well to the Amanita's own productions. Your quest begins in a shady forest, but your journey will take you up into the night sky above the clouds, and down into the industrial bowels of the kidnappers’ lair. The graphics are well animated, with numerous background movements such as fish leaping in a river. In places the graphics even slip the bounds of the playable area, with clouds drifting out into the surrounding browser window. A gentle, dream-like soundtrack provides a suitable backdrop, as do the numerous sound effects for the creatures and mechanisms you will encounter.

Control is simple point-and-click, with the cursor changing to indicate hotspots. In contrast to other games of this style, players are only able to interact with items within the protagonist’s reach. However, this scope is extended in certain situations once you rescue a bee early in the game. The bee can fly to places you are normally unable to reach, and is also able to manipulate and carry small items. You will operate various mechanisms, solve a coded lock and carry on a handful of simple pictograph-based conversations. Some actions require a modicum of timing, but the time span allotted should be generous enough for most players and failure does not end the game, allowing as many retries as needed.

Shapik: The Quest can be played online at Newgrounds.

 

Troll Song: Chapter 1 - Completely Stoned


Clod troll. Nasty men trap Clod in cage in dark cavern. Clod not understand why men so mean to Clod, but Clod not like it here. If Clod had light and food, Clod would smash puny cage. But Clod not have these fings. This make Clod sad. Perhaps Clod use this fing called brain Clod hear about to do smart stuff to get out.

This first chapter in a proposed series by Tino Bensing and Dave Seaman shows great promise. The graphics have a Day of the Tentacle-era quality to them, with full parallax scrolling in the opening cutscene. This introduction shows a desolate plain on which silhouetted figures discuss how the last of the trolls have been removed. The rest of the game takes place in Clod’s cave prison, initially almost completely black. As you progress, more of the cavern becomes visible, with lichen growing on the walls amidst strange rock formations. Clod himself is a bulky character with a prominent eyebrow, coloured entirely in a rock-like grey. He is smoothly animated, with his dangling limbs and shambling walk befitting a troll. The game is fully voiced to a good standard and features an orchestral soundtrack as well.

Whilst this debut episode is short, it serves as a good introduction to the character of Clod and the humorous tone that is also reminiscent of early LucasArts games. Clod is controlled with the mouse, with a verb list including actions such as “Kick” and “Bite”. Initially some of the verb boxes are completely blank, as Clod is unable to undertake those actions in his weakened state. As you progress, more actions become available, eventually allowing you to break out of the sealed cave. Clever use of the varied actions, as well as a limited inventory, will see Clod reach freedom, with a final piece of concept art promising more in an ongoing story.

Troll Song: Chapter 1 - Completely Stoned can be downloaded from the AGS website.

Continued on the next page...




Related Games

Patchwork

Platform(s): PC

Shapik: The Quest

Platform(s): Mac, PC

Troll Song

Platform(s): PC

Traumata

Platform(s): Mac, PC

2034 AC (After Canada)

Platform(s): PC

Obama and the Mayan Prophecy

Platform(s): Mac, PC

The Path of the Pumpkin

Platform(s): PC

Ray & Cooper

Platform(s): Mac, PC



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About the Author
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Steve Brown
Freeware Coordinator
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