This month you can go back to the 1920s as an aviatrix in the film industry or forward to the far future as a man trapped on a crippled spaceship. Horror fans can pursue a serial killer through a castle, or uncover supernatural happenings out in the woods. Those into IT can become a hacker breaking into a computer against the clock or a game reviewer who gets too immersed in the latest release. Alternatively, you can get three games in one in a collected trio of little sci-fi tales. All these await in this month’s round-up of releases from the freeware scene.
The Boogie Man
Detective Keith Baring is obsessed with his job. He has become distant from his wife and has started adopting increasingly harsh methods to bring criminals down. When his latest case attracts unwelcome media attention, the chief of police orders him to take a holiday. Not only that, he provides tickets for Keith and his wife to stay in a new resort at a remote castle. But this vacation proves to be no rest cure for Keith. In the middle of the night, his wife and the other guests are taken by the mysterious Boogie Man. Only by playing this twisted fiend at his own game will Keith see any of them alive again.
Uri’s The Boogie Man is a dark tale with new horrors lurking around every corner. This is not a game for the young or faint-hearted, as there is a significant amount of gore and other horrific occurrences. The main graphical view is a top-down retro role-playing game style. The majority of time is spent in the castle, with its rough stone walls and corridors. The decorations vary, from the comparative comfort of the guest rooms with plush seating to a storeroom covered in blood. The action largely takes place in the dark, so only the area immediately around the protagonist is clearly visible whilst indoors. Though small and moderately pixelated, the characters have enough distinct features to be individually identifiable. Occasionally there are still images rendered in a more detailed manga style for important story cutscenes. For much of the game there is no music, with only a soft whispering wind or, where appropriate, running water. The exceptions involve the appearances of the Boogie Man, who likes theatrical music to back him up, and action music for some of the more dramatic sequences. The game is far from silent though, with footsteps echoing on the floor, creaking doors and a multitude of unpleasant sound effects when helping the villain’s victims. The game is also fully voiced, with the Boogie Man especially providing a disturbingly effective performance.
Control is done through the keyboard, with arrow keys to move and Z to interact with whatever Keith is facing. X opens a small menu that allows access to the inventory, from which you can select an item to use instead. At the start of the game you will only have a small part of the castle to explore, most of which you will have seen in the relatively gentle introduction. As you progress, you will achieve greater heights and depths as you unlock doors and secret passageways. You will acquire a modest inventory, often in quite unpleasant fashion, and will need to be creative in your use of much of it. There are also secret codes to resolve and strange machines to operate. The latter are often creations of the Boogie Man, set to kill you or others. Whilst you will usually have some advance warning, it is advisable to save your game regularly as sudden death is a frequent possibility. The same is true for your fellow guests, and there are a couple of times when you will be working against the clock to save someone from a gruesome end. The story comes out naturally over the course of the game, with the reason for Keith’s obsessive behaviour becoming a key factor. There are five available endings, mostly determined by whether some of the other characters live or die.
The Boogie Man can be downloaded from the developer’s website.
Editor's Note: This game was originally credited to the wrong developer. We have since corrected the error. Sorry, Uri!
Jacqueline White: Bad Trouble in the Red Desert
It is the 1920s and the action film industry is booming. For aviatrix Jacqueline White, this is a great opportunity. Not only does she take cameras aloft to capture aerial shots of the action, she even gets to take part herself. Signed up for the latest movie from Two Bad Pennies studio, her work takes her to a popular film location, a desert with an abandoned mine. But unexplained accidents have been putting other crews out of business recently. Fearing they will be targeted next, studio head Michael Edwards has warned Jacqueline to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour. Soon it becomes apparent that “bad trouble” may not just be part of an upcoming film title.
Grok and HandsFree have very much captured the spirit of the Roaring Twenties in Bad Trouble in the Red Desert. The graphics are largely presented in a watercolour style, though black lines have been used to give important characters and objects definition. You will visit such contrasting locations as the studio’s prop-filled storeroom and the barren sands of the titular desert. Jacqueline herself is clad in a sensible period pilot’s outfit, complete with scarf. She is smoothly animated, though most of the other characters she meets are static. Backgrounds are full of detail, including many posters for the studio’s past successes. The musical accompaniment is very much in keeping with the setting, being a variety of silent film music that changes to suit the current location and action.
Interaction is largely done with a single left mouse click. The cursor is a simple arrow most of the time, but when pointed at a hotspot it changes to a default action (usually look) and right-clicking cycles through the other possible interactions for that hotspot. At the start you will merely be delivering films and props, though locating these is not as easy as it first appears. Later you will investigate the injury of stuntman and uncover a conspiracy that goes beyond the studio. Along the way you will need to crack a written code and gain access to a secret club, a task that requires multiple clicks for each individual action. There is a hint system in the menu bar, which will give you two hints per puzzle, one subtle and one blatant. There are also a couple of arcade sequences, though they come with an option to skip if so desired. You will have extensive conversations with the various characters, ranging from danger-loving stuntmen to an old rich banker who is unhappy that his daughter wants to be an actress. The plot moves along nicely, emulating the adventure films that inspired it.
Jacqueline White: Bad Trouble in the Red Desert can be downloaded from the AGS website.
The Lone Planet
Michael Starmik always felt like there was something missing from his life. When the chance to enlist in a scientific expedition going beyond the solar system came about, he was all too ready to sign up. True, he was only able to achieve a lowly rank, but he was still excited to be travelling out into space. Then one day, whilst relaxing in his quarters, he feels a terrible impact across the ship when it is struck by an asteroid, suffering severe damage across all decks. If Michael is to survive, he must make his way to an escape pod quickly. But first he needs to work out how to open the jammed doors of his quarters.
In The Lone Planet, CNC Acolythe puts the player right in the middle of a major disaster. The graphics are displayed in moderately low-resolution, with both characters and backgrounds being noticeably pixelated. However, good use of colour has been made to distinguish different parts of the scenery, so items are easy to spot. You start off in your one-room quarters, which have survived the impact largely unscathed. Once you have escaped your initial confinement, you find the rest of the ship has not fared so well, with collapsed corridors and some parts open to space. Background noise is mostly a low rumbling as of remote machinery, though some areas have dramatic sci-fi music. There are plentiful sound effects throughout, including the crackling of damaged electronics and the hiss of pneumatic doors.
Control is handled by left-click, with right-click cycling through walk, interact, look and talk options. These same actions can be selected from a menu at the bottom of the screen, where the inventory is also situated. You have two main problems in accessing other areas of the ship. Firstly, many doors are damaged or sealed, requiring you to find alternative ways of getting past them. You are also one of the lowest ranking crew members, thus having only limited access in the first place. Fortunately a robot and another crew member have survived, and both are able to aid you. You also gain a utility kit which contains general tools that are useful in a variety of situations. The overall tone of the adventure is humorous, though given the death and destruction around you this is slightly black in tone. It is also possible to die, though only by taking risky actions, so saving regularly is advisable.
The Lone Planet can be downloaded from the AGS website.Continued on the next page...
Platform(s): Mac, PC, Linux
Platform(s): Mac, PC
Our regular round-up of freeware homebrew adventure games
Dec 29, 2016
Nov 28, 2016
Oct 28, 2016
Sep 28, 2016
Aug 26, 2016
Xbox One PS4 PC