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PC Freebies Round-Up – 01/09/09

By Lewis Denby

Another fortnight, another collection of free indie games for your home computer.  Splendidly, there’s loads of brilliant stuff to talk about this time, even if I did bend the rules with a couple of them.  There’s one older game, and one very old game, adapted for your browser.

Each and every one of these is entirely worth your attention.  Do not let us down, loyal readership.  Play these a lot, and tell all your friends they’re bad people if they don’t do the same.

canabalt//Canabalt
Adam Atomic and Danny B [link]
This is an absolutely splendid free-running game that does away with every single piece of extraneous control and strips everything down to its glorious basics.  You run automatically.  All you’ve to worry about is jumping.

I’ve already heard it described as “What Mirrors Edge should have been like,” which really fits.  Its simplicity is totally key.  There’s no fiddling around with combat, or with working out where to go next.  It’s all about the speed and the timing.

Speed increases as you go on, as well, so you’ve to be increasingly adept at watching for what’s on the horizon and making sure you clear the obstacles in time, as each hit costs you health.  See how far you can go.  And see how long it is before you find yourself hopelessly addicted.

//Little Wheel
OneClickDog [link]
littlewheelThis is actually quite an old one.  I first played it a few months ago, but for some reason we never actually covered it here.  Freelance Wonderboy Daniel Lipscombe mentioned it the other day, at which point I slapped my head at such stupidity.  It’s just wonderful.  Wonderful wonderful wonderful.  You could probably call it wonderful, as well.

Mindless comparisons might help here.  Imagine if Amanita Design had opted to make Machinarium into a standard web-game a la their Samorost series.  And then imagine they’d drawn it a bit like World of Goo, only in silhouette.  This is a gorgeously refined, experimental point-and-click adventure, one with a lovely little story, some fab puzzles and bucketloads of cute.

It’s not a particularly long game, but it is an incredibly beautiful one – properly tacticle, but impressively cerebral at the same time.  It’s one of the best free games I’ve played online in such a long time, and I can’t believe I’ve not thrown it in everyone’s direction until now.  You have Daniel to thank when you find out how wonderful it is.  Wonderful.

waker//Woosh / Waker

Poof Games / Gambit [link] [link]
This odd little pairing is more than a bit interesting to talk about.  Woosh and Waker are puzzle/platform games developed by Poof Games for Gambit, which is a collaboration between MIT and the Singapore government.  Woosh and Waker are part of an experimental, educational project, to see how players respond to different presentations within videogames.

Launching each game doesn’t immediately throw up too many similarities.  But dive into the game proper and you’ll realise they’re both exactly the same in terms of the mechanics and level design.  The difference?  One presents an anthropomorphic character and introduces a story.  The other sees you guiding a bouncy ball around the same platforms, only with a backdrop consisting purely of abstract art.  There’s no plot to be found.

It is, of course, very interesting to consider which side of the fence you fall on.  Do you prefer the abstract visual beauty of Woosh, or the more evocative, story-driven presentation of Waker?  Do you prefer guiding a living character, or a blissfully unaware rolling ball?  But what’s particularly brilliant for the player is that both are excellent, seriously clever games.  Try them both out, and have a think about the difference in your approach to each one.

//Street Fighter II
Capcom [link]
streetfighter2Okay, so this is obviously slightly different to the indie-empowering games I usually talk about here.  But really.  When Street Fighter II – still at least damn close to the pinnacle of the fighting genre – is suddenly available to play in a browser, for free, it’s obviously worth talking about.

You’ll already know what Street Fighter is, so there’s not much else to say here.  Predictably, it doesn’t adapt alarmingly well to keyboard controls, but for an idle distraction on the web, you honestly can’t do much better.  It’s an absolutely brilliant game.  You should totally play it right now.

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