Indie | PC Freebies Round-Up – 21/07/09
By Lewis Denby
We started our XNA Community Games Round-Up last Tuesday, and it seemed only fair to begin a similar feature for that other stalwart of amateur game development: the big, beige box. This new, fortnightly column is all about the most interesting, innovative or just plain brilliant PC games to come out of the indie scene recently.
A couple of ground-rules before we get going. Defining ‘indie’ is difficult on the PC, since it seems to stretch from full-scale retail releases, right through the digital distribution channels, down to self-funded projects with a price tag, and finally hitting the realms of ‘just for the love of it’ – the free games you see dotted around the internet. Since we happily review anything that costs your dollar, this column is for the free stuff only. It’s also going to stretch to include game mods, so while everything you’ll see here is freely available to download, you may occasionally need a particular game installed first. If that’s the case, we’ll let you know.
This time, it’s an interesting mix of traditional genre work with those that are trying to push some boundaries in the videogame world. The diversity of the indie scene is what makes it so fascinating, so I hope future fortnights can continue this theme.
Ben Chandler [link]
We wrote about Shifter’s Box, a neat little adventure concept with surprisingly good puzzle logic, back in the magazine days. Heed is developer Ben Chandler’s new game, and ventures away from the format of his previous work.
Most noticeably, there aren’t many puzzles, and the ones that are there are reasonably lightweight. It’s all because Heed has a significantly different focal point. It’s all about the curious story that unfolds, the beautiful visual and aural design work, and the general atmosphere of the whole thing. Puzzles would have got in the way. It was a brave but excellent choice to avoid them.
It’s a short game, but every section of it is crafted with clear adoration for the genre and for videogame storytelling. A splendid piece of work, and an essential download for anyone interested in adventure games.
//Radiator 1-1: Polaris
Robert Yang [link]
[Half-Life 2: Episode 2 required]
This has actually been out for a while, but it makes sense to contextualise Part 2, released last week, by talking a little about this first. Radiator is a series of short Half-Life 2 mods, designed to push the boundaries of what people are creating on the mod scene, and to work within small templates in order to craft emotional and expressive experiences.
Part 1 is vastly intriguing, though a little shaky. The whole five-or-ten-minute game takes place in the woods at night, with you playing – presumably – a young woman on a date. It comprises a sort of flashback sequence, as the woman recalls the events of the night via text-based dialogue. The game part of the game is all about stargazing, as your date explains how to search for different constellations, and you have to correctly identify them in order to make progress.
The date concept is solid, the writing strong, and a nice twist towards the end certainly unexpected. There are also a couple of endings to find, which is a nice – though probably unnecessary – touch. But the act of playing the game is slightly clumsy: the fact that the game needs to spin the skybox in order to provide a challenge completely breaks the spell, and the whole thing just becomes a little tedious after a while. Still, it’s an exquisite idea, and sets the tone nicely for further instalments.
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