Indie | PC Freebies Round-Up – 21/07/09
//Radiator 1-2: Handle With Care
Robert Yang [link]
[Half-Life 2: Episode 2 required]
…the first further instalment being this tremendously clever vignette of a failing marriage. This one’s almost entirely thematic and metaphorical, but in a way that lends itself perfectly to the game.
This time, for the most part, you’re the inside of a gentleman’s head, frantically attempting to sort through years of repressed memories and troubled thoughts – either screeching them out to a marriage counsellor, or shelving them away. Quite literally, as these memories take the form of boxes with explosives attached. The choice, then, is whether to explode them, presumably releasing a venomous diatribe at your partner; or neatly stack them, work through things carefully, and make everything appear okay.
It hints at some big choices and tackles some big issues, without ever coming across as preachy or asserting one choice as the correct one (one option, though, is markedly more difficult, which was perhaps an unwise decision). It’s also unfathomably beautiful at times, showing off the still-pretty-if-you-know-how-to-work-it Source Engine in a series of flashback vignettes; and the fabulous catharsis of exploding your emotion-boxes is painfully apparent. Where Polaris showed promise, Handle With Care shows excellence – surprising, since Robert Yang has since expressed his disappointment with the episode. There’s none from here. Fantastic, thoughtful stuff.
Jan Willem Nijman [link]
Supposedly inspired by Quake 2, though the similarities aren’t particularly obvious, Qquak is a surreal, low-fidelity arena shooter, painted mainly in vivid block black-and-white. It’s high-octane and just a little bit mad, a frenetic battle to reach the top of the game’s high-score list.
After the initial interest wears off, it’s all a bit unremarkable, and never stretches beyond running around the difficult-to-navigate arenas totting up numbers with a big gun. Which is fine – but the visual style, while initially striking, means there’s little distraction from the unvaried mechanics. As such, it’s a game that starts out fun but quickly becomes a little tedious – unless the leaderboard happens to reel you in.
Elsewhere, a problem with either the game or my increasingly shaky home PC meant the menu regularly froze. It’s not been tested on another machine, so if this takes your fancy and your computer ends up crashing, we can only apologise.
//Great Red Herring Chase
Intuition Games [link]
This fortnight’s star freebie is a fantastic car-chase, speed-typing, browser-based hybrid. You’re in pursuit of the Red Herring, but you’re not in the driver’s seat. You’re the passanger, shouting commands to your driver in order to ensure you don’t lose sight of your target.
To do so, you’ve to select the relevant instruction from a list, and type it. It’s very much Typing of the Dead meets Grand Theft Auto, but that’s still a novel concept, and the effortlessly cool presentation adds tremendously to the atmosphere.
Possibly the only two-dimensional, top-down, browser-based flash game to capture the Film Noir feel perfectly, Great Red Herring Chase is simply overflowing with panache. It’s all accompanied by a smooth, lounge jazz soundtrack, and there’s even a hefty dose of humour hidden away – navigating the menu system reveals an option to put on lipstick.
The city in which the game takes place never changes, but the evolving difficulty from increasingly complex direction commands keeps things fresh. Ideal for pushing it as far as you can, or a quick five-minute drop-in, it’s an absolute gem of a freebie.
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