Always short of a few bob and looking for something a bit different, each week I scour the internet for fun, interesting or just plain curious Indie Freebies. This week’s highlighted titles: are HUMAN, an immersive first-person horror adventure; and The Dark Within, a pixel-art platform odyssey through a strange land.
And then I’ll be taking a look a few entries from a recent Game Boy-themed jam, which include: You’re in Space and Everyone Wants You Dead, a fast-paced 3D platformer; Exit, a fiendish puzzle adventure; and Yokoi-san Warp, a cutesy arcader involving a warp gun.
I don’t know about you, but if I’d been ordered to head out to a remote Alaskan research outpost to notify the staff that they’re all out of the job, effective immediately, I’d be asking why couldn’t they do it by phone, email, or Skype, and isn’t this really a job for HR? But who I am to question the logic of horror fiction?! Besides, the genre wouldn’t be much fun if the protagonists were ever sensible or rational.
Using the found footage angle, HUMAN begins when you press play on a web video purportedly obtained from hacking a government stream. So, from the viewpoint of a camera (obviously, your bosses get off on watching people being made redundant), you suddenly find yourself plunged into deepest, darkest Alaska – walking through the falling snow at night towards the inviting light of the outpost. Quelle surprise, when you enter the complex it’s eerily quiet and the researchers are nowhere to be seen. What possibly could have happened to them?
HUMAN is a short but entertaining and immersive horror romp. As usual, it’s a case of exploring the areas, reading logs, and solving one or two simple puzzles while second guessing the jump scares.
What makes it so enjoyable is the fantastic atmosphere, your feeble flashlight offering little in the way of solace within the terrifyingly dark yet believable environments. And the pacing is top notch. HUMAN makes clever use of teleportation (i.e. the video footage cutting out) each time you wonder off piste to control the flow of the narrative, as well as adding to the general sense of unease. Combined with an increasingly disturbing ambience, it allows for a gradual and climatic build up of tension. The ending is certainly not what I was expecting but mostly in a good way. Impressively, it was all made by one bloke.
HUMAN is available for Windows and can be downloaded from Game Jolt for free here.
The Dark Within
You awake in a bizarre and unfamiliar place, in pain from a bleeding abdomen. There’s an unbearable stench, and everything seems to be covered in what looks like gore. Clearly in need of medical attention, you resolve to seek out help.
Made in 72 hours for the GMC Jam earlier this year, The Dark Within is an enjoyable odyssey through a nightmarishly alienesque landscape. Highly reminiscent of the more traditional 8 and 16-bit platformers in terms of both visuals and mechanics, you find yourself (despite the wound!) running and jumping from ledge to ledge over spikes, chasms, and other nefarious obstacles. A neat little touch is being able to temporarily switch to an alternative reality, where everything appears normal and idyllic, to conjure up bridges and passages through the traps.
It’s good ole fashioned nostalgic fun, let down slightly by the awkward keyboard-only controls. But the real star of the show is the sumptuous multi-layered pixel art, which is nicely complimented by a melodic but piercing soundscape that further emphasises the strangeness of the place within which you find yourself. There’s also an enjoyable though somewhat predictable twist ending.
The Dark Within is available for Windows and can be downloaded for free from Game Jolt here.
You’re in Space and Everyone Wants You Dead
Apparently, you’re in space and everyone wants you dead. “Everyone” being a swarm of flying eyeballs intent on doing you harm. No fancy plot or exposition needed here, then!
You’re in Space and Everyone Wants You Dead is a first-person arcade game made in under 10 days for GBJAM5, a recent Game Boy-themed jam that stipulated a four-colour palette and 160×144 pixel resolution. You find yourself running and jumping from globe to globe collecting coins to amass points, the universe twisting and turning around you as you enter new gravity fields. The monsters are always in hot pursuit, and a single brush with them is game over (man), so you’ll be wanting to use those telekinetic powers of yours to throw boxes, bombs, and even other baddies at them.
It’s fast paced, fun, and addictive, but also quite challenging. I will get a decent score eventually!
You’re in Space and Everyone Wants You Dead is available for Windows, Mac and Linux and can be downloaded for free from itch.io here.
Another game that dispenses with the need for a plot is the first-person puzzler and GBJAM5 entrant Exit. You simply plough through sequential and dimly lit rooms, flashlight in hand, solving the puzzles in order to get the key to the next area. You’ll find yourself up against some increasingly fiendish brain teasers – all manner of logic, code, interaction, and math conundrums. There’s also a nice creepy industrial ambiance to it, and it looks amazing considering the extremely limited palette and resolution. The only thing letting it down is the lack of a save function, meaning all progress is lost when you, ahem, “exit” the game.
Exit is available for Windows and Mac and can be downloaded from itch.io here.
Also made for GBJAM5, Yokoi-san Warp is an endearingly cute and quirky arcade game from Japanese indie dev Go To Seven. Armed with a warp gun you have to teleport your opponent, an adorable kitty in a space suit, into its own projectiles. You switch places with whatever you target, which amusingly also includes the credits during the opening sequence. It actually requires a little skill, thought, and strategy, as the type of projectiles and the behaviour of the cat changes as you progress through the waves.
It’s perfect coffee break material. Plus, the animations and the anime-style pixel art are brilliant, as is the groovy chiptune music.
Yokoi-san Warp is available for Windows and can be downloaded from itch.io here.