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: Horror Vacui, an experimental experience about the fuzziness of memory; Winds of Revenge, where the aim is to hit your boss with a paper aeroplane; and Feral, a first-person hunting prototype that thrusts you into a stunning primordial jungle as a ravenous predatory cat.
Even at the best of times, memory can be something of a whimsical and unreliable faculty. It’s certainly highly subjective, and we all remember things in slightly different ways. Playing with and examining this idea is the experimental Horror Vacui.
More experience than game, it takes place in the mind of a comatose patient. The aim is to explore the person’s thoughts and recollections, piecing together a highly ambiguous narrative from the disjointed fragments of their memory. It’s a surreal, shifting and seemingly never-ending sequence of eerily blank rooms and corridors usually populated with just a single object.
These points of interest – personal affects and items from domestic life – are largely devoid of any context. Staring at them sometimes triggers sounds and visions, and what you take an interest in will have a strong bearing on subsequent content. It’s up to you to interpret the relationship between everything you see. Eventually, after enough time, clarity and focus return, and you find yourself staring at the ceiling lights of the hospital, barely able to move your head. By choosing to close your eyes again, you’re able re-enter the world of your subconscious. Each playthrough is quite different.
Horror Vacui is a genuinely intriguing and unique creation. Set to a harsh and virtually unrelenting soundscape of white noise and rendered in extremely hazy and flickery monochrome, it’s a real assault on the senses. It’s like staring at the faint glimmer of an image through the static of a loud and detuned TV set. Yet it’s strangely hypnotic and an imaginative and effective way of conveying the fuzziness of memory, as well as how we become fixated on specific events and objects, imbuing them with a significance and meaning that may not necessarily be so. Unexpectedly enthralled, I found myself revisiting it several times, which is necessary if you want to get any sort of handle on its story of tragedy and despair.
Horror Vacui is available for Windows and can be downloaded from Game Jolt for free here.
Winds of Revenge
“You are angry! You are mad! You are good at making paper planes! The wind will carry you to victory!” Or so goes the blurb to Winds of Revenge. Set in a typical open-plan office, the premise is simple: hit your snooty-faced boss in the face with a paper aeroplane. We’ve all dreamed about it, now it’s time to do it (well, at least pretend to!).
Firstly, and most importantly, you’ll be wanting to choose from the wide selection of music from the radio in the reception. Predictably, I went for the synthwave-ish track, but the chiptune music came in a close second. Once happily grooving, you then need to scout the area and plot out your flight path. This is all taking place in a large and busy environment, requiring you to bend the plane round corners and over obstacles including other employees.
Moreover, once your missile is airborne, you can only steer it left and right and it will slowly descend (boo gravity, boo!). Conveniently then, there are lots of fans, heaters and ceiling vents that you can toggle on or off in advance – some will facilitate quick changes of direction when you pass through the current, while others will cause the plane to suddenly climb or dive.
When you’re satisfied, it’s time to mosey on over to the launch area, aim the plane, charge up the throw and guide your bird to victory. You can have as many goes as you like, tweaking your plan as necessary – the crumpled wreckages potent reminders of previous failures. If successful, you’ll be permitted to head to the next floor via the elevator.
Winds of Revenge is fun and challenging – a good blend of skill, strategy, and trial and error. Disappointingly, there are only eight levels, but there’s definitely enough going on here to create a bigger game.
Winds of Change is available for Windows and can be downloaded from itch.io for free here.
Invariably limited by budget, experience and team size, developers of free indie games tend to opt for either pixel art or very simple or highly-stylised visuals (and often to great effect!). What surprised and impressed me about Feral then, which was created by a group of seven game design students as a graduation project, is the very high quality and richness of the 3D environments and models.
A prototype hunting simulation, it’s set in a stunningly vibrant, exquisitely-detailed and sizeable jungle sandbox. It’s a primordial paradise of active volcanoes, dinosaur-like skeletons, giant twisting trees and vines, gushing water falls, lush watering holes, and caves and ridges. There are all manner of strange and wondrous lifeforms that react to your and each other’s presence – plants that suddenly curl up, snake-like gophers that retreat into their mounds, freaky-looking frogs that spit a blinding ink at those that get too close, red-antlered blue deer that run and hide from anything bigger than them.
You experience the beauty of this world through the eyes of a tiger-like predatory cat. However, ever hungry and with cubs to feed, your mind should be more set on tracking down your next meal. Focussing provides visual indicators to the distance and direction of nearby movement. Smelling alerts you to recently-made footprints. Crouching reduces sound and visibility, allowing you to sneak and hide in dense grass and behind trees and bushes. You can only sprint short distances, and quarry can usually outrun you with enough of a head start, so you need to get in close before you pounce. You also need to drink regularly as well as avoid other predators. In this place, it seems you’re not quite top of the food chain.
Feral is a great concept and incredibly immersive. As it should be, landing a kill is very satisfying – rewarding your patience and perseverance. I love the sense of desperation that sets in as your hunger increases and the frustration of having to abandon hunts because of other hostile creatures. Your main prey is the aforementioned deer, but you often find yourself chasing smaller animals for diminishing returns – anything to survive.
There’s also a lot of pleasure to be had just in exploring the world and taking in its many vistas. And pressing the button to roar never gets old! Sadly, for some people, myself included, it does have a tendency to crash a lot. This also meant that I didn’t really get a chance to properly test out the perk system, which allows you to spend “kills” on unlocking and upgrading new skills. It’s also worth noting that this can only be played with an Xbox controller.
Feral is available for Windows and can be downloaded from itch.io for free here.