Author
Konstantinos Dimopoulos

Dark Disciples II

Freeware CRPGs are less common that -say- freeware adventure and platform games, mostly due to the fact that they need to be bloody big to be any good; a simple fact that translates into tons of content, detailed mechanics and buckets of Tolkien-esque words. Enter, Dark Disciples II, the honestly named and vastly improved sequel to the original Dark Disciples. [...]

Phenomenon 32

Phenomenon 32, being Kyratzes’ most ambitious project so far, is much more than the sum of its parts. Besides the beautiful black and white visuals, its atmospheric soundscape and a deeply depressing and simultaneously surreal game world, Phenomenon 32 is an incredibly immersive experience, designed to be savored slowly and carefully. It is after all a hard and demanding game, that simply cannot be completed in one sitting. It also is a game filled with surprises and little touches of excellence, that go far beyond what you might expect from a free game. [...]

Warhammer 40k: Fire Warrior

The problems with Fire Warrior, you see, are firmly rooted in its dirty console past. The game sports an incredibly annoying auto-save/checkpoints feature that forces you to replay levels again and again (only to be killed seconds before beating them), has pretty clumsy controls, very poor AI, astonishingly few tweaking options and an obviously tacked-on online multiplayer side. Then, it doesn’t even try to add anything new to the genre and its sole innovation is a rather failed copy of HALO’s shield system. And don’t get me started on the extreme linearity of the thing or the truly archaic need to collect color-coded keys… [...]

Red Baron

Between battles, you’d keep up with the “real world” through the game’s newspaper. I can’t tell you how proud I was (or how embarrassed I ought to be, today) when the newspaper’s lead story was on my bravery in shooting down some minor German Ace, or the stoic countenance I’d sported upon receiving my first medal. There was my teenage pride when, mouse in hand and Mountain Dew nearby, I’d read that my squadron’s efforts had led to a break in the lines, or frustration in reading about the Red Baron’s exponential kill-count. The newspaper was a (virtual) tangible anchor for the game’s sense of reality. Brilliant, really. [...]

Snakes of Avalon

Space and even time in Snakes of Avalon is a most relative thing after all, and the protagonist’s warped perception of everything makes sure the game is actually much longer and quite a bit more challenging than its excellent and confined location would imply. As for the puzzles themselves, well, they are at times taxing, enjoyable and -impressively- make sense in the demented game world. [...]

Hector: Badge of Carnage: Episode 1

Hector, you see, the eponymous Badge of Carnage protagonist is a (shockingly and spontaneously anti-authoritarian) cop in what can only be described as Britain’s most run-down town. His moral compass is all over the place, his remarks biting, his humour dark and his pants struggling. He’s also more than willing to negotiate with terrorists, as this game’s full title is none other than Hector: Badge of Carnage – Episode 1: We Negotiate With Terrorist, in which Hector seems hell-bent on fulfilling the ultra-conservative, yet at times rather sensible, demands of a deeply frustrated and particularly murderous terrorist. [...]

Little Computer People

It might have inspired The Sims and that happily forgotten Tamagotchi craze, but David Crane’s Little Computer People was far from a commercial success back in 1985. Surely the atrocious cover art couldn’t have helped much… The game itself though remains fresh, unique, innovative, pretty brilliant and beautiful in a way only those chunky Commodore 64 games can be. And did you know that its complete title is Little Computer People Discovery Kit and that it was also known as a House-on-a-Disk? Oh, I see… [...]

The Dig

The Dig was released -after many a delay- in 1995 by Lucasarts and, despite failing to be a spectacular critical and commercial hit, should be considered one of the company’s most impressive offerings. Actually, I’d easily classify it as one of my all time favorite adventures and one of the few truly successful attempts at proper video game science fiction. What’s more, it still looks stunning and even has a whole museum (which, among other things, details The Dig’s incredible development history) dedicated to its glorious, digital self. [...]

Dead Hotel

The game itself is a menu-driven affair, not dissimilar to Snatcher (sans graphics of course), that puts gamers (or should I say interactive readers?) in the shoes of a former policeman trapped in a hotel and facing a zombie apocalypse. Rather banal, I know, but it is pretty well written, though admittedly very short and obviously not quite complete. It’s more of a demo really. A demo with some interesting and i-f compatible combat mechanics. [...]

Delve Deeper: Treasures and Tunnels

Delve Deeper is an excellent game. It’s smart, unique, easy on the retro-loving eye and, now that the Treasures and Tunnels DLC has been released, pretty huge too. Fresh off the indie forges of Lunar Giant and costing less than one (rapidly devaluating) dollar, Treasures and Tunnels extends the game with 10 new levels -including the brilliantly named Big Orc Candy Mountains- and 25 brand new relics; that is 50% more Delve Deeper maps, 30% more treasure and absolutely no extra fat. Oh, and apparently each level is custom-tailored to be tackled by different teams of dwarfs, whereas each new relic is designed to influence both new and old maps. [...]

Dead Meets Lead

To the game’s defense though one could add that by featuring a shotgun it does turn itself into a rather lovely yet more traditional arena-shooter. One would of course be only partly correct, as the ammunition for the shotgun (and the rest of the firearms that are eventually unlocked) is far too sparse and in certain levels simply absent, which is a crying shame. Shooting the zombie hordes as a cursed pirate on a bleak exotic island is immensely enjoyable and goes on to show how great Dead Meets Lead could have been; especially if it had bothered to include a few save-points in its brutally hard levels. [...]

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale

The game itself is a pure hack-and-slash affair sporting some great combat mechanics, deeper character customization than one would expect and -impressively- some lovely and pretty varied graphics. What’s more, the thing is properly entertaining and really addictive, meaning that, yes, Daggerdale did manage to endear itself. At heart it’s a great action-RPG with some good ideas and an apparently powerful engine behind it. Even the lack of a proper save function doesn’t completely destroy the experience, despite it being incredibly frustrating. [...]

Cthulhu Saves the World

What’s more the game itself is rather good too, though definitely not exactly my kind of CRPG. It’s pure hack-and-slash with minimal exploration, only slightly confusing dungeons and simplistic combat. If it weren’t for the demented plot, the brilliantly hilarious cut-scenes, the hundreds of hidden jokes, the excellent and deep combat system, and the fact that the game wisely rewards gamers with something different every hour or so, I’d have probably given up on it, and would have lost one of the most ridiculous game finales this side of Monkey Island 2. [...]

Thunder Fleets

I could go on and try to ridicule the thing, but I wont. Sadly knowing that the developers are reading this, I’ll humbly suggest a few things to vastly improve the game and give it a fighting chance in the rich world of commercial indie games, where it will apparently have to compete with such acclaimed games as AI War, VVVVVV, Eufloria, The Dream Machine and Revenge of the Titans. I also promise that should Thunder Fleets get an update in the correct direction, I’ll be more than willing to re-review it. [...]

The Dream Machine

Stunning visuals aside, the Dream Machine is an impressively good and rather traditional indie game of the point-and-click sort, that is less traditionally played via a browser and somehow manages to save your process in a cloud; or was that clouds? I frankly wouldn’t know. Steam also sports some sort of a cloud they tell me, but I’m pretty sure I was once taught clouds are made of steam and, well, did I mention it’s a great game? It is. And it’s got a great and appropriate soundtrack to go with it too. [...]

The Syberia Collection

As for the misguided souls that haven’t tried any of the games on offer yet, let me just say they all feature excellent art -Mr. Sokal is after all a most talented comic artist- classic gameplay mechanics, great soundtracks, mostly easy but well-integrated puzzles, traditional interfaces, brilliant settings and pretty decent plots. The two Syberias in particular are played from a third person perspective and take place in a whimsical clockwork-operated world, whereas the first-person Amerzone is set in a fantastical version of a thinly disguised Amazon rainforest. [...]

Roar Rampage

Following the excellent blogging style of both freeindiegam.es and OW Videogames I’ll simply urge you to play Roar Rampage. You’ll play as a pixel-art and very green version of Godzilla in a brilliant, physics-based, side-scrolling take on the Rampage! formula. Expect to be entertained. [...]

The Button Affair

The Button Affair is the story of Enzo Gabriel. His quest. To steal the priceless Button Jewel from the infinitely wealthy business tycoon Victor Meirelles. Yes, that definitely does sounds like something taken straight from a ’70s action movie and is perfectly complemented by the game’s beautifully stylized visuals that can’t help but remind me of the elegant aesthetics of Another World. Just have a look at this trailer and you’ll see for yourself dearest reader: [...]

A Valley Without Wind

That’s why I’ve wisely come up with an alternate description too: it is a procedurally generated, side-scrolling, 2D arcade adventure, with strong exploration, RPG and strategic elements, that is sort of infinite. Is this better? Does it make sense? Well, I sure hope so, for I have only entered the still-in-BETA world of AVWW for a couple of hours and am incredibly impressed. I’m also pretty certain that it’s only by playing AVWW that one can properly understand and fully appreciate the thing, but here’s another try [...]

Fracuum

Like a psychedelic version of the Atari 2600 Adventure on steroids, Fracuum is a brilliantly designed and utterly mind-bending maze game. It has you navigating a complex and expertly designed labyrinth that feels quite a bit like a zoomable fractal, while avoiding baddies and collecting points and power-ups. Play it and have your mind messed with. [...]

Egress: The Test of STS-417

Eye candy aside, and there’s quite a bit of it as Egress is very good looking first-person adventure indeed, this short sci-fi offering is a also a good and atmospheric game. Set in the outer reaches of space, it follows you, the commander of a two man recon team attacked by a weird black blob, as you explore a mysterious planet, search for you partner (his screaming is rather annoying apparently), try to figure out what’s going on and, quite obviously, save yourself. All this with the help of a pretty standard interface and against some mostly easy but definitely enjoyable puzzles. [...]

At A Distance

At A Distance, you see, is a psychedelic two-player puzzle game that’s been designed to be played on two computers running side by side. It is a game sporting unique visuals, an amazing atmosphere, fantastic mechanics and an uncanny ability to feel like a collaborative board game that has somehow made it inside a computer. It is thus an original and very much indie offering in which the right player will be looking at something like this: [...]

Kinky Island

Basically, Kinky Island will be a game created with the ever-handy and very freeware AGS development tool. It will most obviously be a pretty naughty offering too (rumors speak of -wait for it- full frontal nudity), sporting quite a bit of humor, lovely pixel-art graphics, traditional gameplay, over 30 locations, 20 fully animated characters and some hopefully interesting puzzles. [...]

Atom Zombie Smasher

Killing zombies is part of a gamer’s daily routine, which is all fine and apparently dandy, but I simply can’t stomach another undead infested FPS. Bombing thousands of undead along with some unfortunate not-quite-dead-yet citizens, on the other hand, is another matter entirely and as Atom Zombie Smasher emphatically showed me, a most refreshing and enjoyable, if not downright noble, pass-time. Oh, and it’s a novel way to battle stuff too, though you probably know all about it already, what with Atom Zombie Smasher being a part of the biggest and least humble of Humble Indie Bundles so far. [...]

The Adventures of Willy Beamish

I remember its fantastic Dragon’s Lair-esque graphics; they were the first of their sort in a point-and-click adventure. I remember the stunning animations and (low-res, I’m afraid) cartoon quality cut-scenes. I remember the way it showcased the capabilities of my very first PC soundcard. I remember how the story of a nine year old boy trying to competitively play video games while avoiding parental troubles and getting the girl, somehow turned into a ghost infested attempt at foiling an evil corporation. I remember getting sent off to military school and dying a dozen lushly animated deaths. I remember cajoling my in-game parents and entering my frog into competitions. I remember exploring the sanitised darkness of 90s American suburbia and being both shocked and delighted. I remember enjoying the subtle humour. I remember getting hopelessly stuck, but, above all, I warmly remember loving it. [...]

Fate of the World: Tipping Point

I am, after all, most impressed with what Fate of the World actually achieves. It’s an astoundingly simple to play strategy game that manages to be both deep and educational. Let me give you an example of play: you have to make sure that the living standards of Africa rise, while its carbon emissions fall; you thus buy agents for northern and southern Africa (each agent allows one card to be played in the region he/she is stationed); you buy and play an equal number of cards to your agents (cards are usually certain policies); you click the end turn button and hope for the best. Sadly Africa gets destroyed. Well, the first few times you tackle its problems at least. [...]

The Book of Unwritten Tales

We are not talking Tolkien, Martin and Moorcock here, we are talking Terry Pratchett. We are talking light-hearted fantasy with more than a few humorous touches, that is neither satire nor farce. The Book of Unwritten Tales, you see, is set in a more or less proper fantasy world. There are mages, there are trolls, there are gnomes (yay!), there are knights and castles, there are undead, there are hidden artifacts, there are heroes, there are elves, there are dragons and there’s a battle between good and evil going on. On the other hand, everything feels like it’s taking place in some sort of tongue-in-cheek version of a standard MMORPG setting. [...]

Metal Dead

Though pretty short (stopping the zombie apocalypse shouldn’t take more than 5 hours), Metal Dead stays refreshingly silly and engaging throughout and never outstays its welcome, while constantly offering a response for absolutely anything you might think of doing and, of course, something surreal to do. You’ll be talking with the severed zombified head of your best mate (an ingenious hint system), killing zombies, saving doctors, unlocking hilarious achievements and murdering mutated cannabis plants, all the while combining items, engaging in brilliant dialogues and even guessing passwords. [...]

Thomas Was Alone

As for the gameplay itself, things are both straightforward and innovative. You get to control a variety of subtly yet brilliantly animated rectangles, each with its own unique personality, set of abilities, shape and colour, and guide them through an excellently designed set of levels that will mainly tax your brain, but also -a bit- your reflexes. What’s really lovely is just how well each rectangle’s defining ability is tied to its character; what’s downright impressive though is that said rectangles are so much more interesting than your average multi-polygonal mainstream hero. They have a soul and that’s coming from a person who simply doesn’t believe such things exist. [...]

Ten Indie Games that Should be on Steam

In its first day Greenlight, the cunning Steam scheme that lets mainstream gamers vote on indie games and saves Valve the trouble of promoting its service, has gathered over 500 submissions. It is of course quite the mess, though a mess that will ensure that only well-known games with built-in communities make it to Steam, thus bringing Valve even more money. Hoorah! Or, well, not. Anyway. I too did spend a few hours navigating the Greenlight entries and here are the 10 games I would like to see make it on the service. They are of course games I was already aware of, but that’s how things work, isn’t it? [...]

Da New Guys: Day of the Jackass

Being a sequel of sorts to 2004 indie darling Da New Guys, Day of the Jackass is a traditional point-and-click adventure sporting some decidedly non-traditional protagonists and a delightfully dry sense of humour. It plays with its plot, distorts its setting and actually comes up with an enjoyable story that serves its gameplay well. Brain, you see, the worst and most irritating brawler in wrestling has won the title belt and gotten himself promptly kidnapped. It is thus up to his mates, tough-guy Simon and soft-spoken Defender, to rescue him. [...]

Waves

Having played with Waves for over 30 hours (quite an achievement for a game without a single line of plot) I have come to deeply appreciate what Squid in a Box and the ever talented Rob Fearon have managed to pull off. Waves is a beautiful and expertly designed game, sporting excellent controls, intricate yet easy to grasp scoring mechanics, psychedelic graphics, smart smart-bombs, a ton of impressively varied game modes, a brilliant soundtrack and some lovely touches of anarchic humour. It’s even got achievements that will force you to play it in truly imaginative ways. [...]

J.U.L.I.A.

J.U.L.I.A. is a science-fiction game, casting you as Rachel Mannors, the sole survivor of a space expedition gone spectacularly wrong. Rachel, an awkwardly 3D modeled yet decently voiced character, is woken up from cryo-sleep by J.U.L.I.A., the spaceship’s AI, only to discover she’s all alone in a malfunctioning ship light-years away from Earth and apparently stranded in a solar system with dully named planets. What’s more, something has gone spectacularly wrong on said planets. Something that eventually led to the death of the rest of the crew and the endangerment of alien life. [...]

Waveform

Not all is perfect though. Especially as things get more hectic the controls can feel a tad unresponsive. Oh, and despite the variety on offer and even them hidden levels, said things can actually get repetitive, especially when you are frantically trying to play through the game for a review… Then again, and in what can only be considered a showcase of spontaneous dialects, it remains both fun and addictive; a bit like Tetris actually. What’s more, Waveform is indeed something one has to definitely try in order to experience an oddly relaxing yet essentially arcade game. [...]

Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land

You get your characters, your action points, your experience points, your oppressive 3D terrains, your campy but delightful plot, your spells, your otherworldly monstrosities, your cultists and your zombified soldiers in one of the most honest (and cheap) strategy games I’ve recently played. What you also get is a truly elegant adaptation of Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu rules, the first ever sanity mechanics to actually work in a wargame and a most successful atmosphere. On the downside, this is a really short game sporting ten or so missions, that will last you for roughly ten hours, and, irritatingly, a game with a few control problems. Apparently, its iOS roots haven’t been ironed out, but trust me when I say that you’ll very soon be used to its, uhm, eccentricities. [...]

Oil’s Well

I thought I’d let you know just what a visually stunning, additively fun and mostly forgotten little gem this 1990 Sierra production is. Well, it is, and its VGA version for our ageing DOS boxes is most probably the best arcade/puzzler this developer ever came up with, though admittedly they did have to remake its earlier 1983 version. Oh, and it would be fair to call this one abandonware. Have a play/look. [...]

Independent Adventure Games for the masses

Independent video game developers are like the artisans of yore. They aren’t wage slaves, they don’t exploit anyone else’s work, they are neither masters nor slaves, but creative people who strive for the quality of their product and don’t have to succumb to whatever ridiculous market realities managers can come up with. In short, they are to be supported, fiercely guarded even, as they’re (more or less) involuntary combating dominant modes of consumption and production. Oh, and let’s not forget the fine games the indy/bedroom developers have historically come up with. Games like Another World, Skool Daze, Darwinia, Simon the Sorcererand countless others that are all the proof you should ever need… [...]

The Blackwell Convergence

It has come to my deeply shocked attention that despite the recent Gnome’s Lair reviews of both Blackwell Legacy and Blackwell Unbound, there are still gamers, adventure gamers even, that have yet to try a Blackwell game. How very odd. I mean, it’s not everyday a fully indie, retro-styled, well written and impeccably produced adventure gets made, is it? Of course not. And The Blackwell Convergence is the latest in the Blackwell series, which, as you should have already guessed or known, is an indie, retro-styled, well written and impeccably produced series of adventure games, with Convergence being the third installment. [...]

Versus: Games for the Ages

There are 81 wildly innovative (and plain wild) games available to try, including the incredible AGI Combat for the trigger happy adventure gamer, the rather unsettling A Cure for Friendship, the deeply spiritual Jesus vs. Dinosaurs and even the particularly silly Macig – The Gambling. Expect surreal genre mixes, visuals any indie gamer would love and some truly frightening sounds; all in glorious multiplayer! Here are a few screenshots to spice things up: [...]

Aquaria

Not every game can win an IGF Grand Prize (actually only one game per year can, and that’s ..uh.. not many games and definitely not every; yes) and only one game ever managed to grab the 2007 version of said illustrious prize. It was none other than Aquaria and happily this indie masterpiece is avaiable, meaning you too, and yes that does indeed mean you, can grab a fairly priced copy here or download the incredibly hefty demo there. Now, before going off downloading and/or wisely buying stuff, before even enjoying the sheer beauty of Aquaria’s video teaser, better read a bit of the official word: [...]

You Shall Support An Indie Gaming Artist

Between us, oh wise and generous reader, the truth is that Jonas Kyratzes is a truly rare breed of indie game developer and all around artistic type; the kind of breed that simply refuses to sell out or dumb down. And he’s prolific too, having already given us -and by given I do really mean given in the most selfless of freeware ways- seven excellent, incredibly written, beautiful, meaningfully innovative, deeply satisfying and actually unique games, while simultaneously providing us with more than a few (digital) pages of prose and theory, the Wikileaks Stories project and some most intriguing short films. [...]

Fish Fish Bang Bang

Important thing is Fish Fish Bang Bang is -unexpectedly- almost here and you’ll very soon be able to play its demo and (very soon after that) the complete version in all its indie glory. As for me, I did try the rather impressive early preview build of the thing and can confirm that, yes, this is a single-key arena shooter with surreal melt-o-vision graphics, outrageous sounds, addictive gameplay, unique mechanics and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope. It also is fantastic little game, that can even play itself. [...]

Java Based NES Emulator

It’s a simple, albeit glorified, post about a link. A link to a Java-based NES (or Famicom, accordingly) emulator, wisely code-named Andre’s NES Emulator. Visit it and play such classics as Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, Punch Out, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Mega Man and Castlevania. Each one of them a piece of gaming history. Each one of them quite free and without the need for any downloads. [...]

Pathologic: The Demo

Pathologic is a game with a pretty interesting official site. Then again, it also is a breathtakingly unique game developed in Russia and one best described in this Eurogamer review. As for me and Pathologic, well, I’ve been playing it for quite some time now and the only thing I can compare it to is Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy in the US). Thus, I’m in awe. Quite confused too. Think I might try writing a review or a something on it someday. [...]

King’s Quest III Redux – To Heir Is Human

In case you are still wondering what the fuss is all about, know that King’s Quest III Redux is a PC/Mac remake of the original KQ3: To Heir is Human by Sierra, that adds a beautiful soundtrack, an excellent voice-over, a sleek point-and-click interface, amazing 256-colour VGS graphics and a ton polish to an already great game. And is it really that good? Well, of course it is! Having already played its review build, I can guarantee its quality, but this very post will not be a review. Oh, no. The review will appear within the week, just to give you time to savor the experience. [...]

Gemini Rue: A Noir review

I did really enjoy playing through said shoot-outs, (almost) as much as I enjoyed playing through the game without a walkthrough and getting only mildly -and, importantly, very briefly- stuck; never in a truly old-fashioned hair-pulling way mind. There’s nothing in there that can’t be solved with a bit more exploration and some thinking, whereas the only part I disliked was a pretty tedious mechanical little puzzle that was both generic and not that well explained. Oh, and this is wisely sized game too -should take you anything from 6 to 8 hours on the first playthrough- without any boring and/or filler parts. The fact that Wadjet Eye have implemented a fantastic in-game commentary makes a second playthrough necessary… [...]

Skin & Bones

It’s been a while since I played through the truly enjoyable and immensely colourful demo of the newly released Skin & Bones offering, and, well, I thought I’d let you know. It is, after all and as far as I can judge, a lovely platform/puzzle game with a distinct retro 16-bit feel to it and two playable characters. Definitely one to bring back those memories from the Amiga era, then, though should you try it, you’ll probably notice the obvious Head over Heels influences too. Worth a try. [...]