related post : The 100 best free online games on PC (Part I)
Samorost and its sequel are adventure games as Moomin creator Tove Jansson might have made them. Its patchwork art is made out of photographs of logs, plants, old cans; its white, handanimated main character speaks in whoops and illustrations; and it all takes place on asteroids in space. With no inventory, it's your job to solve puzzles by poking and prodding this world to reveal charming animations. Its creator went on to make the paid-for point-and-click Machinarium, but I prefer this.
This Phillip K Dick-inspired tale consists of a short conversation with a robot—it's literally a single scene, told from the perspective of some sort of futuristic, Almost Human-style cop. You're questioning a suspect about a murder, a process that involves little more than selecting options from a menu. Differences from a typical text-based game are slight, but effective: you can look around the room a bit, while selecting responses means literally craning your neck around to the floating conversation window. The game itself is another sort of window, one into a fleshed-out, thoughtful science-fiction world.
The Domovoi takes the form of a storyteller interacting with his audience. A friend is giving you the first performance of his latest work—a “new tale, with real heroes” - and asks for help in working out the details. As his folk story unfolds he'll occasionally stop, bringing you out of the fiction to ask what should happen next.
The story is about a domovoi: a hairy house-dwelling creature of Slavic folklore. He's been charged with protecting his master's house, while said master is away fighting to protect the village. It's as he deals with various intrusions that you're asked to interject with the creature's responses and actions. Your responses won't wildly change the narrative, because The Domovoi explores the relationship between audience and performer. And in this tale, that performer has a specific agenda.
It says a lot about a game when you feel compelled to hit the screenshot key every time you enter a new room. It says: 'this game looks freaking incredible', but also 'I'm pretty sure what colour palette my nightmares will be presented in tonight'. So yes—Humanoid 47 is another one of those static, puzzle-heavy adventure games, but it's one of the more striking I've encountered: a garish world of mechanical parts, startled heads, and whatever the hell that thing just was.
All I Want Is For All Of My Friends To Become Insanely Powerful
All of Porpentine's Twine adventures are worth investigating, especially the one aboutKe$ha , but AIWIFAOMFTBIP walks the middle-ground of her two extremes. It's part cyberpunk body-horror, part empowerment fantasy, delivered as a stream-of-consciousness tale about an all-invasive feeling of oppression. As always, Porpentine's clipped sentences paint an evocative world that makes the story's resolution all the more effective and heartwarming.
I've played a few of these 'guess the bad guy' games over the last year or so, and Noir might be my favourite because, well, because of all the noir. It's essentially any bit from Blade Runner where Deckard has to identify a replicant, spun out and squished down into a small-scale, vaguely cyberpunk game. Citizens will clue you in on the location and identity of the skinjobs you're tasked with tracking down, and you'd better pay attention as a single civilian casualty will mean an instant game over. Unlike the other entries in this innovative new sub-genre there doesn't appear to be any random generation at play, but even though you might only go through it once, Noir offers a good few minutes of atmospheric, investigative adventuring.
A sci-fi horror of sorts, putting you in the role of the creature, something that's been done before in fiction, but never (as far as I'm aware) with this level of thought and imagination. It's a beautifully written game, highlighting once again just how wide the gulf in quality is between even the best mainstream game stories and the cream of the IF crop. Admittedly I did find Coloratura a hard game to settle into, as it puts you in the role of a truly alien entity that shares few of our thought processes, emotions or drives.
The aptly named Paradise is a piece of sandbox interactive fiction: a limitless, user-created space you can wander around, and add to, as you see fit. Starting as a ghost, you're unable to move until you inhabit the body of a nearby object, though this is as simple as typing “become a teapot/fireplace/angry-looking thing” (delete as contextually appropriate), before using that vessel to enter another player-created room. The beauty of the written word—and it's a beauty captured perfectly in Paradise—is that words are slippery, and open to interpretation, so if you want that fireplace to talk or that angry-looking thing to be the entrance to a nineteenth-century carousel, you only have to forge the association while you play. What are words, after all, if not vessels for meaning? Meaning that's always evolving, even as misguided word sheriffs try to keep it fixed.
Cyberqueen vomits you out of a sack into a malignant, sentient ship and gives you your first choice: “flail”, “scream” or “breathe”. There are heavy lashings of System Shock in this superbly written work of interactive fiction that has you wandering the halls of the vessel, trying to escape the machinations of its omnipresent guardian. The Twine interface paces the text to good effect, and it's more easily navigated than traditional IF builds like Anchorhead. Cyberqueen is an evocative and sinister piece of work that'll appeal to those who haven't tried interactive fiction before.
Will Love Tear Us Apart
There are few more horrifying prospects than that of being made to re-explore the intricacies of an irrevocably broken relationship again and again. Will Love Tear Us Apart harnesses the theme's of Joy Division's hit to create a strange and disturbing experience in which you must treat with a hideous, swollen partner on a hopeless quest for reconciliation. The sparse line art evokes an empty, angst-ridden world as the game evolves from one phase to the next. It's a human communication breakdown abstracted into an interactive form. A fascinating experiment that demonstrates how fertile human relationships can be as inspiration for nightmarish horror scenarios. It's free, to, and you can play it in your browser at the link above.
flOw's minimalist appeal and dynamically adjusting difficulty curve has hooked hundreds of thousands. Use the mouse to guide a creature through an evolutionary mire, gobbling up smaller animals to grow, and hitting red blobs to swim deeper. When you eat, you evolve, but you can see large predators moving through the gloom on the levels below, waiting to swallow you whole. Serene yet addictive.
The Republia Times
You're the editor of a newspaper in a totalitarian state. Each day you must choose which stories to run and how much space to give them, impacting your paper's popularity and the government's approval with the general populace. Smart, cynical, and there's a great twist near the end.
Life in the West
What if you lacked self-censorship? What if you posted every stray thought that entered your head? What if you were Kanye West? That's the premise of Life In The West, a short strange HTML5 game by Davey Wredon, creator of The Stanley Parable.
You log into Kanye's Twitter account, then, when "Inspiration" hits, rapidly mash your keyboard to auto-complete such immortal tweets as "I make awesome decisions in bike stores!!!" The quicker you finish, the more Kanye points you're awarded, which can be spent on following new accounts. In the manic rush of keyboard spamming and follower clicking, it's easy to miss the best part of Life In The West. The feed at the side is telling a story about a man's spiralling descent into madness.
Olav & The Lute
An enigmatic adventure game set in a post-apocalyptic world, with a cracking central mechanic. Rather than combining objects with other objects, you're affecting the world with a (presumably) magic lute, by plucking at its colour-coded strings. It's a bit like Ocarina of Time, and a lot like LOOM; to open a door, for example, you'll pluck a certain combination using the game's moderately fiddly interface. Olav & Lute is a short, stark, striking adventure—it's also one you can download and play offline.
Text and Drive
In Text And Drive, you must simultaneously carry out the important tasks of steering across a dangerous road and texting your friend about an upcoming party. As new messages come in, you need to tap out a pattern on the on-screen phone; occasionally diverting your attention back to the road. It may sound like a patronising edutainment game about the dangers of being a reckless idiot, but Text And Drive's second half shifts its premise for a bizarre conclusion. It's silly, entertaining and not to be attempted in real life.
Coming Out Simulator 2014
Coming Out Simulator 2014 is a semi-autobiographical "conversation simulator" by Nothing To Hide developer Nicky Case. Created for the #Nar8 storytelling game jam, it is, as you might have guessed from the title, a poignant and occasionally humorous game about a major moment in its creator's life. While the events have been fictionalised, there's an emotional truth that comes through as you're forced to negotiate scenarios that are impossible to 'win'.
The story starts with a brief exchange between the player and a self-deprecating present day Case. That sequence outlines how the conversations work – the characters remembering your choices, even as events themselves are largely fixed.
The bulk of the game takes place from Case's perspective, as you attempt to come out to deeply conservative parents. The question: do you break the news carefully, say it plainly and defiantly, or try to avoid the subject? It's a difficult event to experience, and the game does a great job conveying the feeling of being simultaneously trapped, hopeless, indignant and determined.
Fallen London is a browser-based adventure about a capital city beset by strangeness, steampunk and visiting demons. Fallen Swindon borrows these elements, and moves them west for a tale of courage in the face of disappointment.
Created by PCG contributor Richard Cobbett, this Twine parody pokes fun at Fallen London by couching its weirdness in the mundanity of British life. The job centre promises only despair, the pub fruit machine is a fast route to pennilessness, and what's rotten at the heart of Tesco isn't the meat. It's almost non-fiction.
Don't Escape 2
Scriptwelder's anti-room-escape games continue to impress, and this is easily the most impressiest I've played yet. You're trying to secure a safe house before the zombies come, something you'll achieve (or not, it's possible to completely screw things up) by finding and using items, talking to fellow survivors, and leaving the relative safety of your camp to explore the surrounding area.
It's a lovely looking game, this second chapter of the Don't Escape series, with a great sense of atmosphere and a wonderfully open approach to its point and click puzzles. Scriptwelder's carved out a real interesting niche here, by turning the room escape genre on its head and introducing a time limit that constrains the number of actions you can perform before the end of the game.
And now for something completely different, and totally ace. Westerado is a beautiful action/adventure/gratuitous western game, and stop me before I wax lyrical about the era-appropriate instrumental soundtrack. After banditos kill your family, you have to track down the responsible parties - or, instead, you could just shoot everyone in the face, foes and family alike. Westerado gets bonus points for making you unholster and cock your gun before you fire (and a million bonus points for letting you shoot the hats off bad guys). Little things, but they add a lot to the surprisingly fluid, sudden, tense combat. Between shootouts you'll solve problems, ride your horse, and stand in the breeze admiring the astonishing soundtrack. Westerado—play it now .
Not every game has to contain spikes and grisly death, and I may have found the polar opposite of Maddening Relapse in Fishy Waters, a delightful adventure that has you plundering a lake of its piscine inhabitants in order to honour the memory of your departed father. (He was gobbled up by a whale in the opening cutscene.) You'll roam the waters on a small fishing boat, collecting and selling fish in order to upgrade your equipment or to access new parts of the lake. It's not quite a game you'll give yourself over to, but Fishy Waters should make for a calming comedown after you've skewered yourself on a spike pit or fallen down a hole for the umpteenth time.
Jaws: The Text Adventure
Spielberg's seminal film classic Hook Jaws makes for a pretty good text adventure, as it turns out. He (or she, I can never remember) is a simple beast, so you don't have to remember a ton of different parser commands while you swim around an island searching for damp fleshy humans. The main one is EAT, understandably; as in the films, Jaws is an especially hungry sort, the aim of this terrifically nostalgic adventure being to fill its vast stomach with bits of meat.
Gods Will Be Watching
Of all the survival titles doing the rounds these days, Gods Will Be Watching seems like the least selfish of the lot. By which I mean it's not a game about keeping one person alive but rather a whole group—which is a lot harder, and more strategic, than one guy scrabbling around in the dirt. In this beautiful one-screen adventure game, you have to survive for 40 days on an alien planet. Luckily you have a doctor, a soldier, a psychiatrist, an engineer, a robot and a dog with you—imagine if you'd been stranded with the intergalactic equivalent of Made in Chelsea. Survival is ruthless—at any moment you can choose to kill anyone at the camp. Well, there is rather a lot of meat on a human being. Er, so I'm told.
Submitted for the Interactive Fiction Competition—the same one that brought us last week's Living Will—Guilded Youth is an evocative, brief adventure, (mainly) revolving a creepy old house. While the story could easily stand alone, the game shows what can be achieved with just a light sprinkling of artwork, in this case from the talented Matt Hammill.
I won't say much more, because I don't want to spoil it, but this is a wonderful piece of fiction that gave me the same sense of nostalgia for the early days of the internet as Christine Love's exceptional Digital: A Love Story . That should be all the praise you need to give Guilded Youth a go, even if you've never played any Interactive Fiction. Actually,especially if you've never played any IF.
Daymare Town 4
The main Daymares are more traditional adventure games, set in a surreal, beautiful world and with no handholding in their puzzles whatsoever. You'll need patience to overcome 4's obscurity, but you'll be rewarded in spades with yet more atmospheric, mysterious scenes and memorably unusual characters. An HD, full-screen version of Daymare Town 4 can be yours for $5 —it's a bit of a pixel hunt, so if you enjoy the game, that may be worth a look.
A beautiful, bleak, surreal adventure set in one of the most architecturally interesting game worlds I've come across. No Future contest entry Journalière is silent and wordless, universal and alien—it also has a dancing minigame. Reminiscent of Jack King-Spooner's stuff—and if you haven't yet had the pleasure, please rectify that immediately.
Horror games owe a significant debt to one Howard Phillips Lovecraft, and not just because he's long dead and his work is out of copyright. Plenty of games have included references to his unique brand of cosmic horror, but Anchorhead is more inspired than most, drawing from several of his novels and stories to tell the tale of the a married couple who have inherited an old mansion in a creepy New England town. The sedate exploration of the game's opening segments eventually give way to tense, turn-limited puzzles as you struggle to stop an ancient, possibly world-ending ritual from being completed. No pressure then.
Relive Your Life
In my first life I was humiliated by an albino bear for the benefit of a jeering Vegas crowd. My second life looked more promising. I was rich, popular, admittedly a bit of a tool, but still a success. That all changed when I missed a drive-by high-five with Kramer from Seinfeld, and wound up being tormented by an old pervert.
Relive Your Life is an interactive narrative punctuated by some incredibly basic minigames. From mashing the X key in a sperm fight to decide your gender, to typing out sentences or matching button prompts. None of them are taxing, but crucially you'll want to go back and deliberately fail them.
A Grain of Truth
A Grain of Truth is a browser-based HTML5 point and click adventure that stands out because of the fantastically weird world that developers the Rudowski brothers have built. You play as Myosotis, a story trader travelling the Endless Plains to hear the tales of the enigmatic Wiseman.
The plains are a lonely and atmospheric setting, in which you'll encounter a handful of characters and strange locations. A pirate ship mounted to the back of a giant beast catches clouds to make bedding, boulders hover in the sky, and a huge cracked rock holds the promise of intriguing discoveries.
Depression Quest is a moving Interactive Fiction story about the difficulties of living with, and attempting to deal with, depression. Created with Twine, you're given a series of common scenarios, and a selection of possible actions to deal with each. Depending on your character's current level of depression, certain actions—inevitably the most healthy or social ones—will be crossed off, often forcing you to make knowingly destructive choices for lack of alternatives.
As a way of putting yourself in the mindset of someone battling the illness, it's a startlingly effective idea. Attempting to make even the most minute progress towards lightening your anxiety is a real struggle, and the smallest of things can fuel a heartbreaking downward spiral.
Bee is an interactive tale by Emily Short, about a home-schooled girl who hopes to become the national spelling bee champion. Rather than the standard interactive fiction text parser, Bee is in the style of a choose-your-own adventure book. You pick from a selection of actions or thoughts, then watch the story unfold along the path that you are shaping.
The strength of the format is that you're always aware of the person at the centre of the story. Rather than the lead character acting as a cypher for the player, the choices you're presented with are always through the filter of her own preconceptions, with you as the nagging voice that questions, or reaffirms, these beliefs.
Moonlight is an interactive short story by Jonas Kyratzes. It starts at a party, and a conversation you have with Stephen Fry, before your choices escalate into some wonderfully weird locations and encounters.
The writing is excellent. It's frequently whimsical, but pulled off with such a light touch that it never becomes annoying. The offhanded surrealism creates frequent memorable sentences, like the brilliant “Doctor House is a very grumpy building that walks with a crane and heals other buildings by diagnosing their structural weaknesses.” Also, Alan Davies is a strobile.
Adam Cadre's back after an 8 year absence from the Interactive Fiction community. His previous text adventures, including the excellent 9:05, have been great starting points for newcomers. Endless, Nameless is not that. It's deliberately old-school, both in setting and delivery. You begin in a tavern in a fantasy town, and soon get put on a quest to kill a dragon to the south. There are trials, fights, spells and a difficulty curve that makes it easy to write your way into a corner.
There's a reason it's (seemingly) so hard. Endless, Nameless is also about the fictional bulletin board that hosts the game, and through a couple of unexpected turns, it creates a deep adventure that's fair, even when it's not.
"Let's get inquisitive!" would be my catchphrase if I were a robed fantasy detective called The Inquisitor. The makers of The Inquisitor were working under the time pressure of the Procedural Generation Jam, though, so I can forgive them for skipping that small detail.
Each time you play, the game generates a randomised murder mystery. Your job is to talk to the seven suspects in order to check alibis, discover motives and unearth clues. Success requires that you correctly identify the killer, the murder weapon and their motive.
Naturally, the killer will lie to you, and even innocents may not tell the whole truth. But over time it's possible to corroborate stories, search suspicious suspects and eventually build a picture of everyone's movements around the time of death.
The randomisation leads to a level of unpredictability that, more often and not, makes for a satisfying case. It's the type of game best played with a notepad – letting you meticulously cross off names as you hone in on the killer.
The first thing I did in Infini-Quest was attempt to shave an angry horse. That, if you're wondering, was the moment the game secured a place in this list. It was made for the Procedural Generation Jam, and takes the form of a simple text adventure filled with an endless number of potential interactions.
Decorate a dying shrub? Promise to haunt a hungry soldier? Make unrealistic promises to a nervous swan? In Infini-Quest, all things are possible. When you start, you're shown a book. On the left page are possible actions; on the right are people and places. To perform an interaction, you drag your choice from the left page and onto the right. Then, you're told what happens.
Often, it will be silly. As I charged screaming at a friendly sheriff, I was told my character immediately regretted the decision. There were no consequences here. It was flavour text designed to accentuate my foolhardy actions. Othertimes, though, things will happen. In trying to kiss the Queen of Denmark, I was seriously injured – lowering my health bar and placing me closer to death. But while there is a fail state and an ultimate goal, Infini-Quest isn't a game to be won. It's about the journey. The strange, strange journey.
Created by Terry Cavanagh (VVVVVV, Super Hexagon) and Stephen Lavelle (Slave of God, literally hundreds of other games), Moving Stories is a short game about moving house. More accurately it's a story about the items that collect in a house, and what to keep when faced with limited suitcase space. The situation of your move depends on the items you keep. It may be a break-up, a new relationship, or something weirder.
Hexagon is essentially Super Hexagon's Hexagon mode, in its entirety, for free. The premise is incredibly simple: you rotate an arrow around a circle and try to thread a path through a pulsing neon hexagonal maze. As an exercise in focus, reflexes and pattern recognition, it's every other arcade game triple-distilled: a quick, high-yield dose of flashing lights, pounding music and inevitable crushing failure.
The game that invented the endless runner, and also the game that proved that it is impossible to jump through a window if you are actually trying to do it. I love Canabalt for its atmospheric, low-key sci-fi visuals and Danny Baranowski's amazing soundtrack.
Cats are jerks. They're also adorable, and better at personal hygiene than dogs, so for now our two species can maintain the uneasy truce. Luckily, there's a cathartic antidote to their antics in the form of Catlateral Damage. Originally created for last August's 7 Day FPS challenge, its developer has since worked on the first-person feline simulator in preparation for turning it into a full game.
You play as a cat left alone in a room full of stuff. There's DVDs, toys, books and expensive electrical equipment, all neatly placed on shelves and tables. That simply won't do. Your job is to knock as much of it on to the floor as you can manage in two minutes.
Astrovoid is a twin-stickish shooter with a great feel to the controls, a whole lot of screen shake, and a soundtrack that does that neat dampened-sound/am-I-in-a-nightclub-bathroom thing when you die. Another neat thing that happens when you die is that your little jetpack hero drops a giant ball bearing (or something), which will bounce around killing enemies in your wake. Your score—that giant number in the centre of the screen—isn't finalised until the ball stops moving, adding an element of Breakout to the tail-end of each heart-racing run.
Of the many Flappy Bird tribute games, Terry Cavanagh's Maverick Bird is among the best. It has the same concept, featuring an endless course of randomly generated hazards. Tap up and you'll jump in mid-air, tracing an arc that makes it difficult to neatly pass between the obstacles. The difference is in the presentation. Instead of an awkwardly flapping bird, you play as an abstractly hopping diamond. Instead of cheerful Mario pipes to avoid, it's a variety of pulsating, colour-shifting shapes. It's a brash, vibrant game, with an art style and soundtrack reminiscent of Cavanagh's Super Hexagon.
I'll admit that I'm not au fait with typing tests, but I'm willing to guess that the line “this is how I roll, animal print pants out of control” doesn't usually feature. Step forward Typing Karaoke, in which you type out the lyrics to various songs before the singer has finished singing them.
It parodies the look of rhythm games perfectly. Complete a line and stars erupt from the score bar, the background scene starts to build and the game spouts over the top exclamations like RAD! or WOW! But Typing Karaoke is anything but rhythm-based. The actual typing is frantic and messy, as the ridiculous speed of some of the songs renders them all but impossible to complete. Fortunately, the disconnect between the presentation and the act of playing it is hilarious.
Icarus Proudbottom's World of Typing Weekly
The follow up to the sublime Icarus Proudbottom Teaches Typing is a five-part episodic murder mystery. Once again, you join Proudbottom and his owl sidekick Jerry for more instructional typing fun. Tragedy interrupts your merry tapping when Icarus is bludgeoned to death with a plastic keyboard.
Joined by Mark 22, the crime solving robot, you set out to find his killer. Your chief suspects are Apollo, Icarus's easy going cousin; Lucida, a member of the Typing Council; and Jerry, who won't stop saying "naught". That's the basic setup, at least. Over the course of the five episodes, things are further complicated by improperly removed USB keys, ancient magicks, and a scuffed up letter A.
Bullet Waltz is a fiendish score attack game about not being shot. Playing as a small pink square, you must avoid the small green squares being fired out of a rotating cannon in the centre of the map. The difficulty in this is that, rather than disappearing off screen, bullets ricochet off the walls and central cannon. This becomes problematic after around the 20th new projectile.
Helping you out are the small flashing squares. These pick-ups temporarily transform you into a spinning giant, able to destroy any bullets that you touch. If you're lucky with the timing, you can chain these for a satisfying, screen-clearing run of destruction.
Three Body Problem
Three Body Problem is deceptively simple. It's a game about prolonging death and building your high-score by avoiding a game-ending collision with another block. What makes it difficult—uncompromisingly, hair-tearingly difficult—is the movement of the two other blocks. Eventually you will make a mistake, and the AI will immediately punish you for it. The instant restart ensures you'll try again.
10 More Bullets
How many ships can you destroy with ten more bullets, asks flash game 10 More Bullets. The most, you'd assume, would be ten. Except, when these ones hit a ship, they'll split into more, and more, and more again. As your multiplier increases, so do the number of bullets each ship explodes into, until you've wiped hundreds from the skies. And then you try again, using the gold from your previous attempts to buy upgrades—further increasing your potential for limited ammo destruction. It's wonderfully compulsive.
Despite the Hotline Miami reference, endless runner Hotline Trail features no gore, violence or cod philosophy. It doesn't even have a phone. What it does have is screen-tilting ambience, an '80s inspired soundtrack, and a difficulty curve that makes for a compelling high-score chaser.
You're riding along a top-down, and constantly unfolding road. As you progress, a smooth, mellow voice warns of upcoming hazards. You'll have to navigate through chicanes, roundabouts and hairpins, all at a fixed speed that ensures your mistakes won't go unpunished.
This side-scrolling action roguelike posits that anyone who delves into a dungeon full of monsters is more than a little unhinged. Red Rogue's heroine feels like the most monstrous thing in the game's randomly generated levels. It's the way she and her minion calmly despatch imps: blood spurting across the otherwise monochrome rooms. That feeling can easily slip into overconfidence. Whether it's forgetting to scan for traps or making a poor deal with a chaos god, careless decisions are quickly punished.
I understand your inclination to skip this because of its title. It would be a mistake though, because Skrillex Quest is a well made Zelda homage with an eerily warped theme. The game is set inside a NES cartridge that has been corrupted by a piece of dust. A simple matter of blowing on it for those on the outside, but for the characters in the game it's a more involved quest to rescue the ghost of a princess for... reasons.
The game takes place across a series of distinct stages, each full of glitched cubes that infest their rooms and need defeating to progress. You're against the clock, so you'll have to be quick to fully explore every area before being plunged deeper into the broken world.
Kingdom of Loathing
Scratch all the layers of polish and visual fluff away from your favourite RPG, and you'll find Kingdom of Loathing underneath. You create a stick-man hero and spend daily adventuring points to raid sketched-out dungeons, kill strange monsters and level up. Your actions resolve instantly, so this is a game about making decisions rather than honing twitch skills. An irreverent sense of humour keeps the grind from getting boring. Be a Disco Bandit! Fight Sinister Fudge Wizards with your Disco Ball! It's a winning formula.
The Nightmare Cooperative
The Nightmare Cooperative doesn't involve a hellish encounter with an overzealous manager of a UK supermarket—it's a turn-based roguelike, like even FIFA will probably be in a couple of years' time. The twist here is that it's a four-player roguelike where you control the entire quartet yourself. Every time you move—once you've rescued your three chums, at least—your three chums move along with you, attacking or avoiding or collecting stuff too, providing there's something adjacent to attack, avoid or pick up. TNC is as much a puzzle game as a roguelike, then, particularly when you take the characters' teensy number of hit points into consideration. Special attention must also be paid to the sound design, which manages to conjure a surprisingly evocative sense of place.
A Dark Room
The Candy Box-inspired A Dark Room is another sorta-text-adventure that starts off small—incredibly small—and soon unfolds into something far greater. It begins in a dark room, and with a fire, but pretty soon you're taking care of a whole village. It's a game with a great sense of mystery and satisfying micromanagement, but on a technical level I particularly like the timed decision boxes, which make A Dark Room feel far less static than a lot of text-based titles.
Wayward has all the traits of a roguelike—randomly generated levels and permanently dying characters—but instead of battling through a dungeon, you're fighting for survival. You're more likely to die from hunger than from monsters, although there are plenty of those as well.
It hides a lot of depth behind its top down 16-bit graphics. You begin washed up on a beach, carrying nothing. From there you must chop trees, mine rocks and use the assorted items they give to craft tools. So far, so Minecraft, but Wayward goes further in the amount of detail to its systems.
Seedling is a top-down RPG adventure with plenty of nods to old Zelda games. You play as an unspecified creation of the Oracle, who charges you with the collection of a seed. That's about as far as the plot goes. The rest of the game has you exploring dungeons, killing enemies, collecting items, then using them to unlock the way to new dungeons, enemies and items.
This isn't so much a recommendation as it is a warning. As of writing, I have 432.3 million cookies, and I'm producing more at a rate of 3.01 million per second.
In the beginning, you follow Cookie Clicker's instructive title and click the giant cookie on the screen. Doing so bakes a single cookie. Click fourteen more times, and you'll have made enough to afford a Cursor, which automatically clicks every ten seconds. Get this far and you're already in trouble. If Cookie Clicker had microtransactions, it would be a weaponized strike against wallets. Instead, it's merely a worryingly addictive time waster.
I've now hit 20 billion—enough cookies to genetically enhance my workforce of grannies and buy an antimatter condenser. Send help.
Candy Box 2
The first Candy Box used the incremental waiting period enforced by the most exploitative free-to-play games, but hung something silly around it. Candies slowly ticked in, and new features were slowly unlocked, but then there were quests and riddles and as many jokes as you could fit into an HTML page full of ASCII.
This time, you're quickly given access to a full world map, and it's there that you'll spend the majority of the game. You can visit villages, slay camels, explore a 3D cavern, and talk to a squirrel, all in the name of candy collection.
One Tap Quest
There are not enough superlatives to describe One Tap Quest, a deceptively simple but smartly designed RPG where your only input is a single click, right at the beginning of the game. The trick lies in when and where you apply this click. There are two stages. The first is a procedurally generated smorgasbord of enemies and power-ups; as in Desktop Dungeons or Half-Minute Hero, you have to direct the hero towards weaker enemies first in order to increase their prowess for the next.
If all goes to plan – and remember, this is a plan you initiate with a single tap – your behatted warrior will level up on a few slimes, then snakes, then bandits and so on, while bagging a better weapon and other power-ups along the way. If they manage to make it past the fearsome dragons at the top of the screen, they'll engage in a seemingly stat-based boss battle, and eventually be eliminated if they haven't been sufficiently toughened up.
You'll spend most of One Tap Quest waiting and praying that the roving enemies will either cross your path or narrowly miss your hero. It's excellent design, and with the layout being procedurally generated, you won't mind instantly restarting in order to try for a better score.
Dragon Age: The Last Court
The combined Dragon Age games must, at this point, comprise hundreds of thousands of words of dialogue, diaries and codex entries. Failbetter Games – the creators of Fallen London and Sunless Sea – have just added many, many more to that total. Made in partnership with Bioware, The Last Court is a text-based adventure designed to bridge the gap between Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisition. It does this through the tale of a disgraced Orlesian town, and its ruler's attempt to win back its favour.
Who that ruler is depends on your initial choices. There are two possible archetypes – the hunter and the scholar. The hunter is an expert on tracking and hunting; the scholar on books and intrigue. Whatever the choice, you'll need to raise your town's Dignity, Freedom and Prosperity, while simultaneously curbing the threat of revolution, and of invasion from outsiders or other, darker forces.
I pick the scholar, and am tasked with raising the town's profile. Right now, this means preparing for the arrival of the Empress. Through the completion of missions, I can collect secrets to impress the Orlesian ruler – marking our town as an invaluable ally. Through this process I've already met several returning characters from past Dragon Age games.
What I don't yet know is how the story will conclude. Progress through The Last Court is made by drawing cards, and each new set of three costs an action point. Each card is tied to an event, which can be solved in multiple ways depending on your current resources. Once exhausted, action points must recharge – which they do at a rate of one every twenty minutes.
You can spend real money to instantly restock your actions, but it rarely feels necessary. The Last Court is designed to be played slowly – spending a few minutes each day building resources and accepting missions. Experienced like that it makes an entertaining albeit unessential addition to Dragon Age's already massive story.
Frog Fractions is a difficult game to talk about, because ideally you should play it as fresh and free from spoilers as possible. Even pointing out that it can be spoilt is a spoiler, because it suggests there's more to the game than it would initially have you believe. It starts as a forgettable parody that's part Missile Command, part edutainment spoof. But the real Frog Fractions is a game that's frequently surprising, silly and hilarious. It would be wrong to give away any of what happens next, but I'll give you a hint to help find it: go down.
A Second Chance
The great Flash conglomerate known as Major Bueno continues to win browser games with the briefly wonderful A Second Chance, which is basically a screen full of buttons that enable funny things. You're a guy at NASA mission control, or something like that, and all you have to do is help a team of astronauts plant and explode a bomb on an incoming asteroid. The 'right' path is quite simple and doesn't take very long, but there are a few minutes of fun to be had from getting things A Bit Wrong first—as usual, this is mainly down to the fantastic artwork.
No, Birdie, No!
There you are, happily clinging for life on the side of a cliff when, all of a sudden, along comes a bird. Birds, as everyone knows, are nature's biggest jerks. To prove the folly in not evolving wings, he decides to peck at your fingers. Seriously, birds! They're proper bastards.
In fairness, you've got a bigger problem to deal with when playing No, Birdie, No: the control scheme. The game is played by holding down A, S, D and F, with each key correlating to a finger on both hands. When the bird stops at a finger, you release that key to raise it, causing the bird to miss and allowing you to avoid a grip loosening injury.
Night Rider Turbo
McPixel creator Sos Sosowski is back with the lightly Enviro-Bear 2000-ish Night Rider Turbo, which sees you operating an awesome car that gradually falls apart in your hands. To get the most out of this joyously silly game, make sure you pull, press, prod and poke everything in sight. I particularly like the soundtrack, which perfectly complements the thrill of hurtling down a motorway into oncoming traffic while driving a car held together by sticky tape.
Room of 1000 Snakes
You probably shouldn't push a big red button in a game entitled 'Room of 1000 Snakes', but even after seeing this hilarious, brief game—from Zineth developers Arcane Kids—to its inevitable conclusion, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat. Tremendous stuff, with the perfect choice of soundtrack.
It's just as easy to fail at as QWOP, but I find GIRP gentler somehow. You climb a rockface (and avoid falling into the sea) by holding down various keys on your keyboard to indicate where to place your climber's flailing hands. Let go, and he lets go—turning the game into a kind of small-scale Twister—or full-scale Twister, if you're lucky enough to get to play it on a set of rejigged dance mats.
QWOP is named after the keys you use to control it: QW to pump your sprinter's thighs, OP to arc his calves. The experience is what I imagine it's like to be an alien placed inside a robotic humansuit, pulling levers to manoeuvre the appendages. The result on screen is simultaneously tense and hilarious. One leg stretches out, the other hops pathetically, the runner's balance starts to slowly topple, keys are hammered in an attempt to try to return upright, and then it's over. Your score: 1.4 metres.
Robot Unicorn Attack
A stylishly camp auto-running game about a robot unicorn leaping across gaps and listening to the Erasure song 'Always' on repeat. If that doesn't make you want to play it, I definitely don't wanna be with you / or make believe with you / or live in harmony, harmony, oh love.
Peer closely at any image of Hitler and it soon becomes clear something's amiss. No, not the monstrous fascism (although that was pretty bad), but the fact that he was two kids in an overcoat. Double Hitler recreates key moments in Adolf's adult life, putting you in the role of said kids in said giant overcoat. As you can imagine, even the act of walking is difficult when you're really two children in a big jacket, and about 90% of the game is spent trying to stay upright without toppling over and revealing your secret. Double Hitler is pretty much QWOP: ie wonderfully silly, and told with a masterfully straight face.
Physics is hardly a new concept for football, but I don't think it's been implemented like this before. Soccer Physics is a single-button game in which four footballmen face off in a 2D battle to score five goals. Instantly, you should see the problem: one button isn't enough to perform the many moves associated with the sport. Instead, you can jump. That's it.
Press the up arrow, and both members of your team will launch into the air and kick. At first you have a modicum of control, using their natural rocking motion to propel them left or right. Before long, though, all four players will be mixed up, upside down and entangled, desperately hopping in an attempt to reach the ball.
It's silly, then – more so when you factor in the special conditions. At any kick-off, the game can introduce huge goals, small goals, slippery surfaces or an American football. All have an effect on play, but none change the simple pleasure of manically tapping that single key.