Strange Free Games: Dear Esther

New week, new game.  Since indie game Dear Esther is all the rage these days, it’ll be great to look back at what started it all, Dear Esther prototype version.  So, without further ado, lets get started with the intro

Dear Esther is a first-person narrative that adds vocal interjections as you travel and observe the island.  Each narration is supposed to be relevant to the view at hand, including writings on walls, landscapes, etc.  Frequently, the narrative will contradict itself, leading to a surreal and disjointed experience.

The free, Half-Life mode can be downloaded at Mod DB.com.
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Strange Free Games: Katawa Shoujo

Warning!  I am about to introduce a Japanese-style erotic visual novel, better known as eroge.  While this game does offer an option to turn off the adult portions, be well aware that this is made for a far more mature audience. And by “mature,” I mean emotionally.

New week, new game.  This week is about Katawa Shoujo, a visual novel from the members of 4chan, no less.  As a love simulator, this game has one simple twist: every girl you can date is handicapped.  While I’m sure many of you will find the origins of this game uneasy, I can affirm that the subject matter is handled very delicately.  By the end of it, it’ll make you realize the truth behind a frequently told but rarely understood point: the difference between a normal person and a disabled one is only skin deep.

Katawa Shoujo is playable at their own website.

You play as Hisao Naoki, who one day collapses from a sudden heart attack.  Upon recovery, he learns he has a fatal condition called arrhythmia: a disorder that causes the heart to react erratically.  Forced to stay in the dreadful hospital for months, he’s finally given a decision one day to move to the Yamaku boarding high school, an educational school specialized in tending students with medical conditions.  In an attempt to start life anew again, Hisao agrees, and ventures into the high school for disabled students.  Little does he expect a huge emotional roller-coaster when trying to make friends in this initially-peculiar high school.

As the genre “visual novel” implies, Katawa Shoujo reads a lot like a choose-your-own-adventure novels. The majority of the game is devoted to characterizations and observations, but occasionally the game gives you a few branching choices that determines how the story progresses.  While that seems like a chore at first, several features in the game helps alleviate the hours-long text.  First there’s an auto-mode that automatically clicks through the text for you at an adjustable pace.  For the really impatient, there’s the skip-mode that fast-forwards to the next multiple-choice question.
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Strange Free Games: Souvenir

New week, new game. Here’s an incomplete student game that still feels polished and playable. Souvenir is a meta-physical recount of a girl’s experience at college. It’s M.C. Escher-isque visuals best conveys the confusion one experiences when living away from familiar, and traveling into the new.

The game begins on a stage, portraying an unnamed girl starting to pack. Not after long, you end up in a greatly distorted world, bleak and twisting. As you choose the 8 “things to pack,” you start recalling various different memories, some mundane, some happy, and some depressing.

Souvenir plays like first-person puzzle game. Clicking on a surface causes you to fall to that location. Due to the twisting nature of the game, you frequently end up upside-down or sideways on various different surfaces. Collecting different items provides a fade-in text telling a recount of the character we’re playing. This slowly fleshes out our character’s personality, problems, and resolves.

Souvenir is playable at it’s own website.
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Strange Free Games: Tower of Heaven

New week, new game. Remember Tower of Heaven? Probably not. It was one of the earlier Weekly Game Music I’ve introduced. In any case, it’s a fun and extremely challenging platformer with Gameboy-like graphics. It’s Book of Laws adds a unique, challenging twist to the classical platformer genre.

The game starts with Eid, a big-headed silhouette, entering the Tower of Heaven. Upon entering, an omnipotent voice grudgingly welcomes our hero, warning him almost immediately that the path is dangerous, and that time is limited. When Eid ascends a few floors, the disgruntled voice forces him to carry the Book of Laws. As Eid climbs higher up the tower, the number of laws imposed by the book increases.

As mentioned earlier, Tower of Heaven is hard. Breaking any of the laws written in the Book of Laws causes instant death. These laws include, “don’t touch the side of blocks or walls,” “don’t walk left,” and my personal favorite, “don’t open the Book of Laws.” The laws points out the frequently unwritten rules in difficult platformers such as touching the side of platforms on mid-flight will lead to death.

Developed by 3 people (including the composer), Tower of Heaven is playable at NewGrounds.
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Strange Free Games: Feed the Head

New week, new game. If it wasn’t obvious, I love surrealism. What if there was a game that was built around many famous surreal art, like those from M.C. Escher, and René Magritte? If you’ve ever asked that question like I did, look no further than Vectorpark’s Feed the Head, a free flash game.

Feed the Head involves, you guessed it, feeding the head with various different colored balls. To find those balls, however, requires a little experimentation. What happens when you knock on the head’s forehead? What about poking its eye? Perhaps pulling his noes would work? By toying around with the head, you eventually create a surreal narrative of exploration.

Feed the Head can be played at its own website.
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Strange Free Games: Achievement Unlocked

New week, new game. You have a new Achievement Unlocked! What, hate that notification? Well, surely you’ll like this game, a parody of the achievements system first introduced in the Xbox 360. This fun Flash game requires you to achieve a few, obscure goals in a static level.

Achievement Unlocked can be played at Armor Games.

Achievement Unlocked, as you would expect, have absolutely no story. Instead, as an elephant, you have to complete a bunch of vaguely named tasks that appears on the right side of the screen. The game is “completed” when all achievements are, well, unlocked. A funky and surprisingly addicting game, for what’s clearly a parody and an insult to the achievement concept.
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Strange Free Games: Mari0

New week, new game. Here’s a Super Mario Bros. knock-off. It’s Mari0, a game about the trusty plumber, Mario and…a Portal gun?

Mari0 can be downloaded at StabYourself.net.

The nefarious Bowser and his army has turned the peaceful Toads into blocks, and only the magical Princess Toadstool can save them. Even worse, Bowser kidnapped Toadstool as well, leaving you, Mario, to save her.

Also, for some reason, Mario has a Portal gun. How handy.

Mari0 plays almost exactly like the original Super Mario Bros. You jump, run, run-jump, and throw fireballs. Different in this game is the obvious Portal gun, used to create shortcuts, going to unreachable locations, and conveniently defeat enemies. Furthermore, unlike the original game, you can actually backtrack the levels you’re in. The need to keep track of the portals actually makes this game harder than it seems, as physics tends to play tricks on you frequently.
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Strange Free Games: Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine Online

New week, new game. Lets talk about an MMORPG, shall we? Here’s one addicting, but queer RPG called Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine Online. Why queer? Well, for a Japanese anime inspired game, the visuals are oddly gothic and religiously offensive. Unusual to this genre, the game even has some cinema-scenes, too. And the most interesting part? It plays a little likePokémon.

Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine Online can be downloaded at Aeria Games.

Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine Online starts off in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, where the city has been leveled by demons. As the typical MMORPG trope, you are a Demon Buster, one trained to fight against demons. While investigating a ruin, your leader takes a significant blow as a gigantic demon emerges. You’re rescued, barely alive, and decide to take some vengeance against this boss.

It wouldn’t be a Shin Megami Tensei game, however, if you couldn’t befriend these demons. As luck may have it, you have a talent to convince demons to join your cause, and have them fight alongside with you. Some NPCs are demons themselves, proving once and for all how resilient the human species are.
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Strange Free Games: Void

New week, new game. Today’s free game is from the friendly team of students at DigiPen Institute at Singapore. The game? Void, a dimension-manipulating first-person puzzle game.

Void can be downloaded from the DigiPen website.

People who played Portal should feel very comfortable with this game. Void begins with our main hero, Artaith, desperately running away from the rubble, and investigating on its cause. Somehow, he’s gained the ability to create dimensional rifts into the past, as well as obtain eyeglass that allows him to see the complex he was in, pre-destruction state.

Artaith can create up to two temporary, spherical dimensional rifts on any surface. In doing so, certain floors and items may become visible, while others may end up being obstructed. As such, the player must carefully place the rifts to his or her benefit, without losing their footing. The puzzles becomes particular complex when water is introduced, allowing you to swim to higher locations that would be otherwise dry and difficult to climb.
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Strange Free Games: Cloud

New week, new game. Here’s a popular game that helped launched the infamous artsy game studio, ThatGameCompany. Cloud, is a Katamari-like game of collecting clouds and achieving various missions. Incidentally, it was one of the games I’ve introduced in the Weekly Game Music series as well.

Cloud can be downloaded at University of Southern California’s website.

Cloud describes a bed-ridden boy who’s given a spiritual chance to enjoy flight. As one of the cloud spirits, his role is to collect clouds. With these clouds, he can create cloud formations, calm storms, and even cause the clouds to rain.

As its name implies, Cloud is intended to be a relaxing game. As the spirit, you fly towards a patch of cloud to collect it, and have it follow you as you gather more. Since the clouds will lag a little bit, you’re forced to proceed in a slower manner. The said clouds can be stored and released, however, whenever you feel like it.
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