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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.