An Ongoing Look at Indie Gaming, part four
By Aaron Robinson
30 April 2010 — Once more I'm here to present five free indie games!
Every Day the Same Dream
I'll readily admit that there's not a whole lot to the actual gameplay of this particular title. You move left and right, interact with things by pressing the space button, and that's it. There's no fail state as far as I can tell and no real puzzles — you just try out different things until you reach a rather unnerving ending. It's a fascinating little look at a boring guy with a boring office job who continues to go through the same motions. It's up to you to break away from that routine and make him do something different.
It's hard to covey exactly why I like this game so much, but it's short and simple enough that anyone can play. I really like the game's art style, and the music is amazing. Just don't expect it to be a particularly uplifting experience.
Play it for free at http://www.molleindustria.org/everydaythesamedream/everydaythesamedream.html
Runman: Race Around the World
I don't know if I've played a game quite as happy and bright as this before. Runman's titular character is a little star-shaped guy whose sole goal in life is to be the fastest he can. Thanks to his dedication, his speed is world-renowned. So renowned in fact, that when he shows up to the biggest racing event ever, the other contestants decide to just quit then and there. As the only contestant left, Runman is declared the winner. But he isn't the kind to accept an empty victory. Runman decides the only way to earn the winner's crown is to race around the world by himself.
The goal of every stage is to get to the end, with medals awarded depending on how fast you go. It's a simple game to get into, but a hard game to master, with various alternate routes that can shave off valuable seconds from your overall time. What I really like about Runman's design is that it's playable on several levels. The controls are as basic as can be, and outside of boss levels there's never any pressure to get there in any particular time frame. Runman rewards you constantly when you pick the right routes or pull off maneuvers perfectly, but it never makes you feel like a dolt when you don't quite make it.
Beyond that, the design of the world is gloriously silly. Everything looks like it was drawn in MS Paint; there are thick, misshapen outlines and basic, bright colors on every screen. It's unlike any game I've seen. It absolutely shines in the audio department, too. Every crash, bounce, and jump sounds like it's been lifted from radio serials, and the soundtrack consists of a healthy mix of old jazz, blues, and folk music. As strange as it sounds, it all fits in so well with the happy-go-lucky art design that it's hard to imagine them playing anything else.
Runman: Race Around the World can be downloaded for free at http://whatareyouwait.info/download.php
Robot Unicorn Attack
Taking a few cues from the popular Canabalt, Robot Unicorn Attack has you galloping through an automatically scrolling world as a rainbow-maned robot unicorn. Your only interactions are a jump and charge button, so that you can break through any giant stone stars that block your path. The further you go, the faster you move, and the harder it gets to avoid obstacles. The goal of the game is to survive as long as you can, collecting as many fairies as possible along the way. When you go really well, dolphins will swim alongside you. Oh, and Erasure's early 90s hit "Always" plays in the background. I couldn't make this up if I tried.
Play it for free at http://games.adultswim.com/robot-unicorn-attack-twitchy-online-game.html
Rescue: The Beagles
This is another fast paced platformer with a cute art style and great music. Taking control of one of two pint-sized activists, you have to rescue as many Beagles as possible from a group of ruthless lab technicians. For a game that looks quite simple, there's a lot to keep track of. Every stage has three different planes that you can jump between, and they all scroll automatically, but at different speeds. This makes things really interesting, because it means there are times when you can safely jump between areas, and times when you can't. To help you out, you'll find parachutes that let you safely fall any distance, and ropes that let you climb to new areas. On top of that you'll have to deal with sick Beagles that need med kits, enemies that can steal Beagles away, and various environmental hazards.
It's fair to say that Rescue: The Beagles has a bit of a learning curve. It doesn't take much to kill your character, and the Beagles aren't exactly helpful about letting you rescue them. If you're like me, it will take a while to figure out what items to use and where your priorities lie at any given moment. But once the mechanics sink in, it's hard not to become addicted to the gameplay. It's so satisfying and fast paced. Sure, you die quickly, but when you've used up all your lives, it only takes a few seconds before you're back into the action. It helps that everything in Rescue: The Beagles is auto-generated, which means you'll never play the same level twice; everything from the items you find to the levels themselves get shifted around each time you play. It kind of makes Rescue: The Beagles feel a bit like an arcade game, especially when you consider how it's focused around you getting the highest score possible. Really though, it's just nice to play something that's fun to come back to, time and time again. Even if it's only for a few minutes at a time.
Rescue: The Beagles can be downloaded for free at http://www.brothersoft.com/games/rescue-the-beagles.html
Don't Shit Your Pants
The title pretty much says it all. In this text-based adventure you play as an overweight, middle-aged man who really needs to visit the lavatory. The aim of the game is simple: stop him from defecating his pants. This can be accomplished in various ways, most of which are highly entertaining. There's probably about five minutes worth of entertainment you can drag out of this, but it's a fun little game while it lasts.
Play it for free at http://www.kongregate.com/games/Rete/dont-shit-your-pants