You know what? It's been a hell of a month for free games. Normally, when planning this column, I've to scour the internet high and low to locate some hidden gems. This month, they've been coming out of the walls, man! Special mentions should go to Picaroon, Space Engine and Pragmatica, all of which are worth a look, but read below the jump to find out which titles I've ended up loving the most.
Technobabylon - Part III: In Nuntius Veritas
Technocrat. Grab it from GameJolt.
I really need to go back to the start of Technobabylon at some point. Its first episode was an unassuming little room escape title with some interesting narrative touches to keep things fresh. Since then it's expanded into an enormous adventure series set in an unsettling future where your character is under constant oppression or threat.
Part III is the most stylish so far, and perhaps the most well-written, although all three episodes are marvelous from a storytelling perspective. For my money, the actual game itself isn't quite as strong, with a couple of stinkers in the puzzle and mini-game department. But now that the several interlocking strands of the story are coming together, there's never been a better time to give the series a go.
. Play it on the website.
This is a neat idea. From the always-agreeably-barmy comes a new platformer, which is essentially a game about very carefully timed suicide. Yeah. Exactly.
The idea is this. Soul Brother features a string of different characters, each with its own special abilities. When one character dies, its spirit enters the next one, and you play on from there. The trick is to time your deaths so that the next character is in the most favourable position to plod along with the adventure.
The game itself is a pretty straightforward, unremarkable platformer, but the art style is nice, and the idea behind it is lovely. So is the name, come to think of it.
Ace of Spades
Ben Askoy. Download it from the official website.
Hey, look, it's Minecraft: World War I edition with a multiplayer twist! Ace of Spades so shamelessly nicks both the core mechanics and visual design of Mojang's pre-release classic that my initial response was to laugh at it, and ignore it. But it turns out there's a bit more going on here than you might expect.
Firstly, its rudimentary physics system opens up a whole boatload of new creative avenues. And secondly, the combat is a huge improvement on Minecraft's, with some absolutely fantastic range and satisfying insta-kill headshots.
The first beta build was as bug-ridden as you can imagine, but an updated version - which I've not touched yet - is now available. And, of course, this is entirely free, so a lot of that stuff can be quite reasonably forgiven when set against all the fun you're having.
Global Agenda: Free Agent
Hi-Rez Studios. Get it from the game's website.
I thought Global Agenda was pretty rubbish, if I'm honest. I played it for a while with PC Gamer contributor Phill Cameron, and the most fun either of us had was getting into an utterly ludicrous argument with one player about who was allowed to dance in which bits of the game's Dome City hub.
But it's a different matter when no coins are involved. Global Agenda: Free Agent is the free-to-play version of Hi-Rez's team-based shooter/MMO hybrid, and while it retains all the original's flaws, they're a lot more forgivable when your bank balance remains intact.
Combat still feels flimsy, there's still very little variety to the game, and the MMO side is still simultaneously undeveloped and unintuitive. But weighed up against other free-to-play shooters, Free Agent actually fairs rather well. Perhaps High-Rez would have done well to realise that from the start.
Don't Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story
Christine Love. Download it from Christine's website.
Do you remember Digital: A Love Story? If you don't, it's presumably because you never played it, because such a fiercely creative little indie game would certainly have stuck with you in the 18 months since its release. The brilliantly named Don't Take It Personally, Babe, It Just Ain't Your Story is a spiritual successor of sorts - although this time, writer/developer Christine Love's efforts are marginally less striking.
It ostensibly takes the form of a visual novel, but the more you play, the more you realise there are more interactive elements than you might think. Set 15 years into the future, Don't Take It Personally lobs you into the shoes of a divorced high school teacher, and the plot unfolds as you decide the extent to which you feel comfortable becoming involved with (or intruding on?) your pupils' lives.
This is hardly a traditional game, and the visual style is a little jarring, not least because this futuristic school is apparently still using big boxy televisions and blackboards. But it also made me ask more questions of myself than a game has managed since the original Dragon Age. At around two hours long, it's best completed in one sitting - and while the ending is disappointingly unsubtle, I came away from it with a positive impression overall.