Oct 31, 2007

The (ominous sounding) House adventure and its freeware gaming siblings

The House adventureNon-AGS indy adventure games are a rather rare breed indeed, but it's them Visual Basic ones that are downright exotic. Apparently, The House, a short highly atmospheric horror point-and-clicker is such an exotic rarity. It also happens to be a freeware adventure with a Myst-like interface, great music and simple yet very smart graphics, that feels like one big elaborate puzzle. Not a very easy puzzle mind you, but still a well designed and very intriguing one.

To download The House (and its walkthrough) you could be cunning enough to follow this humblest of links. Oh, and don't be surprised if you end up looking at a whole herd of them freeware mostly VB games. Download wantonly and do not forget to try Rotris the Tetris clone, Sokoban inspired Strokio and Blockmania a Columns like thingy.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Rise of the Hidden Sun news, Indy Adventuring Guide, Prototype 2 free shmup

Oct 26, 2007

Pac-Man gets freeware & Zork treatment

Pac-txtYou awaken in a large complex, slightly disoriented. Glowing dots hover mouth level near you in every direction. Off in the distance you hear the faint howling of what you can only imagine must be some sort of ghost or several ghosts.

Almost on par with "you are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox here", eh? Then again, this is no Zork. It's an alcohol (allegedly) inspired Zork/Pac-Man hybrid, that's properly freeware and can be played right here. The game, aptly named the Pac-Txt, is quite obviously a text/turn-based version of Pac-Man, which plays less than an adventure and more like a pill-popping maze.

So, should you really go grab your graph-paper notebook? Well, absolutely yes, for Pac-Txt, despite supporting only a bare minimum of game commands and being coded almost entirely in a day, is quite a brilliant and at times demanding little online maze game. Besides, glimpsing at a ghost will definitely remind the older among you of the glorious 3D Monster Maze days, without of course the 3D bit, and ...uh... that's quite a feeling. Just don't forget to enable the autolook and autonibble cheats.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Cthulhu i-f gaming, Half Life 2 Flipside, Textfyre, the Saboteur remake

Oct 22, 2007

Steal Away Jordan & Board Game Slaves

Steal Away JordanMust have been due to my recent indulgence in the generally shallow world of video games, but I was happily shocked when excellent all around gaming blog Play This Thing! mentioned Steal Away Jordan. After all, a political roleplaying game focusing on slavery, for that's what SWA is all about, isn't what I consider banal, and, yes, that's coming from someone still enjoying the odd Class Struggle session. It's just that spending all this time shooting (mostly undead) stuff, makes such a game really stand out, especially considering that most RPGs have the player step into the iron boots of some hairy barbarian instead of a rather desperate slave.

Now, as I've yet to buy or obviously review the game, you'd better help yourselves to a lovely PTT review and of course have a look around the SAW official website. Rumour has it it's a narrative heavy game with a unique game system and that I'll soon be getting myself a copy.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: D&D instant campaign builder, Proletariat: The Uprising, 1000s free RPG character sheets

Oct 19, 2007

Prototype 2 free shmup

Prototype 2 shmupFirst glimpsed over at Independent Gaming and then micro-reviewed by TIG Source's Derek Yu, Prototype 2 is a freeware shoot-'em-up you absolutely have to play. It's got fantastic graphics, sports some classic side-scrolling action and offers enough options & power-ups to remind me of the glorious Amiga days. Download it here and don't expect a walk in the park. Prototype 2 is a tough little bastard (well, either that or I'm far too old for such games and alcohol has finally started taking its toll).

Related @ Gnome's Lair: The B-Game Compo feature, Epic Saga, Soldner-X HD trailer, Platform!

Oct 17, 2007

Retro Gamer eMag Review

Retro Gamer eMag Oliver FreySo, uhm, what's an eMag, eh? Simple really, as it apparently is a collection of digitized magazines in PDF on a disk, which obviously means that a Retro Gamer eMag is a selection of digitized Retro Gamer magazines, or to be more precise 30 issues/3000+ pages of Retro Gamer in PDF on a disk. To be even more precise this particular eMag I'm currently reviewing features the first 30 (now out of print and pretty expensive) issues of said mag and a variety of extras, complete with full search capabilities via an excellent and lovingly animated retro themed interface.

What's more, searching/exploring the brilliant and rich content available can be done in three ways. First of all you can very virtually grab each one of the issues as a whole and read the PDF from -so to say- cover to cover, even though admittedly the PDF quality isn't that great, as all the images (not the text) are too low-res to enjoy. Then, you can search for individual top/printable quality high-definition articles through smartly indexed predefined categories (unfortunately not every single article has been included, which is quite annoying) and finally you can search the PDF documents themselves for any silly keyword you could come up with. All in all, finding what you are looking for or simply browsing is easy and intuitive and, considering the quality of what's on offer, my only true gripe is that I can't seem to find quality scans of the magazines' covers.

Now, for those of you that haven't even heard of Retro Gamer, suffice to say it's my favorite video gaming mag ever. I even prefer it to the early issues of PC Zone. Besides, it covers everything from 8-bit computers and consoles to arcades, game making ofs, retro-remakes, long gone developers, handhelds and even Jeff Minter's ship obsessions. As a prime example of what to generally expect from RG, please do read this excellent Sega MegaDrive Genesis retroinspection, one of the rare RG articles to make it to the web for free, though neither with all it usual bells and whistles nor in its 100% complete form. Oh, and here's Imagine's official Retro Gamer website.

Retro Gamer scanRetro Gamer eMag interfaceAs an added bonus, and probably as an incentive to buy the compilation regardless of the number of RG issues in your possession, Imagine threw in some lovely little extras. These include wallpapers (1024x768 and 1280x1024, 40 each), a couple of rather pointless files to help you create your own RG cover, 6 never before published pages on the magazine's history and impressively all 257 PDF pages of Retro - Micro Games Action, featuring the best retro articles from 24 issues of games TM. This PDF might not be of the highest resolution, but it's easily readable, and one could argue it's enough a reason (besides the obvious collector's obsession) for regular RG readers to grab this eMag, which incidentally is available here.

That's a (nine) out of (ten).

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Wii retro gaming guide, free CPC games, The Lurking Horror by Infocom

Oct 12, 2007

Rise of the Hidden Sun re-entering the freeware indy adventure games saloon

Rise of the Hidden SunRise of the Hidden SunIt was more than 5 years ago when Adventure Gamers published their first installment in the Adventure Architect series and indy/freeware adventure gamers promptly started fantasizing about playing through a cartoon point-and-clicker set in the Wild West. As the dev-diary like AA installments kept coming (read 'em all here), it was clear that a) this would be one of the shiniest freeware games ever, b) it would be episodic c) the graphics would be more than impressive and d) the game's name would be Rise of the Hidden Sun and the team behind it would be Chapter 11 studios.

Then, after the first enthusiastic previews started hitting the net, production apparently stopped and eventually even Chapter 11's website disappeared. But was the game gone for good? Had the evil powers of daily struggle crushed another creative group? Happily, no, and here is a brand new Rise of the Hidden Sun site to prove it. Hurrah!

As for the game itself, well, it will indeed be the freeware yet professional quality AGS adventure spanning 4 episodes and 100 (!) locations it was always meant to be. I mean, really, look at these screenshots... Rise of the Hidden Sun will also come complete with a classic Sierra-style point-and-click interface and a full musical score. Intrigued? Great! Feeling helpful? Why, that's even better, for you can still join the team and help.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: AG Speedruns, Resonance, Space Quest IV review, Indy Adventures Guide

Oct 11, 2007

Storked Released; PC platform/puzzle gamers smile.

Storked platform gameStorked is an indy platform/puzzle game created by a refreshingly fresh & young development team, that just got released for the PC. The game is in colourful family friendly 2D, while offering a unique chance to be a penguin, an impressive number of unique and rather innovative features and intriguing gameplay. Have a look at the press release and visit the game's official site; there's a hefty free demo available, you know. Oh, and do watch this space... I might just review the thing.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Soldner-X: The HD Trailer, LotRO gets free demo, How to relive Quake in 32-bit colours

Oct 10, 2007

The B-Game Competition Mega mini Review Part III

Part I - Part II - Part III
Well, dear unimpressed and not particularly numerous readers, it had to come to this: the third and sadly final part of the B-Game Competition mini reviewing marathon, sporting another bunch of 10 weird and lovely freeware games. Hopefully you still remember that you can download all 29 of them compo games right here and that, should you be nice enough, can still visit TIG Source and thank them for organizing the whole thing. Now, without further ado, let's just get on with it.

The B-Game equivalent of Godzilla and Rampage's spiritual spawn, this is a tough yet fun city destroying little game. Scale buildings, try to bring them down, avoid a variety of missiles, panic, hit random buttons and eat a marine or two, in a game that brings back those cherished arcade memories. Not a visual masterpiece by any means, mind you, though we obviously don't care and collectively admire the central sprite. Right? Right. Oh, yes, And Toadzilla Are You!

Speed Bear
Speed Bear is a deceptively simple game, with simple highly stylized graphics, that starts by being nothing more than a leisurely stroll through a Pac-Man-esque labyrinth, where all you have to do is shoot some obstacles (along with a few not very menacing beasties), collect treasures and head for the exit. Then, quite suddenly I must admit, it just turns into a frenzied race for escape that requires sharp reflexes and swift tactical decisions. Apparently the game also features bears in boats. Go figure.

Rap Attack: 2pacalypse Now
It's time for me to be unfair. Rap Attack, you see, is an imaginative mix of Metal Slug and Street Fighter 2 gameplay, with excellent pixel art and some lovely rap lyrics/music/story, that I will never be able to appreciate or praise. Unfortunately I'm desperately shit at it and simply can't enjoy the thing... Tsk, tsk.

Space Barnacle
Not that Metroid isn't b-movie-ish enough, but Space Barnacle is the only true platform action exploration B-Game ever created, and it comes complete with a minimal yet cheesy story appropriately set in space. Happily it's a brilliant game too. The retro styled graphics are excellent, the music is varied, its style impeccable and the controls spot-on. As for the exploration and power-up discovering bits they are easily comparable to Metroid's. Yes, it's that good; not that huge, but really good. The second best game of the compo really.

Hickbilly Bride
Making fun of rednecks, are we? Apparently, yes, or that's what Hickbilly Bride is all about. Now, despite not being comfortable with stereotypes of any sort, I must admit I appreciated the game's humor and more importantly truly enjoyed Hickbilly Bride in all its 4 fps, Atari 2600 styled graphics and country music glory. The game uses only three buttons (left, right, fire) but shockingly is not another action thingy. It's a smart and immensely enjoyable puzzler, thus an essential download.

Rover Race
The rover has made it to Mars and now you, oh bravest of players, have to guide it to safety and STOP signs, while avoiding fires, ghosts and a variety of lethal and/or non-lethal obstacles. Problem (good thing?) is you are positioned on Earth and this means that there will be a delay between the time you press a button and the time you will see the already unresponsive Rover's reaction! Sounds hopeless, I know, but after a few tries this infuriatingly difficult game starts being beatable and the levels (well, the first few at least) seem manageable. Fun even! Perfect learning curve, addictive gameplay and an absolute must try.

Tecnojam Dance 34k
After all these years of enjoying the demoscene and I'm still impressed by 34k games. Silly me... Anyway, this one in particular looks fine, comes with excellent and lovably silly music and in a humble 12 MB archive. Lovely, and even though I am not dexterous or hardcore enough to master it, I'm sure it's a fine finger dancing rhythm game.

Save the President
Simple as that, really. Shoot ninjas, bears, zombies and unidentifiable stuff in order to save the president and avoid having him killed. Uhm, yes. Also a pretty decent action movie parody with interesting visuals and good controls. It's extremely short and easy too.

Funny Cat
Despite the far too obvious Garfield references and the overly simplistic game mechanics, Funny Cat is a brilliant time sink sporting smart graphics and hardcore music. All you have to do is concentrate and press either Right Shift (food) or Q (not food). See how many points you can score in 2 minutes and remember what high-scores were all about.

Brain Drain
Judging from Mother Brain and Brain from The Pinky & The Brain Show, brains can be dangerous nasty little things, and more so when they are of the flying, bent on conquering the world sort. In Brain Drain the player unsurprisingly controls one such brain and tries to grab more human brains, control them (or the pink little clouds that represent them, actually) and avoid a variety of anti-brain projectiles by using an enjoyably fiddly mouse/keyboard control method and looking at some not particularly inspired graphics. Not exactly my kind of game, but definitely worth a try.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Text is King, TOP 7 non-slutty female game characters, Call of Cthulhu games

Oct 8, 2007

The launch of the Commodore Amiga (video)

Here it is luvs; the 1985 event that officially and rather impressively presented mankind with the Commodore Amiga 16-bit home-computer powerhouse in all its Debbie Harry - Andie Warhol glory. Not much else to say then, is there?

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Jet Set Willy video feature, Nintendo Wii retro gaming, 1700 PDF Arcade Manuals

Oct 7, 2007

Zak McKracken mp3 and ...uhh... stuff

Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders by Lucasarts (then Lucasfilm) still is one of the best adventures around, what with its lovely b-movie/tabloid humor, weird puzzles, great writing, quirky music and unsurpassed SCUMM interface. Unfortunately though the game is quite rare and difficult to track down even on eBay, but you can still download its theme in mp3 or wav format for free here. Oh, and do have a look at the impressive, remakes featuring and perfectly designed Zak McKracken Archive too.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Textfyre i-f, Sierra's Mystery House (occupation), Fedora Spades

Oct 5, 2007

Soldner-X: The Trailer

It was already looking good when I first previewed the thing, but now it's as jaw-dropping a shmup as the gods would ever allow. Oh, and let me just remind you that S├Âldner-X: Himmelsst├╝rmer will soon be available for PC and PS3, that the official web site is still here and that you can preorder your copy right here.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: LotRO demo, C&C 95 for free, Bioshock tweaks & widescreen, Kudos Rock Legend

Oct 4, 2007

Animating Retro Games (in retrospect & freeware e-book format)

Computer Animation Primer by David Fox (of Zack McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders fame) and Mitchell Waite was published back in 1984, which apparently means it's a young and perky book by any standard, provided of course said standard happily originated outside the computer/video-gaming industry. Now, truth is, this book is quite a bit technical and tends to focus either on 25 year old super-computers or the Atari 8-bit home-computers, which sort of places it inside the computer industry. I'll give you that. Still, it has aged remarkably well and manages to remain surprisingly interesting .

Read it and you'll learn a lot on 2D -mostly game- graphics, on the history of animation and finally get to truly understand such commonplace terms as scrolling, sprites, antialiasing and clipping. The excellent Making of TRON chapter might be of interest too. Read the online version of Computer Animation Primer here. It's absolutely free.

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Designing Arcade Computer Game Graphics, Nintendo Wii retro gaming, Space Quest IV, free PDF & e-book archive

Oct 1, 2007

The B-Game Competition Mega mini Review Part II

Part I - Part II - Part III
Enough with the introductions, on with reviewing more of these lovably bizarre B-Games. Mind you, you can still download them here (for free obviously) and as an added perk vote for your favorite.

Mondo Medicals
Welcome to Mondo Medicals, the weirdest game of the competition and the first first-person utterly illogical puzzler I've ever played. A game where figuring out what the instructions mean can be a herculean task. A game with 8 bastard levels, I simply can't describe without spoiling. Just trust me and download it. It's trippy as hell.

It's multiplayer Pong with a touch of football, accelerating paddles, lovely music and distinctly retro graphics. I like it. Also like the idea of 4 people playing against each other on a single keyboard. Unfortunately though no single player mode has been included.

Cottage of Doom
Another classic b-movie sub genre, another B-Game for the compo, and I just couldn't be happier with it. Really. Cottage of Doom, you see, is an excellent action game with strategic elements, that's all about zombies and typically destroying them with a shotgun. The player has to barricade/defend the wooden building shown above, kill said zombies and survive while admiring the pixel-artsy graphics and 16-bitsy sounds and having tremendous fun. Happily, the game also sports one of the best B-Game introductions and even a traditional zombie-flick poster. A corker.

Dump Jumper
It's definitely got its moments, a decent joke and a certain scatological appeal, but I just didn't enjoy it. Then again, we 're not all the same, are we?

Ultra violent and an obviously sarcastic tribute to Planet Terror, Gunlimb is an action game (or is it a shmup of sorts?) worth your downloading effort. From the weird control method, to the crude cinematics between levels and silly bosses Gunlimb will make sure you have a good time shooting tons of surreal enemies and watching their dismembered bodies scatter all over the screen. Apparently the action is frenetic too.

The Lighthouse Castle
A truly simple game with pleasing visuals, that's not offering much more than your average flash freebie. Then again it's the closest thing to a disaster b-game and that should mean something...

Bloody Landlord
At last! A B-Game with a proper slasher b-movie plot, psychotic killing, machetes, screaming students and buckets of blood, with you the player starring as the homicidal maniac. Lovely. The game, a stealth-action hybrid, is played on a single heavily forested screen with you chasing a variety of cute students around and taking them out one by one, if possibly without being spotted. The trees should help in your hiding attempts, though infuriatingly they might just provide the cover these youngsters need to escape and bring the police. Taxing yet fair gameplay, nice visuals, decent humor and a game you have to try.

Fuck Typing
Try to imagine Mario Teaches Typing without Mario or any teaching bits whatsoever. Now, add some very inspired swearing and you got Fuck Typing. It's a novelty thing, doesn't last very long, but a fuckselling dildobuyer is up there with you smell of elderberries. Apparently a fine single player typing battle thingy too.

It's a nice little Pong clone with a few power-ups and a fancy background and not much else really. Can't see much B-gameness in it, though admittedly Boink can be quite entertaining.

Captain Cool
Yep, it's social satire time, this time focusing on stereotypical pre-yuppie cool kids, bullying people and driving flashy cars. Unfortunately the game doesn't play that well (mainly due to sluggish controls), but both the humor and the graphics are good. Oh, and the music is excellent.

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Adventure Lantern adventure gaming again

I told you so, didn't I? Adventure Lantern, the only video gaming magazine focused on adventures is back complete with its spanking new layout and rather more traditional reviews, news, previews, articles and walkthroughs. Download it from the AL website (or go for the direct link here) and don't forget to read -among other quality stuff- the excellent Socko! Entertainment interview, the Gabriel Knight retro guide and those lovely Undercover: Operation Wintersun and Myst reviews. Great job Wendy!

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Adventure Game Speedruns, the Indy Adventure Games Guide, 2006 AGS Awards