Not only is game design evolving at a an astonishingly rapid pace, but games are increasingly becoming legitimate avenues for artistic expression.
This week, we want to launch a new series of posts which showcases FREE games that either (a) feature innovate game design or game dynamics, or (b) have an interesting artistic aspect or story. The one caveat: all of the games have to provide complete and compelling game experiences, and not just be demos or conceptual exercises.
The games are: The Dream Machine, Game Box, Specter Spelunker Shrinks, Runman Race Around The World, The Cat and The Coup, SkrilleX Quest, Ruins, Dust, Treasure Adventure Game, and Contrejour.
The Dream Machine is an excellent point and click adventure game. It is very playable and compelling. Note that you can play the game online for FREE; create an online account in order to save your game progress.
The reason this game is featured here: is it’s remarkably refreshing look and feel, featuring animated claymation characters that look like they came straight our of ‘Wallace and Gromit’.
2. Game Box
An enjoyable Puzzle-platformer, freely playable online, where you have to navigate your character across a cube-like architectural structure hovering in the sky, from the beginning of a level to the end. Press ‘R’ to reset a level, and ‘Enter’ for more keyboard controls.
The reason this game is featured here: ‘Game Box’ features an interesting twist on the laws of physics, where the ‘building’ you are standing on, being suspended in space, would pull you back in on the nearest surface when you fall off. It is as if you were falling off the surface of the earth but then being pulled back in by its gravity, rather than falling into the void.
Another platform game with a twist: your character could shrink and expand his body at will. Imagine the possibilities if you could do the same with yours: to go through a closed door, you would shrink yourself to ant size and simply walk under it. To travel from one town to the next, simply make your self so big that a single step can take you across town, etc. That, in a nutshell, is what this game is about.
The reason this game is featured here: the expanding/shrinking is a clever, original, and innovative game device (and quite thought provoking in a strange, philosophical way 😉 ).
A ‘cute’ platformer, ‘Run Man is a downloadable free game for PC and Mac that is remarkable in that what you see is essentially what you get, but with a certain freshness and spontaneity that makes it a remarkably playable game. (The soundtrack is also fantastic).
The reason this game is featured here: for great game dynamics (whatever that means 😉 ). Also, for proving that you do not need spiffy graphics or complexity to make a game fresh and appealing.
Whenever I think about games as art, I think of this one. “The Cat and The Coup” is a historic point and click style documentary centered around the death of the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, in 1953, through the eyes of his cat. It’s available for Mac and Windows.
The reason this game is featured here: the first reason is the game’s ambition, as a historic documentary. The second is the game dynamics, where you don’t really know what the rules or objectives are and have to figure them out as you go along. The third reason, the fact that it is so stunningly beautiful to look at. Art!
A game whose entire concept is of a broken, 8-bit game cartridge or ROM. Your character’s familiar quest (to rescue a damsel in distress, ozr something) takes a back seat to his new quest: to fight and/or avoid the ‘glitches’ that affect the game ROM and therefore inhabit his world. Features a very interesting 80’s style thumping electronic dance soundtrack (is that a glitch as well).
The reason this game is featured here: a great concept and story, that the game worlds in a circuit board are alive, and are adversely affected by dust or degradation in the physical world. (It is somewhat surreal, like a mental patient striving to cope with his own dysfunctional brain or something).
Ostensibly about “about a dog chasing rabbits through a shadowy, dreamlike landscape”, you could say that Ruins is not a text adventure but rather a poem (complete with dreamy visuals).
The reason this game is featured here: the atmosphere. This is one of those games without clear instructions or rules, that you can finish in a sitting or two. And it is free!
Dust is a visually beautiful game where you control some sort of fairy-like creature to explore a magical, dimly lit environment. Part of the appeal of the game is that you do not know what the objective is.
The reason this game is featured here: aside from the fact that it is exceedingly beautiful, Dust is innovative in that you control two characters at once; your own fairy-type character (W/A/S/D) as well as the moths that you awaken along the way (arrow keys). Makes for a very interesting game dynamic.
Treasure Adventure Game’ is an adventure game that lives within a beautifully drawn retro-looking 8 bit environment.
The reason this game is featured here: there is somewhat of a cross-genre thing going on, almost like ‘Treasure Adventure Game’ is a cross between an adventure and a platform game. The retro 8 bit graphics add a lot to this game as well.
Contrjour is a beautiful puzzle game that is a paid app on iOS and Android, but can be played as a browser game online totally free.
The reason this game is featured here: the game dynamics, which involve manipulating the environment as if it were made of rubber, rather than simply controlling the main character.
That’s it. We still more game that we intend to feature in a follow up post, though.
If you know of any FREE games that either (a) have an interesting game dynamic or device, or (b) are artistic or innovative in terms of the story, PLEASE let us know in the comments section below.
Photo credit: the photo on top of the post was made with Photofunia using a few of the game screenshots.