Times are hard and unless you’re the upper 1% of the population that’s screwing over the rest of us, it’s getting harder to find the free cash to spend on a quality video game.
Well, fear not my financially challenged friends. In this Mixed Review, I’m covering three PC games that are 100% free. Legally!
One and One Story is a flash game designed by Mattia “MaTX” Traverso, with art by Gabriele Bonis. Short and sweet, the object of the game is to reunite two lovers by navigating both characters through platforming puzzles. Challenge is added by quirks to the gameplay, introduced elegantly through the narrative of the story of the two lovers. A method that vaguely reminds me of Braid, but that’s where the comparison ends. Despite the dark visual design, the story is refreshingly romantic without being tragic or angsty. If you don’t “Awww” at least once while playing this, contact your physician, because you may not have a heart.
The gameplay is basic puzzle platforming, moving boxes and jumping over pits of spikes, but quirks to the gameplay like having to keep your partner from killing themselves as they mirror your every move, make traversing the stages more complicated. Switching control back and forth between the two characters to solve puzzles also adds another layer of challenge.
Short and sweet, this game is definitely worth playing. And the bonus stages can be played by two players simultaneously, so grab that special someone and cuddle up by the keyboard for some co-op fun. Cheaper than a date movie and a lot more fun.
Super Smash Land by Dan Fornance is described as a demake of Nintendo’s popular mascot fighter, Super Smash Brothers. Super Smash Land uses the simplified control scheme and familiar green and black 8-bit graphics of the original Nintendo Game boy, but offers plenty of new content, including stages never before seen in the Smash series and a surprise Newcomer that people have wanted to see for a long time. (I’ll give you a hint. He’s blue and he fights an evil doctor with an outrageous mustache. But not Sonic.) I’m impressed by all the little familiar touches and attention to details in this game, especially in the stage design, that make this feel like a true Smash Bros. game. The game does lack some features of the true Smash, but who uses the shield button anyway?
The simplified controls are difficult at first, but once you get used to only having one attack button you can start slapping Kirby and Pikachu around like redheaded step children. In true Smash tradition, there is a simple player Campaign that culminates in a fight with Master Hand, and there are other extra modes with challenges to clearing the levels. Beating the game won’t take long, but completing everything is a bit of an endeavor. An online versus mode would really be the cherry on top, but none is to be found. Yet. For a free game coded by one programmer, the end result is incredible.
Super Smash Land is a loving tribute to old school games and the Smash series we know and love. The simplified controls are a little frustrating, but that’s actually part of the nostalgic charm of the game. All the fun of Gameboy and Smash Bros., without worry about replacing batteries. Win.
Last, but certainly not least, is Cave Story. I know, I’m late to the party on this one, but I’m glad I finally sat down and dug into this delicious indie treat. Designed and developed entirely by one programmer, Daisuke Amaya, over five years, Cave Story is a platform-adventure game in the vein of Metroid and Castlevania. After awakening in a cave with no idea of how you got there, you begin explore this strange subterranean world and try to stop the Doctor’s evil plot for the cave’s inhabitants. The art style of the game is simple and old school, but the story has a weight to it that betrays the light hearted graphics.
Much like Metroid, the gameplay is about exploration. As you advance you uncover power-ups that increase your health, strengthen your weapons, and grant you new abilities, which help you advance even further. Through the course of the game you will amass a varied arsenal of weapons, each of which can be upgraded by XP dropped from slain baddies. This XP can also be lost when you take damage. Don’t be surprised if you’re in the heat of battle and find yourself more worried about your favorite weapon being downgraded than you are about your hit points getting low. The boss battles are challenging and insanely fun. I haven’t screamed at the screen like a maniac while unloading a clip full of ammunition into a giant monster since I was a child. Controls are tight and I was grateful for the gamepad support.
Cave Story is a classic and I’m thrilled to see it getting increased recognition now that it’s available on Nintendo Wii and DSi. I will be buying the updated 3DS version when it comes out, if not just to support the developer for giving us such a tremendous game for free. The WiiWare version comes with some nice extras like a Boss Rush mode, but the PC version is free, so you’ve got options. But whatever you decide, get it and play it. Now.