I’m mostly interested in writing about Things Worth Having, which make up for their cost in improved Quality of Life. I usually mean high-quality every-day objects when I say that but there’s also a bunch of intangible data worth having. Some people even give it away. Data (i.e. software) takes up no space, so when someone gives a piece of software away, it’s hard not to see it as Worth Having, even if it sucks. At first glance that’s how the math comes out. The cost, however, is the time you spend using it. And it is in that spirit that I give you A Buncha Free Games, Volume I.
I’m now officially belaboring this point, but it’s just so good. And now that Capt. Successor is out, you can play the original for free. Now. NOW. (Read the rest later, damn you. That link will open in a new tab.)
Cave Story (Doukutsu Monogatari)
When Darwinia+ finally comes out I’ll try and explain how much I hate genre-boundaries, because I hate them. Books, music, films, and games that transgress and can’t be classified are lots more fun. Cave Story is a fast, pixelated platformer with RPG-ish NPC development, a nice big inventory, and a story that just goes on and on. (Disclosure: I haven’t completed a single game in this post because they’re all so satisfyingly long.) My point is that if you haven’t played it before, you haven’t played it before. Its not Mario or Metroid, Duke Nukem (THE FIRST ONE) or Commander Keen. It’s cute, the music’s excellent, and the controls are flawless. It’s clearly a labor of love by the author, and you can download it for free and keep it forever. I think you should.
Win – Mac – Linux
Every bit as atmospheric as Canabalt, but not nearly as intense. Well, that’s not fair. The little Knytt got abducted by an incompetent alien and now has to fix the broken spaceship without help. It’s a quiet, beautiful puzzle platform/adventure-thing that is massively cute in a way that makes the solitude of crawling around alone on an alien world seem all the more dire. Again, it’s an ingenious labor of love and totally downloadable, along with its extensible successor, Knytt Stories.
Win – and I run it on my CrunchBang Linux netbook through Wine
Monuments of Mars
This game is so old! Do you even know what CGA graphics are? It’s amazing what you can do with two bits-per-pixel, provided they’re the right two bits. These ones give you Black, Red, Orange, and Green. Monuments of Mars is my favorite exploration of just how much awesome can be gleaned from four colors, and I just found out that all four chapters have been released into the public domain.
YOUR COMPUTER CAN’T RUN THIS GAME! You need to get DOSBOX first so you both can pretend it’s 1992.
I know, I’m trying to run you over with my time machine. ZZT is another absurd blast-from-the-past. Think 4 colors looks primitive? ZZT is all ASCII characters. We care because Tim Sweeney released it almost 20 years ago, and now is still Head Morlock behind the Unreal Engine, which runs Mass Effect, BioShock, Dead Space, Gears of War, Borderlands, Mirror’s Edge, Deus Ex… It all started with ridiculous DOS text characters. In all seriousness, you don’t have to play this game, but it did have a really slick scripting system that made it really easy to build mods. The level editors in Lode Runner and Boulder Dash didn’t hold a candle.