Water Galaxy is a pleasant little physics puzzler that, as with most good puzzle games, uses a handful of elements, combined in different ways, to create diverse challenges of increasing difficulty.
In a sense, it's a cannon game, but rather than trying to destroy an enemy, the conceit is that you are are shooting water from a planet to your "mothership;" apparently your race needs water. The idea that you travel interplanetary distances to get it is absurd, but whatever.
Rijn the Specpyre is an old-school action RPG, currently under development, but with Windows and Linux demos available now (and a Mac version promised). In it, you play Rijn, a vampire, whom the local townsfolk have asked to rid them of a local "specpyre" family -- specpyres are apparently some kind of specter/vampire hybrid, and vampires are cool while specpyres are nasty.
The game is played entirely with keyboard; arrows to move, and left-CTRL/space-bar use left-hand weapon and right-hand weapon. You start with a sword, but can gain a crossbow later, and can wield torches as weapons. There are a limited variety of enemies, but each has its own attack pattern, and the most effective way of dealing with them varies.
Reflex is a sort of shmup/puzzle game that's very simple in conception but rather hard to play.
It's a top-down scroller, with a Brickout-like array of blocks moving toward your ship; you score points for shooting blocks, which disappear when shot -- except for grey "metal" blocks. You need to navigate around them, and suffer damage whenever your ship intercepts a block.
The difficulty arises because of two factors; first, you move with WASD but can shoot in all four directions with the arrow keys. Thus, maximizing your score means alternating shot directions -- and, as in Robotron, dealing with two joystick-analogs takes some getting used to. Also, if you are approaching a metal brick, say, you need to shoot to one side to open up a brick there, slide quickly over, then quickly shoot ahead before you intercept that brick, which is tricky.
Girl With a Heart Of is a sort of visual novel, a "graphic adventure lite" with little in the way of puzzle-solving. Play consists mainly of dialog with other characters and occasional FedEx quests; but the narrative you explore, and the world background, are quite interesting.
You are a young girl of "the Dark," living in an underground city that is currently under attack by "the Light." Your father has been killed, and your mother is severely injured. As is typical in quest fantasy, it turns out that the survival of your city somehow hinges on you, and you must learn magic and embark on a sort of vision quest to save it.
Frayed Knights is an indie CRPG set in a fantasy world in which you control a party of four pre-set characters: Arianna, a fighter; Dirk, a thief; Chloe, a magic-user; and Benjamin, a cleric. The game is 3D, but in a rather crude way; NPCs are static models without animation, poly counts are low, and the combat animations of the enemies you encounter are simple slashes or other attacks.
The characters themselves are never seen in the world; you play from a first-person view, and the characters are represented by 2D portraits around the screen.
Where the game excels is in the dialog. The characters each have strong, and different, personalities, and often banter with each other, comic-book style, with word balloons emitting from their portraits. The game's humor is carried by the dialog, and comes across strongly; I actually chuckled at times, as when one character remarked "not another go into the basement and kill rats quest." The humor often plays off the conventional tropes of digital RPGs, as that quote indicates.
Space Chunks II is a remarkably full-featured shmup for a freeware effort. It's also easy enough, at least at the easiest difficulty setting, to be enjoyable even for those of us who kind of suck at this style of game.
There's no backstory, which is actually something of a relief, given how lame such things often are. You control a ship (heading with the mouse, arrow keys or WASD for acceleration and breaking, LMB to shoot and RMB to use missiles) and, in most stages, find and kill enemy ships, of which there are a variety, each with its own attack behaviors and weapons. There are also asteroids floating about which, Asteroids-like, can be blasted into smaller chunks. Both enemies and asteroids sometimes drop score or resource doobers when blasted to, um, space chunks.
There's some hugger-mugger about how you're a hacker infiltrating the secret data systems of the Military-Industrial Complex to crash them, but the gameplay makes Data Jammers a kind of arcade track game in which you slide along a trippy highway curved and splitting in 3D space, avoiding enemy data objects while trying to pick up rings for score, along with the occasional powerup. New enemies and features are introduced over time, and what's an easy game to play at early levels gradually becomes more complex and difficult, with use of bombs needed to destroy or evade enemies and reach the track end without dying -- and certainly to achieve a high score. In other words, the gameplay is not as original as we usually expect from Digital Eel, but the enemies and effects are imaginative, and the controls very smooth.
The Blackwell Deceptions is the next episode of Dave Gilbert's Blackwell series of graphic adventures, starring Rosangela Blackwell, a somewhat geeky young woman living alone in New York, and her spirit guide, Joey, a wisecracking, fedora-wearing ghost from the 1940s. As in the previous episodes -- The Blackwell Legacy and Blackwell Unbound -- their job is to investigate the mysteries around the ghosts they encounter, confront them with their own deaths, and send them on to the afterlife.
Barrier is a short graphic adventure in which you play Wu, a kung fu master whose girlfriend, Mei, is on the other side of the Great Wall of China. You must get to the top of the wall, pull her up, win her heart, and deal with the patrolling soldiers who apparently think peasants don't belong on the Great Wall.
The difficulty is that your verbs are not what you'd expect from an adventure game; all you can do is punch, kick, converse, and leap over. Thus, being the goofball that you are, when you attempt to use the ladder that is right there, you smash it to flinders with your mighty kung fu.
It's a short game -- ten minutes at most -- but entertaining, and the graphics, which appear to be scanned from a pastel rendering, are quite attractive.
Less than Three (aka <3) is a short Adventure Game Studio title from Ben Chandler; at the inception, a D&D-like party of adventures have just opened the treasure house of Emperor Kemal, and shortly find themselves trapped in it.
There's one long-ish and not particularly difficult puzzle (walkthrough linked above should you become stuck), but what's interesting isn't the gameplay per se, but the writing. The "examine" and "use" texts (LMB and RMB) provide a sense of a living world, and the by-play among the characters provides a story that's actually interesting, a rarity in games of any sort. A nice, short adventure gaming fix for those who like such.
Interactive Storytelling is a tough nut to crack, so the rule there is keep your experiments to rapid prototypes. Some have spent years building monolithic engines, complete with editor and web-service, before providing playable demonstrations of a particular algorithm, and god bless them. Den Benmergui has done with his Storyteller experiment.
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