January 1, 2011 12:00 PM | Tim W.
[From now until mid-January, IndieGames.com: The Weblog will be counting down the best independent and freeware games of 2010, with descriptions, screenshots, and links of the best games in each major category.]
Kicking off the first of the in-depth 2010 Best of Features here on the IndieGames.com blog (after the overall Top 10 we did for Gamasutra and the 10 Indie Games for '11 article), we're proud to present ten of the best freeware experimental games released in 2010.
Experimental and art games are getting more and more commonplace these days. Though the IGF Nuovo award is already honoring several of these games, we felt compelled to highlight more exemplary shortform works that deserve a second look from the community.
Here are the top freeware experimental games of the year:
10. Loop Raccord (Nicolai Troshinsky) [Windows, freeware]
A 'video editing game' involving synchronizing video clips, Loop Raccord was specifically noted for being a work that "would NEVER have been made by a commercial studio," and for taking on IGF's Nuovo Award challenge of "advancing the medium and the way we think about games" by dealing with aspects "more related to fine art than the gaming world."
9. Hazard: The Journey of Life (Alexander Bruce) [Windows, freeware]
Built on top of the Unreal engine but employing "abstract pseudo vector graphics", Hazard was said to be a textbook example of an IGF 'Nuovo' game for using all the "storming through corridors" conventions of the first person shooter to create a deeper examination of personal philosophy.
8. Activate the Three Artefacts and then Leave (Stephen Lavelle) [Windows, freeware]
Activate the Three Artefacts and then Leave is a freaky voyage into the unknown. After moving the mouse around, you'll spot a sphere in the distance. There you'll find a gap in the wall that will allow you to move inside.
There are three artefacts to be found inside this sprawling yet claustrophobic environment of white cubes, but make sure you've got your speakers turned up, as it's the sound that really gives the game an eerie feel.
7. Roulette (Peter Lu) [Windows/Mac, freeware]
Roulette is a one-button game which sees you sat at a table playing a game of Russian Roulette. You and your opponent take it in turns to point the gun at your head and pull the trigger.
The whole thing is made up of dozens of video clips strung together, with a dark graphical effect over the top. The outcome is completely random, as are the reactions from your competitor, hence each game is different. Grab it and see how shocking a one-button game can be.
6. PlayPen (Farbs) [Flash, freeware]
You've got to hand it to Farbs (developer of the Captain Forever series) - everything he creates is stupidly awesome, and PlayPen is no exception. It's a world created entirely by the players and is constantly expanding as users build it up with their weird and wonderful ideas.
There's various routes to take and paths to go down, and each leads to more pixelated scenery and ways to venture. Eventually you'll reach a road which has not yet been created, at which point you'll be given the option to draw it yourself and set the next passages. Then other players will be able to continue their story using your scene.
You can also edit scenes already drawn, editing paths and creating your own, so the story will change constantly.
5. ...But That Was [Yesterday] (Michael Molinari) [Flash, freeware]
...But That Was [Yesterday] follows the story of a guy who is trying to push back horrible memories from his past and move forwards. In each scenario, you're told which keys to press, and completing the scene successfully will build the music up and push the action onwards.
Over time you'll see things that happened in his life, and shadows of old friends will begin to follow him. The first couple of minutes might put some people off if you can't work out how to progress the story, but make sure you keep at it, as this is a game worth playing through to the end.
4. Ute (Lea Schönfelder) [Flash, freeware]
Ute (not safe for work) is a simple adult Flash game in which you play as a young woman advised by her grandmother to seek out sexual escapades before finally settling down to a life of marital bliss. The way it works is that you try to entice a man to follow you into a small alleyway, and the sexual act will commence the second the both of you are out of public view.
Scoring points require timing your keypresses to a specific rhythm, but you'll need to satisfy your partner before some random passerby spots a familiar face committing infidelity in the shadows. The last person on the streets to have their heart broken will be married to you, and your grandmother will tally your achievements before the final score is posted to an online leaderboard.
Though cartoony in nature and full of caricatures, the game pulls no stops in depicting many of the sexual scenes in a very graphical manner. Similar to Lea Schönfelder's Ulitsa Dimitrova (IGF 2010 student showcase finalist, SOWN 2010 selection, Fantastic Arcade spotlight finalist), Ute is definitely not a game for kids.
3. p0nd (The Peanut Gallery) [Flash, freeware]
p0nd is a one-button game that utilizes the space bar to make the protagonist breathe in and out. Holding space will cause all the fresh air to enter his lungs - then you let go to make him breathe out. It's meant to be a very 'zen' experience, relaxing your nerves etc. In fact, it suggests you try breathing in and out with the character.
Then you get to a pond, and well, it all gets a bit silly. We're not going to spoil it for you, but rest assured, you won't be expecting what happens next.
2. Covetous (Austin Breed) [Flash, freeware]
Created in 48 hours for Ludum Mini-Dare 20 with the theme 'Greed', Covetous is a rather disturbing experience. The story is about an embryo slowly growing inside a person, eating all the food so that it could eventually grow into a baby. Without spelling it out fully (at the risk of spoiling it for anyone before they have the chance to figure it all out), 'another chance at life' leads to a rather special yet creepy scenario, with an even creepier ending. Be warned: There are extremely naughty words involved towards the end.
1. One Chance (Awkward Silence Games) [Flash, freeware]
Yikes, this is fantastic. One Chance follows the story of scientist John Pilgrim who, along with his team, manages to find a cure for cancer. However, it quickly becomes apparent that the 'cure' kills all human cells, and everyone on Earth begins to die.
You're given seven days to find a cure and save the human race, but here's the twist - you've only got one chance. If the seven days pass by and you don't find the cure, then John will die, the human race is become extinct, and reloading the game will simply show an image of John's death.
There are multiple endings, but obviously you'll only be able to find one of them.
[Got feedback? Reasons to disagree? Post a response and we'll do a special 'best of reader comments' round-up at the end of our chart countdowns.]