Time for another installment of links and minor commentary on a variety of small and independent games.
First off, we'll start with a couple of purchasable games. Both of the following games have downloadable demos available.
Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble - This is an odd sort of game. Kind of an unholy union of Clue and the Choose Your Own Adventure books. You control a gang of girls in a 1920s high school who set out to solve mysteries at their school and around town. You move to various locations, choose which girl from your gang will interact with the other characters, and through a series of lies, taunts, exposing of secrets and other such pettiness (all resolved through a series of mini-games) you'll discover the sordid side of this small town. It costs $20 for the full version, but you can download a demo that will let you play for about a half hour or so and give you a good overview of what the game will be like. It has a very interesting aesthetic look and feel to it, and I found the demo engaging.
Venture Arctic - I think the best way to describe this game would be as an environmental Populous. You play god over a small section of arctic wilderness, encouraging the creatures to breed and eat via altering their area through placement of food, encouraging births, warming and cooling the ground, and sometimes even direct intervention. The big issue is balance. Even though some animals are predators and some are simply grazing herd animals, there needs to be food for everyone, and not an overabundance of any one type. I found that the micro-management required was a bit much for me, but then again, maybe if I was a proper force of nature, that wouldn't have been the case. I also disliked the direct intervention part of the game. You can make specific, individual creatures pregnant or sick, and you can also place new creatures directly. I think this genre would be better served by instead giving you more generic tools to encourage growth or migrations. But aside from that quibble, all in all, I found this is an interesting game. It's cartoony aspect would probably also make it fun for kids. The demo lets you play for 30 minutes. The full game costs $20.
Now onto the free games! These are all flash-based and can be played in any modern browser.
Grow - Interesting little animated, puzzle game. You select from a series of pieces that fire off a particular animation. But, what happens with each piece depends on what pieces have gone before and which ones get placed after it. Sometimes they will interact with other pieces in new and interesting ways. You have to figure out what the right order is to place them in, basing your guesses on the animation results. That's about the best I can describe it. Anyway, it's free, and there are actually a number of different variations to play. Definitely worth checking out, though if you're having trouble with a certain puzzle, it can get annoying to have to sit through the same animations over and over.
Mastermind - Become an Evil Genius and take over the world! Send your minions out to rob, steal and kidnap while building up your base, researching superpowers and managing a coffee shop as a front! I find the interface a little awkward and cramped, but for a free browser-based game, its a fun little distraction. And who doesn't love being evil every once in a while!?
Majesty of Colors - Odd little mood-evoking game that puts you in control of a colossal, underwater, Lovecraftian creature and gives you choices of how you want to interact with various humans and other things that come into your domain. The game doesn't last very long, but it does have multiple endings to explore based on how you choose to respond. It's all drive by the mouse. No keyboard interaction. Worth taking a few minutes to look at.
The Space Game - This is a tower defense type game set in space. You start off with a single station and need to assign miners to gather minerals from nearby asteroids, set up turrets to take care of incoming pirates and upgrade your base and other components to be stronger and more efficient. Fun little game. It's flash-based, free and has a number of levels specifically designed for people to try and get high scores on.
Sagrario's Room Escape - This game is in the traditional, click-on-the-picture format. You're tasked with figuring out how to escape a room with seemingly no exits. You have to look at and interact with the few items that are in the room to solve the puzzle. The interface takes a little getting used to, and sometimes the clue is simply clicking on the appropriate two pixel square on the screen, which can be annoying sometimes (for example, opening the briefcase on the first room). Another important bit which I probably wouldn't have figured out without reading some hints, is that you can sometimes view items in your inventory, then use other items from your inventory on them. That wasn't really an intuitive interface interaction for me. I also had a lot of trouble figuring out how to correctly spin the dial on the safe. This is an interesting puzzle game with potential, but the interface flaws really kill it for me. Might be more fun for someone who is more in sync with the author's thought patterns than I am.
And I'll close this post off with two links are good spots to go look for other Indie games that might interest you.
Indie Games Blog - This is a very active blog (at least one post a day), giving short reviews and links to a wide variety of small, indie games.
2009 IGF Finalists - These guys always have some interesting games to bring to the public eye. This link goes to the page listing their finalists for their 2009 awards.
And there you have it. Several distractions to keep you from doing any real work!