Always short of a few bob and looking for something a bit different, each week I scour the internet for fun, interesting, or just plain curious Indie Freebies. This week’s highlighted titles are: Inside the Void, a captivating odyssey on a mysterious and mesmerising alien planet; U-ROPA, a short but atmospheric point-and-click adventure set in a bleak Orwellian future; and Cannibal Café, a memory game based around serving suspect sushi to demanding customers.
Inside the Void
I must admit that I do have a soft spot for games that whisk you off to weird and wonderful places then leave you alone to explore at your own leisure. And few landscapes have captured my imagination better of late than in 3D Methods’ Inside the Void.
Set on a remote alien planet and rendered in some damn fine low-poly 3D, you find yourself immersed in a mesmerising world of startling colour and ethereal reverberations. An undulating terrain of turquoise dunes punctuated by spiky barnacle-like mounds and magnificently misshapen spires reaching for the magenta sky. A nearby planet and its orbiting moon frame the horizon, while in the near distance a series of gravity-defying superstructures inspire pure awe – their myriad constituent parts twisting and turning like the clockwork of a giant machine. Get close enough and each of these seven arcane contrivances will teleport you to a Kubrick-esque void of infinite dimensions, strange phenomena, and continually shifting hues.
Several expeditions have been here recently, all of whom disappeared following reports of peculiar anomalies. Newly arrived in your disc-shaped spacecraft, it’s your job to investigate the planet and locate the missing personnel. As you roam the surface, you uncover the logs left behind by your predecessors, slowly unravelling the narrative of what happened to them and the fate of the civilisation that once existed here. And it proves to be a fascinating tale and a captivating odyssey through the unknown.
Inside the Void is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and can be downloaded for free from itch.io here. However, it is listed as “name your own price”, so if you do enjoy it, you should consider making a small donation to the creators.
U-ROPA has been kicking around since last December. However, it was recently brought to my attention by Atavismus, one of its creators and also one-half of the duo behind the delightful Xenotep, which I covered a little while back (see here). Anyway, I’m glad I checked it out.
It’s a short-form point-and-click adventure set in a bleak Orwellian future ruled over by the sinister and all-controlling Party. For the vast majority, indoctrinated by newspeak-style propaganda and made to live in permanent fear of a nondescript enemy (the Komin), it’s a life of deprivation, servitude, and hard labour.
You play Siegfried, a young student seconded to work on an undersea vehicle for extracting minerals necessary for maintaining the “war economy”. Unfortunately, your first day on the job doesn’t get off to a good start. An explosion leaves you trapped under a pile of debris with a screwdriver stuck in your leg. Ouch! Slowly bleeding out, with water seeping in and oxygen running out, time isn’t on your side.
The action takes place in a single, confined location. To escape your underwater coffin you’ll need to think on your feet, search the environment for clues and useful items, and ultimately solve a sequence of inventory puzzles and passcode conundrums. Hang around for too long or make a bad decision, and you’ll be literally staring at your death certificate.
Rendered in gloomy and gorgeously understated pixel art and set to an oppressive industrial ambiance, U-ROPA is a brilliantly tense, claustrophobic, and atmospheric experience. And for such a tiny game, it manages to pack in a lot of engaging story detail as well as some light-hearted humour. Both visually and thematically, it strongly reminds me of classic adventure title Beneath A Steel Sky.
It’s also surprisingly challenging, and the puzzles certainly require some rumination, yet it never feels unfair. I must admit that the locker combination had me stumped for a while. But as it often is with these types of games, the solution was staring me in the face.
U-ROPA is available for Windows and can be downloaded for free from the Adventure Game Studio website here.
Here you play a chef working in a busy sushi restaurant. The premise is simple: Look to see what each customer orders, check the recipe book for the required ingredients, and assemble the rolls before the person storms out. Using the money you collect from satisfied punters, you also need to order in more ingredients as required.
Each day your financial goal increases as does the speed with which you receive orders; the patrons appearing at random positions along the conveyor belt. The trick is knowing when to use your limited knife-flip ability to reset the patience of the hungry mob before you.
It’s a fun and testing little memory game with a splash of strategy and more than a smidgen of dark humour. One can’t help but chortle as you serve human delicacies, all drawn in Nukes’ typically playful and distinctive style, to the unsuspecting customers. Still, they keep coming back for more, and it’s not as if the dementedly puntastic roll names aren’t a dead giveaway. Oh yeah, I also loved the selection of Japanese-infused music and the cheerfully morbid folk song that plays over the menu screen.
Cannibal Café is available for Windows and can be downloaded for free from Game Jolt here. It can also be played in a web browser.