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: Raft, a survival-crafting prototype set upon shark-infested waters; Helping Hand, a funny narrative-based game about only being able to communicate with one hand; and AFK, a trippy working-from-home simulator.
Call me Ishmael. Or rather, that’s what I call myself when playing survival-crafting prototype Raft. This is now how I like to imagine the narrator lives to tell the tale of the leviathan Moby Dick and the destruction of the Pequod. Obviously, it was by building himself a massive and self-sufficient raft from the whaling ship’s flotsam while fending off “the unharming sharks” with a makeshift spear that he skilfully crafted from wood, thatch and scrap metal.
You find yourself adrift in an endless ocean on just a tiny wooden raft, a shark circling menacingly from a distance that prompts concern. Mercifully, the weather is calm and the tides generous. A constant stream of debris floats past your makeshift craft, including barrels that sometimes contain goodies like potatoes and palm seeds.
The first and immediate priority is to get some fresh water; survival-crafting is damn thirsty work don’t you know! Once you’ve gathered enough materials – either by hand, swimming if you’re feeling brave, or reeling in with the hook and rope you just happen to have – you can bash together a tin cup and a surprisingly-efficient and compact desalinator. A close second is making a spear; it won’t be long before Mr. Sharky attempts to take a perfect square-sized bite from your buoyant refuge. And he’s not stupid either, he always goes for a tile occupied by one of your creations.
No doubt you’ll be famished after all that, so a fishing rod and cooking station is next on the to-do list. After that, it’s a case of expanding your raft and generally making life more comfortable and luxurious. You can start growing potatoes and palm trees, manufacturing storage chests and nets for auto-harvesting, and constructing walls, tiers and stairs. Though I’ve no idea where the soil comes from or how you manage to make all this stuff without at least a saw and Black & Decker Workmate.
Yes, Raft is about as realistic as every other survival-crafter out there, as in the sense of not being so at all. Yet, despite it not taking too long to reach the endgame, it’s highly enjoyable and quite addictive, with the prototype providing more than enough content for you to indulge your creative urges. A shame that eating, drinking and occasionally prodding the shark get in the way of building your dream home on the sea.
I can easily see Raft being expanded and improved upon with things like day/night cycles, changing weather and seasons, status effects and maladies, wear and tear, diving, and a wider range of threats and dangers. Maybe even an angry and ferocious white whale.
[note: since publishing this, I’ve noticed that Raft has been updated to version 1.05, adding in more features and crafting options, which is exciting!]
Being laid up in a hospital bed for any amount of time generally sucks. More so when you’re unable to communicate with people, a frustrating experience at the best of times. This is exactly the situation you find yourself in in Helping Hand. As your rather laid-back doctor labours the point, you’ve been in a horrific traffic accident in which virtually every part of your body has been damaged or broken, including the muscles in your mouth.
Fortunately, you’ve still got the use of your left hand. So by using a separate key to control your thumb and each of your fingers, you’re able to create five unique gestures – thumb down, the okay symbol, the peace sign, the devil’s horns (rock on dude) and, everyone’s favourite, flipping the bird.
During the short but hilarious narrative, several people come and go – there’s your disconcertingly indifferent and dippy mother, the world’s grumpiest and most unprofessional nurse, a deranged pastor from a strange cult, and Jeff the hapless truck driver who put you here in the first place. Multiple endings are possible based on how you interact with these folks. Be warned though, being too rude, sarcastic or flippant can be seriously bad for your health. And don’t forget to press the assistance button between visitations to summon nurse Barbara to reluctantly change your catheter and morphine drip.
Helping Hand is available for Windows and Mac and can be downloaded from itch.io for free here.
Now, here’s something I can totally relate to – a game about working from home. It’s Monday morning, 9am, and time to do some work. You arrive at your desk, steaming hot cup of Joe in hand, ready to login into your computer in the hope of a highly productive day. FFS, was that the phone? This better be important!
Using a simple point-and-click interface, AFK sees you dealing with every distraction imaginable. There are wrong numbers, salesmen hawking python lubricant, preachers, blown light bulbs, crappy thermostats, dodgy wiring and gravity-prone wall pictures, to name just a few. As our character exclaims in frustration, “This is getting ridiculous!” Express your feelings with dialogue choices that range from grumpy and sarcastic to indulgent and blasé.
AFK is silly, funny and features some nice pixel art. It’s also a bit trippy – things start to get genuinely quite weird as reality seems to break down all around you. Sadly, it does lack a little polish. The mini-games are a tad clumsy and uninvolved, and it does have a tendency to get stuck during interactions, though this can be fixed by restarting from the menu, which skips to the next scene. Still definitely worth playing though.
AFK is available for Windows and Mac and can also be played in a browser. You can access it for free through the Ludum Dare website here.