Indie Freebies: The Murder Express and Others

This week’s highlighted “Indie Freebies” are noirish whodunnit The Murder Express, painting explorer SURREALISTa, and low-res space flight simulator Norman’s Sky.

If you’ve ever fancied sharing a carriage on a luxury train with the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer, David Berkowitz, or Ted Bundy, then hop aboard The Murder Express. Whoop-whoop! Part 2D platformer, part point-and-click adventure, it’s an Agatha Christie-inspired murder mystery. Mr. Duvall has been bumped off and, as the only detective on board, it’s your job to find out whodunnit. Well, what did you expect on a train harbouring 11 infamous serial killers?

Murder Express 01

The premise is simple – explore the train, look for clues, and interrogate the suspects. Once you’ve gathered enough info it’s time to finger the culprit, but accuse the wrong person and you lose the game. Oh yeah, and be careful who you turn your back on when the lights go out, otherwise you might suddenly find a sharp implement buried deep between your shoulder blades. The other twist is that each time you play the game, the murderer, motive, and scenario alter randomly.

It’s a fun but short game with a fabulously noirish atmosphere thanks to the graphic novel-style black-and-white visuals and an orchestral jazz soundtrack. It’s also fully voiced, and for a freebie the acting is not bad. The Murder Express is available for Windows and can be downloaded for free here.

SURREALISTa 01

Next up is SURREALISTa. Walking simulator is often used a pejorative term to mock games that are perceived as having very little to do, but it needn’t be so. Carlos Monteiro’s SURREALISTa is a thing of real beauty. From a first-person perspective, it allows you to walk inside the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico. Chirico was an Italian artist who founded the scuola metafisca, a proto-surrealist art movement of the early 20th century. His mysteriously dreamlike compositions were defined by strong geometry, sharp contrasts in light and shadow, and metaphysical imagery. Unsurprisingly, he was a big influence on surrealist painters such as Salvador Dali.

Currently there are eight paintings to choose from, each preceded by a relatively brief but informative description. They’ve all been lovingly reimagined in 3D and overlaid with an immersive canvas texture. The backgrounds brought to life with atmospheric light, smoke and dust effects, and the buildings’ interiors populated with more of Chirico’s work. It’s all accompanied by a pleasant selection of baroque piano compositions and a range of mood-setting ambient sounds.

SURREALISTa 02

Seriously, you should give it a go. It’s relaxing, peaceful, evocative, thought-provoking, and it looks gorgeous. If only art history had been this much fun at school! It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and can be downloaded for free here.

Normans Sky animated GIF

Lastly, if you simply can’t wait any longer for the release of No Man’s Sky, then you could always check out Norman’s Sky in the interim. Made in 10 hours by Ivan Notaros for #LOWREZJAM2016, it’s 64×64 pixel flight simulator set in a procedurally generated universe. Despite being something of a jokey premise, impressively it features Newtonian physics and every object in the sky can be reached and landed on. Although you do seem to be indestructible, which is probably for the best given the slightly awkward keyboard controls. Oh, and the retro-style sound effects are awesome!

Norman’s Sky is a surprisingly fun experience, but don’t expect to be playing it for more than 5-10 minutes. It’s available for Windows, Mac, and Linux and can be downloaded for free here.

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