This week’s Indie Freebies are In Search of Paradise, an open world driving game; Eternal Hope, a gorgeous-looking puzzle platformer; and Torpor, a story of a life cut short told through the objects of those affected.
In Search of Paradise
Few games have a more cryptic or intriguing premise than Henrik Hermans’ In Search of Paradise. Made in 16 days for the Idle Thumbs Wizard Jam 2016, it’s an open-world driving adventure. You start off on empty road in an unnamed desert landscape with the late afternoon sun beaming down at you. “Far from the metropolises of the modern world, to one of the lesser-visited stretches of the American interstate system, a traveller has arrived, in search of Paradise”, it cheerfully explains.
Low on fuel, you pull into a nearby gas station at what seems to be the end of the road and ask for directions. “Paradise? Oh God, not another one. Listen, that place is a myth. Just turn around and head back where you came from. Too many have headed up the dirt road behind my gas station in search of that place and non have come back”, the attendant politely advises. Okey dokey, so I guess it’s off up the trail for me.
Believe me, that’s as good as it gets in a game fairly short on instruction. Not knowing exactly what to do or to look out for, and with no map or compass, all you can do is try to find the next station and hope for answers there. Ideally, before you run out of fuel or night falls. If you think navigating during the day is tricky, it’s near impossible in the dark. Handily, you can speed up time while refuelling. And yes, the position of the sun can be used to help determine your bearing.
Letting your fuel gauge hit empty means requesting a tow back to the previous station. Alternatively, you can attempt to continue on foot until you reach the next outpost, a daunting prospect in such an enormous landscape. It’s a decision you’ll be contemplating a fair bit.
Essentially, In Search of Paradise boils down to a lot of driving and getting lost. Yet, you find yourself impelled by curiosity and that inexplicable urge to explore, not to mention that exhilarating feeling of speed and the sense of freedom that can only come from driving across open terrain. And despite the relatively simple visuals, it’s a remarkably immersive experience. Though I do recommend bringing some music. I found that Jean Michel Jarre worked rather well, but you probably have better taste than me. Admittedly, I’m not quite sure what to make of the rather sardonic and slightly anticlimactic ending, but at least you get treated to a rocking guitar instrumental.
If you fancy a long desert road trip, In Search of Paradise is available for free from itch.io and can be downloaded here. It’s Windows only.
Fan of the delightful Limbo? Then you might want to check out the alpha demo for Eternal Hope from Brazilian outfit Double Hit Games. It’s about a grieving boy attempting to bring his beloved back from the dead. To do so, he needs to locate the fragments of her soul.
Like Limbo, it’s a 2D puzzle platformer. There are all manner of obstacles, deadly traps, and hostile entities to overcome. You can run and jump, push and pull objects, and activate levers. Helping you out is your spirit guardian, a winged ball of light that glows when near secrets and hazards. You’re also equipped with a special power that reveals hidden passages, objects, and creatures, some of whom can be used as platforms. It’s a crucial ability for traversing pitfalls, scaling barriers, and bypassing enemies. However, it drains quickly and recharges slowly, so timing is essential.
I just can’t get over how fabulously atmospheric Eternal Hope is. The minimalist art-style, defined by foreground silhouettes and vibrant low-polygon backdrops, is simply gorgeous. The enchanted forest which you find yourself in is literally teeming with life and abundant detail, whereas the Spanish guitar and piano soundtrack is sumptuous and evocative.
The gameplay itself is gently paced and enjoyable. Some of the puzzles require precision and skill, others a bit of lateral thinking. And, thanks to a checkpoint system, it’s pleasantly challenging without being too punishing. Though I have to confess that I felt awful upon realising that the reason for freeing a cute little hedgehog from its cage was to distract a ravenous ogre. Oh well, better him than me.
Sadly, the demo only consists of one short level, but for an alpha it’s in damn good shape. Eternal Hope is available for Windows and can be downloaded from Game Jolt here.
The quality and variety of entries for Game Jolt’s Adventure Jam 2016 has been nothing short of impressive. And Ludiorum and Josh O Caoimh’s Torpor is another fascinating example. A first-person exploration/adventure game, it focuses on a life cut tragically short and those affected by it.
What I really liked about Torpor is how the narrative is conveyed entirely through environmental details. You’re presented with a scene, you explore it, and clicking on specific objects transports you to a new but inherently-related location. For instance, by clicking on a suitcase in a house you end up at a train station – a soldier going off to war. The structure is non-linear and everything you’re presented with is open to interpretation. As such, Torpor plays out as a series of interconnected memories and it’s up to you to fit the pieces together.
It’s short, somber, and bleak, yet it’s also beautiful and thoughtful. The detailed but low poly environments are solemn but arresting, and along with the measured ambience they quietly bring home the reality of each scene.
Torpor is available for Mac and Windows and be downloaded for free here.