Free Games of the Fortnight — Crabs, conversations, & clouds

This week, we have a variety of free games to share with you. We’ve presented mobile games that allow you to build cities and ones that help you discover your purpose among the clouds. We’ve got a crab just trying to create a sand castle while the tide comes in, a narrative game about trying to talk through the future of a relationship and a silly game about Hordor’s way of speaking. Read on to check out these gems.

Jess Erion’s Pick: We Should Talk by Carol Mertz, Jordan Jones-Brewster, Francesca Carletto-Leon, Kat Aguiar, Nobonita Bhowmik & Jack Schlesinger

We Should Talk is a narrative game which won an honorable mention at this year’s IGF. It puts you in the shoes of someone whose partner wants to talk about the future of their relationship. You wander around the bar where your best friend works while chatting up patrons and texting your partner. The conversations you have reveal your attitude toward your relationship, which you have a great deal of control over through dialogue options. As you hang out in the bar, you learn more about your best friend, your partner, and yourself — you even unexpectedly run into someone from your past. 

We Should Talk

In We Should Talk, no one is perfect. Your partner is sometimes distrustful, your best friend is sometimes superficial, and you, the protagonist, are noncommittal and quick to assign blame. The game is aptly named, as it conveys exactly the sort of anxiety induced by the stressful conversations in the narrative. But never fear — there may still be a happy ending in sight. It takes only about 20 minutes to play through, so there’s no reason not to take it for a spin. You can find We Should Talk on itch: 

Brian Gillett-Smith’s Pick: Pocket City by Codebrew Games

In a random peruse of the Google Play store I came upon this little gem of a game. Pocket City is a mobile city builder game available on Android and iOS (no free option for iOS though). It has a purchasable version that allows you to run more cities concurrently and grants access to other niceties like changing the way that your town hall looks, but for the purposes of this mini-review I’ll be looking at the free Android version.

Pocket City is an isometric game with truly lovely graphics, especially when cranked up to the Ultra settings. Everything is crisp and colourful, with nice little animations for your citizens as they go about their day. Your task is simply to balance their requirements, which are measured similarly to larger games like Cities: Skylines with 3 gauges for Residential, Commercial and Industrial demand.

On top of these there are plenty of additional measures that include health and education, recreation, crime safety, traffic congestion and more that belie this simplistically presented game. OK, you don’t get quite the granular control of games like the aforementioned Cities: Skylines — but this is a very pleasant and truly fun game to play. 

There are no microtransactions or artificially limiting timed events in this game, and the lack of them is a wonderful breath of fresh air, and in fact makes me want to pony up for the full version — if for no other reason than to support the developers and thank them for creating such a great, fun, and addictive game. You can, of course, watch the occasional advert that grants you some extra cash and XP, but it is totally optional.

You can find Pocket City on their website.

Dann Sullivan‘s Pick: Crab by Kirk Winner

Imagine yourself as a crab, a tiny, little red crustation who has lived their tiny, little red life moving up and down a beach eating worms and clams. All of a sudden an idea comes to your head, you’ve seen the humans doing it… and you can do it too. You can build a mighty sandcastle and proclaim yourself ruler of the beach.

The simply-titled Crab has you attempt to build a magnificent sand castle and to keep building it up against the rising waters. It’s a block-moving puzzle platformer where you must move blocks of sand to reach and then place a flag, but every action weakens the sand and once that has happened enough the water level raises.

As such, in order to succeed at Crab, you need to move carefully and deliberately, making sure that you keep to your target turns for each castle as to beat the rising tide. There are a few things to consider, but easily the most important thing is that you can descend from any height, but can only climb one block. However, if you do turn around and try to climb higher amounts you’ll take away a block of sand. Doing this will allow you to quickly source new sand, something that is essential if your castle has gone narrow as it has gained height.

Bryan Taylor’s Pick: Sky: Children of the Light by Thatgamecompany

Fashioned as yet another silent multiplayer platforming game by Thatgamecompany, Sky has you discovering a land in the clouds and finding your purpose amongst them. You begin with a small amount of power, able to hop and use your candle to light other player’s candles, which allows you to befriend them. You can also light up the many unlit candles scattered about the land in order to gain the light they return to you, creating more candles in turn. Once you have enough power, you can lift yourself into the air with a flick of the cape on your back and take to the skies. 

Soaring is a liberating experience, filled to the brim with a sense of magical elation and epic orchestrated music that helps push you forward. You use these epic flights to deliver your character to new areas and honestly, it’s also a fancy way to show off the brilliant graphics at work in the details of the volumetric clouds. 

As you continue your exploration, you will quickly find the many different ways of interacting with your unnamed companions in the game, including giving them your own names for them. After providing the other players with one of your candles — the game’s currency – you unlock emotes and various other things you can do with these friends, including holding their hand, which will allow you to automatically follow them, through flight or otherwise. You can communicate with your companions through a vocal chime, similar to the one found in Journey, and it serves well enough to express excitement or a simple cue to follow your lead. 

The overall gameplay loop involves working with other players to solve relatively simple interaction puzzles, but the visual reward of the unraveling spectacle the game provides, makes Sky such a delight to experience. Each area is unique and beautiful in its own way, and the smart touch controls and flight mechanics just make playing the game fun as a result. 

Even though candles are a purchasable micro-transaction, I found them easy enough to earn that it didn’t bother me too much. Overall, they seemed like an optional resource for someone who is feeling overly social during play. Other than that, the game is free to download and is easily the best looking and feeling game that I have ever played on mobile.

You can find Sky: Children of the Light on iOS and Android.

Jupiter Hadley’s Pick: Hordor Story by Quentin Kerguélen

Hordor is known for only saying one word; his name. In Hordor Story, a game made for the GMTK Jam, you play as Hordor. Hordor is trying to talk to his friends. All of them have questions that need answering, so he must use the pitch of his name to answer what they need. Basically, using a bunch of keys at the bottom of the screen, you must spell out the answer Hordor is looking to give. If you are correct, a cute melody will play and Hordor will move onto the next person.

Hordor Story is a short game, but a very well made one. Answering people’s questions with these notes, representing pitches, is a pretty bizarre way to communicate — I’d never personally be able to tell the difference between these pitches. The way Hordor Story comes together, though, convinces you that it makes sense. The graphics within the game are only two colors — black and white — yet have amazing detail and fit perfectly. Go on, help Hordor talk.

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