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David Brown's Free Play | How To Be A Manservant

David Brown
Doodle God 2, Free Play, Freeware, Help The Hero, Nobuyuki Forces 4

David Brown's Free Play | How To Be A Manservant
Has it really been 30 weeks since this column was first spewed forth from the idea hole in Dealspwn headquarters? Apparently so, although it's actually been a few weeks more due to holidays and such. Even those who delve into the seedy underbelly of the freeware scene need a break every now and then.

To celebrate this landmark occasion, nothing out of the ordinary has been done. It's a celebration in name only, and we'll kick things off by just talking about a Japanese Virtua Cop/Time Crisis homage called Nobuyuki Forces 4.

After the seemingly unskippable credit sequence at the beginning, you're shown a stats screen where you can assign points to customise your character, choosing from upgrading your health, damage, reload speed, bullet and item capacity.

David Brown's Free Play | How To Be A Manservant

Once the mission is started, it's a standard on-rails affair controlled via the mouse. Hold the space bar to flip out of cover and aim at the machine gun-toting goons, letting go when they begin to return fire.

Click to shoot and, when you're in cover, click again to reload. It's all very simple and, as it's been such a long time since your correspondent played one of these things, decent fun to boot. There's not a lot to it, not lasting that long at all, but as a quick throwaway affair, it's pleasant enough slaughter-filled action. There's even a tank to kill, though how a pistol is meant to penetrate the armour, who knows?

One thing we often forget about the characters in our games is that they can't do what they do alone. With this in mind, Help the Hero! puts you into the tattered leather breeches of a faithful manservant, who gets to help his master win the day, save the kingdom and generally do cool things.

You do this by dragging and dropping items into your hero's inventory, rotating them with the arrow keys and storing things like gold and ammunition together in containers to maximise space. You can see him preening and prancing about at the top, with his actions producing items to go on a conveyor belt, ready to be dropped into the inventory.

David Brown's Free Play | How To Be A Manservant

Once this has been done, you need to then place items into the hero's equip slots to allow him to effectively fight an enemy. Or you could just flog them, your call. Gold made by selling things increases inventory space and how much you can store on your hero's person.

Items now equipped, your hero faces off against a foe, which has four different stats: attack, defence, magic and ranged. Your hero also has these stats and in a Top Trumps-style way, these are matched up against each other. The winner is the guy who wins most of the match ups, with a spinning wheel deciding an overall draw.

At some point, it's going to be impossible to fit everything on the conveyor belt onto your grid, so you need to choose depending on the given strengths and weaknesses of the enemy your hero will face.

It's pretty easy, but it's also a pretty fun mix of Tetris-style grid management and match-'em-up strategy. It won't keep you entranced for hours, but it's a perfect time filler for when you want something slightly more intelligent than usual.

Finally, there's the curious entity that is Doodle God 2, where you are a deity trying to create life from a mere four initial elements, the traditional earth, air, fire and water. Your task, initially, is to mix and match these and the resulting creations to make 196 different elements.

David Brown's Free Play | How To Be A Manservant

Combine fire as the primary element with earth and you get lava. Combine air with the lava and you get stone, water with earth to create a swamp and so on. It's kind of like Scribblenauts, but without the sketching (despite what the name might imply to those who haven't played it).

Not everything can be combined together (although if you shelled out for the iPhone version you'd get a vastly increased number of possibilities) and there's not really a 'game' here. It's just an investigation into how you think things go together to create a basic world. For that reason, it's interesting and may well eat up more of your time than your average puzzle platformer.

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