The British summer is here, complete with reduced work ability due to high pollen counts and the need to down allergy relief capsules every so often. Even the ravages of hay fever won't stop your intrepid reporter from rounding up a collection of free games for you to consider, though.
Speaking of diseased creatures, here's Mosquito & Cow, where you play the titular insect trying to extract blood and spread malaria to your bovine arch nemesis. Actually, can cows get malaria? Of course, even if they couldn't get it, the cows still don't want to be drained of their life's blood, so you'll need to be a bit tricky, a bit devious if you want to suckle on their throbbing veins.
You may have learned if you read last week's entry that an … interesting art style will do a lot to attract your reporter to a game, and yes, Mosquito & Cow does indeed feature a washed out grey/slightly brown-tinged black and white environment, with the cows looking rather rectangular and, it has to be said, quite cute as well.
Anyway, the game itself involves using the left mouse button for all actions. Click to move, click to dive onto the cow and click-and-hold to drain it of blood. In a nice twist, the familiar blood-washed screen you get in FPS games when you die is what you actually want to see here.
Cows can only be drained when they're asleep or unconscious, so you'll need to find ways of either knocking them out or sending them to sleep. For example, on the second level, there's a pit which you can lure the cow into, thereby rendering him defenceless.
It's got some quite clever little puzzles in there, and a hint system (which your reporter didn't use) that's allegedly tougher than the main game, curiously. If you do want to see what a mosquito's life could be life, you can play it at Kongregate here.
Having never played Time Pilot and it barely ringing a bell either, reading that Luftrauser was inspired by it made no difference. What did attract your reporter to the game was the name, which isn't that funny or anything, it just... ah well, nevermind. Perhaps it was the alternative name, Airhound 2, who knows? Anyway, you're a plane, the aforementioned dog of the skies, and you've got to blow up allied (presumably) shipping and planes as you can before Death inevitably clutches you to his icy bosom.
You use the arrow keys to steer, fighting the laws of physics while planes rush you and boats provide an inviting but surprisingly tricky stationary target. X fires your weird blob-like bullets and once you get into the swing of things, Luftrauser becomes quite a gripping affair.
It's tricky though, especially when the person playing (your reporter here) is a cackhanded gimp. Strafing ships is, as mentioned, really quite hard to do when there's a lot going on on-screen at the same time and you've got to make sure you don't crash right into it. Eventually destroyers and larger vessels turn up, which take a bit of a pounding, but at least can be hit easier than the tiny planes and smaller ships.
If you get a high score you're proud of, you can submit it to an online leaderboard too, though you'll probably find someone's got about a million points more than you. Which is what happened to your reporter here.
Last up this week is a game that nearly destroyed the mind of Alec Meer over on Rock Paper Shotgun, Realm of the Mad God. It's described on the official website as a “co-op fantasy MMO shooter” and is also described by Meer as maddeningly addictive. He's right, too. It combines the bullet-dodging of a shooter with the loot farming RPG stylings of a Torchlight or a Diablo, all in a browser window and with those cute (allegedly) pixellated graphics that internet people like so much.
And it's multiplayer too, apart from the tutorial. Step out onto the first beach and you'll be surrounded by others playing, often nattering in Polish and Russian if your reporter's time with the game was any indication. You can choose from multiple classes or just go with a randomly assigned one, choose your name or go with the basic one and then, once you've done the tutorial, you enter a huge world that seemingly goes on forever.
The further you go, the harder it gets and you'll suddenly find yourself low on health and swamped by powerful creatures. This is where you'll need help from like-minded individuals, so if you can get someone to play along with you, do so as it'll make the experience even better.
This isn't the sort of thing your reporter usually covers, as you could have guessed from the description of the visuals a few sentences back, but it's difficult not to be impressed by this. It might be a little rough, but there's so much depth here for a browser game, plus the potential for big co-op parties to be formed, it's really a must play. Be careful though – play in the office and you're extremely liable to just not do anything for the rest of the day. Addictive is the word.
Oh, one more thing: if you're a Portal 2 PC player, you might be interested in the sterling job being done in the mapping community inevitably formed around the game. Though as yet untested by Free Play's eyes or fingers, there are loads of new test chambers to play here including some co-op ones!