Slim pickings this week, fellow bargain hunters. Sometimes it's just all trailers and news and previews and so on, with very little to actually, you know, play. Remember that if you've heard tell of an interesting free game, drop us a line at the usual address and we'll take a look.
Anyway, first out of the hat this week is Sky Island, a strange 3D puzzle-platform affair where you can rotate the level to help you get over the finish line/onto the finishing cube.
It's not enough just to get to the end, though. Before you're allowed to leave the level, you must also collect a certain number of stars before the timer expires. Revolving and changing the viewpoint reveals previously hidden stars and even enemies, which might have been hidden on a different plane before you revealed them. A swift Mario jump on the noggin will sort them out though.
It's quite mind-bending a concept to get around. It's in 3D when you rotate the level, but you can only move your character along 2D planes. If a star or an enemy is on the wrong plane, it'll look like it's either pasted onto or trapped inside a block, or it might be essentially invisible until you start rotating again.
After a while, the puzzles get cleverer and you start feeling stupider. You get the impression that you know what you need to do, but it's just pure fortune that you rotated things the right way and solved the problem. It's certainly a worthwhile adventure though and it does get truly brain-melting later on.
The next game was introduced by having to watch a Sheba cat food advert, so it already needed to do more than usual to impress your valiant correspondent. Chess Without Moves is the classic queens and rooks board game just with no restrictions on when you can move.
One of the comments below the game claimed it to be the “most intense game ever” and while that's wholly over the top as a reaction, there is a kernel of truth in the statement. The rules of chess don't need explaining, but it's now no longer just a matter of carefully deconstructing your opponents move.
You've got to quick on the trigger and, sadly, to win the easiest thing to do is just to free up the queen and steamroller through your enemy's ranks while he's doing the same to you. One game ended with the opponent reduced to just a bishop, so I moved all my pieces onto the wrong colour for him, meaning he couldn't capture any more pieces.
Other than that, it's fun for the first few goes, although the match-making system is simply a case of watching the words “Waiting for opponent” flash constantly until it finds you someone. To be honest, after having a couple of goes, you'll never look at it again, but it's quite amusing for those few desperate queen-rushing minutes.
Finally, we're in pretentious wibbly nonsense land again with Beneath The Waves. Sadly not a Lovecraftian exercise in ancient terror with beasts rising from the aeons-old depths, it's actually a platformer about how the Sun and the Sea were lovers, but then fell out a bit.
Ignoring the storyline, you've got to explore a frankly quite ugly world looking for some hidden idols, which when collected make the fish and other aquatic entities get all enraged and hostile. With an idol, they'll attack and cause you to drop the idol. Without it, they're benign and you can enjoy merrily swimming among them, mentally covering some of them in batter and frying them up with a side of chips.
Once you've got an idol out of the water, you have to find the plinth where it belongs. There are six idols to collect if you can summon the energy reserves to persevere long enough to bother getting that far. I couldn't, which says a lot.
It was only included this week because there was so little new out there of a free nature that warranted our attention. Usually the pretentious stuff is avoided like the plague, but beggars can't be choosers. Swimming around in the sea was calming enough, I suppose. Hopefully next week we have a better crop to pick from.