Six. That's how many hours I played a board game (Arkham Horror) for last night. One thing you don't often stay out late enough to be forced onto the dreaded night bus for is battling a pictorial representation of Azathoth, that most deadly of Ancient Ones. Being vaguely professional however, this column was still submitted with plenty of time to spare, even if it was written with a nagging tightness of the cranium. Maybe it was the alcohol imbibed, maybe it was the lack of sleep. Maybe it's an Elder Thing impregnating my mind. Who knows.
What it definitely isn't is a headache caused by a lack of interesting free stuff out there in game land. Sometimes it's a struggle finding enough stuff to write about, but this week there's been a barrage of funky free things to play with, starting with a little Facebook thing called Fantasy University.
My fantasy university is nothing like this, but then my fantasies are rather deranged and extraordinarily perverted. Don't press me about them, you'll lose your lunch. Anyway, enough of that - FU. No, come back, it's just the unfortunately insulting acronym for Fantasy University. Sorry, cheap gag, I know.
FU allows you to develop a cutesy teenage character in a satirical RPG-like world, filled with character classes like Cheermonger and Mathemagician. Creation of your avatar allows you to define your facial expression and/or make-up, various strange hairstyles and your preferred monster clobberer of choice (that is, weapon). Personally, I turned my guy into a transsexual wielding a tennis ball on a rope.
When you get into combat, it's handled in a turn-based sort of way. You launch an attack based on your class, so my Mathemagician was initially able to launch either a 1+1=Boom! Attack or a Mean of Boom! Explosive assault. There are loads of little touches and things to look out for, and it's horribly addictive. All you might have to do is get over your loathing of Facebook and you might have a bit of fun. It's not as funny as it thinks it is, but it might raise a chuckle now and then.
Slight change of tack now. Momiga is like Pong, but without the bat. Or anything else on screen other than the ball. Designed because the creator, Rogerup, was set a challenge to create a game with only one blob, one button and one bleep, it's remarkably good fun.
Your task is simple – use the space bar or the left mouse button to move the ball from the left of the window to the right. To achieve this, you have to guess what type of clicking action you need for each 'level'. Get to the right hand side and the ball goes back to the left, just one line further up, with a new click pattern to discover.
Once you finish, your total click count is displayed, along with a global leaderboard. The highest score (or lowest, if you will) is 78 clicks. I got 238 on my first go, 146 on the second. See if you can do better and post your scores in the comments. I'm pretty certain you can beat 146 easily.
Did anyone else like the shootout bits in Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood? No? Only me, because I whacked up the mouse sensitivity? Perhaps GunBlood will satisfy you instead. It's a browser-based quickdraw-'em-up, where you have to pick from one of about 10 amusingly costumed ragdoll avatars.
Hold the mouse pointer over the chamber of your gun in the bottom right and quickly whip it up and to the right (oo-er) and start clicking, aiming for the head if you can. Don't forget to continue pumping bullets into their shattered bodies for extra points and, sometimes, to finish them off. The worst way to die is to get your face caved in by a bullet fired by a prone enemy, after all.
Next is a rather more experimental project from ENJMIN, or a load of people from the Graduate School of Games and Interactive Medias, France. Called White, it's a blank canvas project where you're encourage to create art using the paint creatures that wander around the empty white space. You're the artist and by manipulating (and destroying) the creatures, you can create art.
As one who doesn't usually bother with stuff like this, I won't be producing any exciting pieces here, but there's potential for some interesting things to come out of White. It also further advances the discussion of whether games can be used as art or to create things that can be classified as such. Patience is required, as precision is hard to achieve, but when you consider what the greater world is capable of when they put their minds to it, who knows what White will be the father of, as it were.
To splatter the canvas, you have to wound or kill the paint creatures, which you do using a variety of standard FPS weapons. The shotgun smears them out in an arc in front of you, while the automatic makes them bleed, allowing for lines to be drawn. Position the creatures using the gravity gun provided and see what you can come up, beyond the obvious “Let's draw a cock and balls!” idea that's bound to be what most people dream up.
Finally, I'm eschewing the usual “classic freeware” bit at the bottom in order to squeeze in a look at Magnesian, another UDK (White uses that too) game that plays about with the concept of magnetism to create an intriguing puzzle-platformer.
It's certainly got the most options of this week's batch, with six different modes of play to have a look at, but essentially the premise involves using two different beams to attract or push objects to solve puzzles.
All objects in the game have a certain polarity and can be manipulated to remove obstacles or create paths. You can also pull yourself towards objects or push yourself away, plus you can reverse the polarity on the fly. All this adds up to a really quite sweet side-scrolling platformer, although there could be frame rate and performance issues to contend with.