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David Brown's Free Play: War Machines & Exploding Balls

David Brown
Absolute Blue, Catalan, Come On Rabbit, Features, Free Play, Freeware, Goblin War Machine, Psychoballs

David Brown's Free Play: War Machines & Exploding Balls

Today, I won't be writing some long-winded, twisting introduction filled with tenuous links to things that have happened in real life. Let's just get straight down to business and talk games, games, games and, even, games. That's what you want, so that's what you're getting. Complaints on a postcard to the usual address if you particularly love rambling intro pieces. Maybe even talk to your MP. But anyway, the games.

First up, Goblin War Machine sees you given the task of creating a devastating vehicle of death crammed full of the green-skinned menace. Using the WSAD keys to manoeuvre your vehicle, you can left click to fire cannonballs at fleeing civilians and at innocent houses.

You've got to kill as many people as possible while also keeping your goblin crew alive. At the end of each level, there's the enemy king, which gets you bonus points depending on how far you you send him by either ramming his tower or shooting him with the cannon.

David Brown's Free Play: War Machines & Exploding Balls

There are 18 levels to (literally) plough through, each providing different challenges and obstacles to get past. After each one, you get to upgrade your death machine, adding new wheels, a new chassis and so on.

As you get further on, the enemy start to fight back by throwing spears, erecting siege towers and bombarding you from the air. The terrain gets more rugged and difficult to navigate too, meaning you'll find it harder to both keep your momentum up and prevent yourself from tumbling over.

It's fairly addictive stuff, providing enough challenge and variety to keep you playing for a substantial period of time. The art style is minimalist but has enough character to be pleasing on the eye. Also, a bonus is the music doesn't drive you crazy.

Come on Rabbit is slightly less violent in approach, giving you the opportunity to lead a bunny across a series of never-ending drops onto hovering platforms.

David Brown's Free Play: War Machines & Exploding Balls

You click where you want him to leap, making sure to time the jumps to avoid the lingering dangers that lurk on each level, like bats or birds of prey. It's fairly easy to complete and isn't very long, but you do have to watch out for the time limit, which will tick down pretty quickly if you're too long figuring out the path you need to take.

Described by someone looking at the game over my shoulder as being “pointless and silly” though, it's clear that while it attracts on a level of “Oh, look! Cute bunny!”, it doesn't really deliver anything substantial in the gameplay department. Plus, you have to download it, so it doesn't have that instant browser-based appeal.

Not anything to do with the city of Barcelona or even that area of Spain at all, Catalan is instead a puzzle game about removing circles from a web of lines. It's very minimalist and simple, but nevertheless presents a few intriguing puzzle-y moments.

David Brown's Free Play: War Machines & Exploding Balls

You can only remove circles that are connected to three others, drawing them in and altering the overall pattern somewhat in the process. The object is to remove all the circles in this manner. The problem lies in hitting a brick wall of difficulty, as at first it's easy enough to figure out what to do. However, when you do hit that wall, it's a harder impact than it would be in a game of greater complexity, as if it seems harder to solve an issue with so few variables to consider, paradoxically.

There seems to be a debate about whether it's a game that needs tactical or strategic thinking to complete or if it's possible to do it just by trial and error. It certainly seems that it's difficult to understand just why your first move is the apparent correct one, and just clicking randomly to find the solution seems to be a perfectly viable thing to do.

Some would disagree, but it seems to me that most will go into this and end up clicking randomly, before giving up as soon as this tactic fails to work. It's not a puzzle game that will get you coming back to re-attempt a difficult challenge, perhaps because structured thoughts about each level aren't necessarily encouraged.

Lastly, we've got a double delivery from a German developer, one Jochen Heizmann, who has decided to release two of his older games for free. The first is Absolute Blue, a side-scroller with huge tentacle beasts and equally huge weaponry to eliminate them with, and the second is Psychoballs, a little puzzle game about moving the titular spheres around a maze.

David Brown's Free Play: War Machines & Exploding Balls

The main problem with Absolute Blue is that it might well not work for you. You'll need to read this to avoid Memory Access Violation errors upon loading if you're using Windows Vista or 7. Even then, it might require switching loads of compatibility options on or off.

Whether it'll then be worth playing the game so much hassle is up to you. Certainly it's a good shmup, with loads of bright colours, big explosions and challenging levels to get past. Even on Easy, it's tough for an incompetent like me to get through.

Psychoballs is certainly more soothing, although it's in no way less frantic. Different coloured spheres come rolling out into your pipes and you've got to place them into circular receptacles. Once all four slots have been filled, there's an explosion and that receptacle is ticked off.

David Brown's Free Play: War Machines & Exploding Balls

The goal on each level is to get all the receptacles ticked off before the time runs out, which is easier said than done as there's a pretty strict set of time limits to fight against. First of all, you need to keep placing balls in receptacles or a green bar slowly turns red and it's game over. Secondly, there's an overall timer which is less obvious, which also signals game over if you take too long.

It's a compellingly addictive puzzler, but each level take quite a long time to finish, so once you've failed once or twice, you'll switch off. It's also slightly fiddly only being able to rotate the receptacles in one direction (unless I missed something).

At least it works without having to tweak the compatibility settings, though.

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