What better way to spend Valentine’s Day with your sweetheart(s) than playing one of the oldest and best freeware local multiplayer deathmatch games, Liero? Released in 1998 by Finnish programmer Joosa Riekkinen, Liero quickly became a cult classic for its slick controls, destructible terrain, and numerous diverse weapons. Although the original source code was lost, fans have released a number of successful clones and remakes, such as NiL and Gusanos.
Last year, however, a new, “official” version of Liero was released, 1.36. Although not developed by Joosa Riekkinen, Liero 1.36 is more or less an exact simulation of the original and has received the creator’s blessing to use the name. This update runs “on almost any OS”, fixes the few bugs that were present in Liero 1.33, and also adds a host of welcome features, such as post-game stats and an enjoyable new mode, called “Hold a Zone”, where players must claim and protect small zones for a specified period of time.
The AI is also significantly improved, making single-player Liero a viable way to play for the first time. So even if you’re your own Valentine today there’s no reason why you can’t also enjoy the sweet sounds of bleeding worms violently grunting amidst hails of Zimms, Mini-Nukes, Banana Bombs, and other classic weapons.
Michael “brog” Brough’s 868-HACK is a hacking-themed roguelike on iOS that eschews exploration for focused, single-screen tactics. In the game, the player must traverse 8 levels, called “sectors”, filled with data – either points, which are used for scoring, or progs, which are used for defense against the enemies that are summoned to stop your intrusion. Enemies come in four types and move in simple patterns that are easy to exploit in small numbers but quickly become deadly in diverse mobs.
There’s a lot to like about 868-HACK, like the fun theme, the obvious risk/reward mechanisms, and the innovative zapping attack that hurts and stuns enemies. Figuring out how to use zapper and prog to clear out large groups of enemies is extremely satisfying. In many ways, 868-HACK distills the roguelike experience down to the parts where you’ve been dropped into a room full of monsters you’re not fully prepared for and each move is potentially life-threatening.
The free, Windows version that was made for 7DRL is called 86856527 and is still available for download, but the changes for iOS are well worth the $5 price tag, in my opinion. A port of 868-HACK to PC is also planned, but there’s no release date yet.
PuzzleScript is a simple, open-source game engine by Stephen “increpare” Lavelle that allows you to easily create turn-based puzzle games using a unique scripting language. The engine is HTML5-based and games can be built and shared (along with their source code) straight from your browser. The graphics, which are composed of 5×5 tiles, are also designed within the editor, in the same manner that levels are defined.
There are already quite a few clever games in the burgeoning PuzzleScript gallery, showing off the flexibility of the engine, as well as its ease-of-use – although some of the developers are seasoned indies (like Terry Cavanagh, Joseph White, and Stephen himself), quite a few of them are from first-time creators (like Jonah Ostroff, who made Heroes of Sokoban, shown above).
The cult classic survival roguelike UnReal World is now donationware as of version 3.16. Creator Sami Maaranen cites faster releases as the reason for the switch, saying “massive AI, end-game and graphics improvements are underway and I’d like to keep releasing new versions whenever substantial new features are up and running”. People who already own a full license to the game are still entitled to free updates should it ever revert back to a paid scheme (a possibility that Maaranen acknowledges).
Although it’s a lesser-known roguelike, UnReal World has garnered a cult following for its complex combat and survival systems, as well as its unique portrayal of Finnish history and mythology. Unlike many dungeon crawlers, UW is extremely open-ended, allowing the player to play a number of non-combat roles such as hunter, hermit, fisherman, or trader. More often than not, the elements are your worst enemy, and understanding how to survive in an Iron Age Finnish wilderness is one of the game’s major challenges.
Robit Studios and Chucklefish are collaborating on Treasure Adventure World: a commercial, HD remake of Treasure Adventure Game (a wonderful, freeware Metroidvania from 2011). Their press release shares some of the main changes to expect from the new version:
- New engine, smoother gameplay, HD widescreen mode
- High-res, hand-drawn art by Christine Crossley
- New music and sound by Robert Ellis
- More treasures and collectibles, remixed puzzles and new equipment
- Improvements to enemy AI, more intense boss fights
- More tightly-focused story, intriguing cutscenes, charming NPCs and new multiple endings
There is also some info in the Indie Statik post on TAW, which helps to expand upon the press release.
Additionally, those curious about experiencing the game’s earlier incarnations can download Karma as an exclusive bonus from the GOG.com release of TAG. The games in Karma aren’t as fully polished as TAG was, but they are great samples of how drastic development can be from one iteration to the next.
There’s no need to beat a dead horse but it should be mentioned – yeah, Diablo 3 was a pretty disappointing experience for me, too. It happens. However, just as the third Godfather movie didn’t mean the end of good gangster flicks, neither does the third Diablo game mean the end of good point-and-click action RPGs.
Path of Exile is one of the newer entries to the genre, and the one I’m most excited about. Unlike Torchlight, the theme and graphics are dark, gritty, and almost oppressive. And unlike Grim Dawn, PoE will be available to play later today, as an open beta. Unlike all the other Diablolikes, the game will always be free-to-play, with cosmetic microtransactions being the only source of the developer’s income from it.
Like Hydorah before it, Locomalito’s Maldita Castilla stays very close to its inspirations, in this case the venerated platformer series Ghosts n’ Goblins. From the overall look to the invariable jump, you’ll feel very much like you’ve stepped into the greaves of Arthur’s Spanish cousin.
So how does it stack up to its forebears? I’ve played through the game once and I think that it’s a mixed bag, although one worth trying if you enjoyed the GnG games. Compared to the best of that series (Ghouls n’ Ghosts, Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts, and Ultimate Ghosts n’ Goblins), Maldita Castilla lacks variety and charm. The rather dreary mythological theme doesn’t quite compare to Capcom’s colorful fantasy world, and while many of the levels will have you cursing like you’re playing a Ghosts game, they’re also more one-dimensional.
None of this is to say that Maldita Castilla is a bad game, only that it sticks so closely to its source material and falls a bit short in comparison. As I said, it’s still worth your time… but perhaps more as a highly-polished fan game than something that stands alone. As reminiscent of Gradius as Hydorah was, it was still enough of a mélange as to feel unique (the branching stage design and limited save concept also helped separate it).
When Twinbeard Studios’ Frog Fractions was released in October, I played it for only a few minutes before dismissing it as a cute parody—a humorous dig at the multitude of terrible edutainment games. Luckily, I was recently persuaded to check it out again and was rewarded with an extremely unique and surprising experience. I don’t want to say too much about the game for fear of spoiling it, but I will say this: It’s worth finishing.
Frog Fractions is free to play on the game’s site, so hop on over and try it out for yourself.
Desperate Gods is an open source “digital board game” developed by Wolfire Games for Fuck This Jam, a week-and-a-half-long game jam based around making games in genres you generally dislike. In his design overview, Wolfire’s David Rosen describes how he enjoys board games but feels that their video game counterparts lack a lot of what makes them fun. Check out the video above to see how he and artist Aubrey Serr tried to overcome these problems while developing a unique board game from the ground up.