Free Game Friday: Games of confusion

Part of the fun of video games is learning to understand new, complex systems and mastering them. This week’s games confuse players in the best way possible dropping you into environments or control schemes that make you rethink what you’re doing or how you’re playing.

Where Am I?

Where Am I? is a game that doubles as one of the best Google Maps mashups I’ve ever seen. Kidnapped and taken to a mysterious location, you manage to escape and now you have to figure out where you are so a friend can find you and rescue you. Early levels drop you in locations with some pretty obvious contextual clues that tell you where you are, but as the game progresses it becomes harder and harder to figure out what city you’ve been dropped in without exploring.

Zen

Zen doesn’t offer you much explanation, but since the game itself is so sparse you end up picking it up as you go along. You start as either a black or a white box with black and white boxes flying toward you. Collecting a box of the same color gives you points, collecting a box of a different color ends your game. Luckily, pressing the spacebar switches your color back and forth. Once you understand the control scheme the game becomes an aptly-named exercise in getting into the flow of a game, putting you into a relaxed state that still requires a lot of concentration.

Drop a Beat, Giuseppe

In Drop a Beat, Giuseppe the confused party isn't you, but rather your audience. You are the worst piano player of all time and your audience is throwing things at you; luckily you can dodge out of the way or reflect projectiles with the top of your piano. The game probably has the most entertaining control scheme I’ve ever played with. Bash randomly on the left side of your keyboard to move left, bash on the right side to move right and press space to reflect attacks back at your audience. A quick tip: the game has an immensely entertaining hidden ending or two if you explore the true limits of Guiseppe’s performance

Cave Salamander

Cave Salamander plays a little bit like Pac-Man in that you are being chased around a maze by ghost like creatures that can kill you with a touch but it’s control scheme is much harder to understand. Instead of simply controlling direction, in Cave Salamander the WASD keys let you stick to nearby surfaces which makes changing direction a confusing multi-key process. You score point by getting to a new ghost’s location before it forms, which makes the difficult control scheme even more punishing.

Shotguns in the Dark

Shotguns in the Dark is a simple two player dueling game set in a maze. Players use the same keyboard to control a red and blue dot and either player can shoot a shotgun blast at any time, killing the other player if they’re in your line of sight. What sets the game apart is the fact that either player can choose to hold down space and turn both players invisible, which makes knowing not only where your character is but where your enemy is into a life and death struggle.

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