Since most free games are (usually) made by small teams on shorter timelines, they have to scale down their games in comparison to AAA titles with budgets in the tens of millions and hundreds on staff. Scaling down doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, though; sometimes whittling a game down to its core elements results in a game with a laserlike focus on what makes it fun. This week we’ve got free games that make less into more in different ways.
Snazzle is yet another variation on the classic game Snake. This time the game makes you plan your route before the level begins, turning a game about quick reaction times into a puzzle game about long-term planning. There are barely graphics to speak of and the gameplay consists of laying arrows down on the map, but Snazzle manages to make a deviously difficult set of puzzles from just that.
Ludwig Von Beatdown
Ludwig Von Beatdown is a stripped-down remake of one of my favorite games in the last few years, Johann Sebastian Joust. Joust is a decidedly physical experience, using Playstation Move controllers and a small group of other players to create a frenetic game from just the desire to hit another players arm without being hit yourself. Beatdown can’t match the physicality of Joust, but it does manage to replicate the feeling of risk and reward of its real world equivalent, recreating the sense that making your move can be as much a risk to you as it is to them.
No, Birdie, No!
No, Birdie, No! is the most hilariously cruel game I’ve played all year. A man hangs from a cliff by eight of his fingers with an utterly unhelpful bird slowly pecking away at them. You’ll need to move your fingers out of the way of the bird without losing your grip completely and falling to your death. The game’s odd control scheme (you need to hold down ASDF to keep your grip) is hard to keep in your head and the urge to pull all your fingers away, which will lead to your instant death, becomes almost overwhelming sometimes. Try it, you'll like it.
Too Many Ninjas
My first reaction to Too Many Ninjas was of course “there's no such thing” but after playing for a few rounds I started to think maybe I was wrong. While the graphics in Too Many Ninjas are decidedly retro, the real minimalist element here is the controls. Only the arrow keys function and they simply allow you to block incoming ninjas and projectiles in three different directions. It’s a simple control scheme that forces you to get more and more precise in your gameplay as the game goes on.
Typing Karaoke is a minimalist take on music games like Rockband or Guitar Hero that manages to turn a traditional karaoke singing game into a surprisingly challenging typing simulator. As it turns out, we actually sing faster than we type and getting your fingers to move as fast as some of these songs do is a much bigger challenge than staying on key. Good luck!