Okay, the bit about pretty people isn't a requirement (but you're all pretty pretty, and we all know that). If you want a dose of interactive media that's easy on the eyes, here are a few 100% free indie games worth drooling over.
Every Day the Same Dream
Developer Molleindustria describes Every Day the Same Dream as “a slightly existential riff on the theme of alienation and refusal of labor.” If that doesn’t have you interested, allow me to chip away at your indifference. It’s free to play, and you’d best play it.
In Every Day the Same Dream, the player character is a white-collar worker indistinguishable from every other cubicled, suit-wearing man in the game. Following the fairly obvious linear path, you dress the faceless man, guide him to his car, drive him to work, and sit him down at his cubicle. Your goal is to break that cycle and become a new person (by interacting differently with your surroundings). Walk the other direction in the parking garage; leave your clothes at home.
Every Day the Same Dream looks like an exercise in minimalism, almost devoid of small details and using color sparingly. The faceless people and the undifferentiated cars and cubicles lend themselves to the theme of heartless office labor—I don’t think a carefully rendered realistic environment would be quite as effective. Lastly, the music by Jesse Stiles is phenomenal. You may not want to play it, but at least give it a listen.
Appy 1000 mg
Before you hear about Appy, you should know about Ludum Dare.
Ludum Dare is an accelerated game development event. The community suggests a theme, and the participants develop a game from scratch over the course of a weekend. Appy 1000 mg was the overall winner of Ludum Dare 20 this spring. The theme? “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this!”
Appy 1000 mg is a short platforming game by Sebastien Benard that is a shining example of how much can be conveyed visually with very few pixels. The game kicks off as an exploration of a bright, breezy wonderland with fireflies, cotton candy pink willow trees, and plentiful bloobies (we like bloobies).
It’s not long after you score a jetpack (and understandably conclude that you would like to find a way to transport yourself into this perfect universe) that you find out that the sunshine, the flowers, the bloobies are all a product of that little sprite’s antidepressant medication. Without his 1000 mg’s of ‘appy, the world is a very dark one indeed.
Don’t worry—there’s no social commentary on prescription meds here. Just a horrible nightmare land replete with corpses of balding businessmen (is that what you see too?).
Play Appy 1000 mg to marvel at what can come from a single weekend and a single prompt. Play Appy 1000 mg if you enjoy or long for days of purposeful pixilation. And play Appy 1000 mg if you for occasionally enjoy feeling a tad un’appy.
Adam Westerman is responsible for the Nevermore series, a peaceful trio of platforming games that make up for their lack of plot with heaps and heaps of charm.
You travel through Nevermore 3 as Olek, a little boymonster seeking treasure for his downtrodden town. Discovering Lapidarian Heights, a village inhabited solely by talking anteaters, is far more calming than taxing. Moving from one frame to the next and from one landscape to the next is always a treat—each new setting and color palette is lovelier than the last. And falling down bottomless pits isn’t punished with virtual death—instead, you find yourself in a new environment, sometimes with a fancy new hat (the best longstanding trend in indie platforming games).
The game forces you to think of the 2D graphics as a 3D environment—backtracking to see if you can jump on top of the rock that, moments before, you walked straight through. Still, the puzzles aren’t difficult to solve, and the timing is not impossible to pull off. Nevermore 3 is more of a calming Sunday morning experience than a Dew-fueled midnight carpal tunnel inducer. Or, as Westerman puts it on his portfolio site, “alpha males don’t like Nevermore, but that's okay, I didn't make it for them.”