Freeware Files: Who Needs CPUs When You Have Free, Awesome Games?


Eh. Technology upgrades. You don't need the latest graphic, motherboard, and CPU combinations to have a good time on your PC. Sure, having realistic raindrops fall across your warrior's face is a nice touch. And you can never go wrong with all those fun volumetric shadows and such--you know, the ones that cripple your poor videocard whenever you try and crank your display's resolution to the max.

A good game is all about the fun it brings to the table absent of technical wizardry or flashy effects. I like to call this the Nethack effect. For those recently born, Nethack is that old-school ASCII game that's still beloved by many even though its graphics could easily be replicated by a graphing calculator. The game doesn't need top-shelf scenery or character models to be awesome. It just is--by virtue of its immersion, frustrations, and countless ways to die.

As you might guess, This week's freeware roundup is another gaming-focused edition, but I'm covering a wide range of graphical treatments with the racing, hack-and-slash, and building-creation games I feature (amongst other categories). You'll see games that look pretty good given their open-source and freeware roots; You'll also see games that are a bit less, er, polished... but still worth your time for their creative features and fun action. You might even see a game that involves ponies.

Shotgun Debugger

Contrary to the title, you aren't some psychopathic IT person on a quest to rid your software firm of crappy programmers. Although, if you guessed that as the premise of the game, you wouldn't be too far off. This top-down 2D shooter, reminiscent of the early Grand Theft Auto series, pits you against armies of robotic soldiers that are attempting to stop you from escaping an underground complex. No, you do not take the diplomatic approach.

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Vaguely reminiscent of Nethack, Knights is best played with a friend. That's because you'll both be exploring the same dungeon together at the same time, each tasked with competing specific quests. If you're a jerk, this can lead to untold hours of hilarity as you ruin your friend's adventuring day with a well-placed weapon to the head--although, in some instances, you might actually have to whack your buddy to acquire the items you need for a specific quest. Knights is playable online, over your LAN, or even split-screen. No peeking!

Download it here !

Pink Pony

I told you there would be ponies. Rather than think of some creative way to introduce this title's gameplay, I'm going to spell it out for you real simple-like. This game is an awesome/unholy combination of Tron and My Little Pony. Instead of a lightbike, you're riding Sparkles Majestic (or whatever you choose to internally call your little creature). As you run around the map, you trap and eliminate other players by forcing them to run into the trail of flowers your pony leaves behind. I've always wanted to say this: LAST PONY STANDING WINS.

Download it here !

Yo Frankie!

This open-source platformer is as noteworthy for its ideals as it is for its imagery. The designers have toiled endlessly to not only create a beautiful little title, but they've gone to great lengths to walk fellow programmers through the detailed steps behind the game's technical creation--yes, the organization behind Yo Frankie! also works on the open-source 3D animation program Blender. As for the game, you're a squirrel tasked with working your way around a lush 3D landscape (I say that given the typical graphical quality found your run-of-the-mill freeware or open-source title). Before you ask, yes, you can use acorns as weapons.

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This one isn't so much a game, per se, as it is an cool little tool for building your own skyscraper designs. Before you start dreaming of a SimCity-like generation tool, I'll warn you that this piece of software can veer a wee to the complex side. Which is to say, in plain English, that it ain't like dusting crops, kid. That said, if you want a realistic way to create the next MPC Tower--complete with working elevators and all--it doesn't get much more thorough for a free program than Skyscraper.

Download it here !

David Murphy (@ Acererak) is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. Befriend him on Twitter, especially if you have an awesome app or game you're dying to recommend!

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