“Paying or having paid for something often makes it seem necessary; or better, more important, or more useful than it is.” – Mokokoma Mokhonoana
Sometimes there just isn’t the budget for big AAA games, or even a reasonably priced indie title so here is a list of three free games to play when the purse strings are a bit tight. And just in case time is also limited, they’re all short enough to play on a lunch break too!
Three Free Games
Bubble People is a delightful little game about popping things! Like a cross between a simple hidden object game and a sheet of bubble wrap, it is a unique toy-like experience that also manages to tell a short but sweet love story. The primary mechanic involves pressing and holding on different items to pop them, teamed with shaky animations, paint splatter and a satisfying sound effect this is quite a tactile and meditative process.
The game has a simple aesthetic with hand-drawn illustrations with heavy black linework and no colour apart from that which is sprayed about when popping things and the outlines of the protagonist and their love interest. The default background colour is white but this can be changed to a selection of pastel colours. The music features delicately melodic piano tunes and lo-fi tracks that manage to be uplifting yet slightly melancholy and fit the casual gameplay and emotive narrative well.
Overall, Bubble People is a charming and relaxing experience that offers something a little bit different. It will take just under an hour to complete (unless playing endless mode!) and offers fun, laid-back gameplay, tactile mechanics, a cute cartoon art style and a delicately emotional story. I’d happily recommend this to anyone looking for something simple but satisfying.
Dagon: by H. P. Lovecraft
Dagon is a short, narrative experience based on a short story of the same name written by H.P. Lovecraft. It follows a morphine-addicted former ship officer as he recounts his escapes from his WWI captives and his journey into a Stygian abyss where he was forced to endure the recently surfaced horrors of a distant Eldritch island. It is a cosmic horror story that does get quite dark in places but delivers its narrative very effectively. The narration is descriptive and immersive and is well voice acted in a deep male voice with subtle tones of fear and melancholy adding to the sense of intrigue and anticipation.
The gameplay is very low pressure, with no action sequences, difficult choices or inventory management to speak of, it simply involves progressing through different scenes and advancing the story. There are also hidden symbols that will reveal facts about history, mythology and Lovecraft himself, as well as excerpts from his writings. This is a nice touch and adds another layer of interest to the overall experience.
The realistic 3D visuals use dark, moody colour palettes with subtle pops of colour and very atmospheric lighting that really helps to determine the feel of each scene. The minimal but ominous music is implemented well and helps build tension along with the eerie and often gruesome sound effects.
Dagon will take between 30 minutes and an hour to play and is a great example of a piece of interactive fiction. It offers a creepy Lovecraftian horror story, vividly descriptive writing, macabre visuals and quality voice acting. The gameplay is somewhat minimal but there is enough narrative content to keep things interesting and entertain the player. I’d highly recommend this to fans of Lovecraftian horror and spooky visual novels.
A Book of Beasts and Buddies
A Book of Beasts and Buddies is a short but delightful game originally created for a game jam. Like an interactive bestiary players can turn the pages and learn about different creatures and beasts by interacting with them. Possible interactions include things such as feed, defend, poke, high five, exorcise and GTFO with the right combinations of interactions resulting in making friends with the creature and getting a gift that may be useful when looking at a different beast.
The interactions are well-written and prove to be both funny and adorable and can often reveal information about the creature such as its diet or preferred environment. All of the creatures, from the gubbins or primordial ennui to the bearded cactus and sasquatch, are very distinct and unique and depicted in a 2D cartoon art style with bold lines and bright colours. These then usually sit on photographic background, close-up images of moss, dirt and branches that give the game a fantastical feel. The music really brings the experience to life with strange vocal noises over a gentle beat and a simple but upbeat melody.
A Book of Beasts and Buddies can be completed within an hour and is a very laid-back and original experience offering adorable cartoon characters, fun interactions, charmingly quirky dialogue and narration and a good dollop of humour. It is a joy to play and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for something cute and casual with a bit of a twist.
These are just three free games amongst the plethora that are on Steam and they are all highly enjoyable in their own way. Ranging from a meditative popping experience to a gripping Lovecraftian tale and an interactive bestiary there is a good amount of variety among these short, casual titles proving that good gaming doesn’t always have to cost a fortune!
Looking for more free games, check out these reviews:
Four Free Games – Fun Indie Gaming on a Budget! – itch.io Highlights – Four Short and Free Games to Enjoy! – Three Free Games Short Enough to Play on a Lunch Break!