Monsters and Mistletoe

Monsters and Mistletoe
The (Free) Spirit of Christmas

Nathan Meunier | 2 Dec 2008 12:36
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The aptly titled Choke on my Groundhog, YOU BASTARD ROBOTS has the potential to evoke the frequent utterance of phrases very much in line with its bizarre moniker. Robots have overrun Earth, and as the last human survivor, you're hell bent on taking as many of those jerks out as possible. It's a straightforward task but not one that's easily accomplished. Scores of varying destructive automatons sprout from all directions, seeking to mangle your squishy human flesh. You'll simultaneously dodge the droids while aiming endless sprays of rapid-fire bullets in their direction with the mouse. Get killed? No problem: Your time traveling groundhog lets your go back into the past to aid your past self. However, your "old you" will only remain up until the point when he was killed. It's a completely odd but very cool mechanic that allows you to clone a multitude of yourself to fight against the mechanized menace. The game's crayon-colored graphics, set against a blue and white graph paper background, make the game feel like an interactive grade-school drawing session - one with robots, bullets, and blood.

For a more relaxing experience, Music Catch provides a soothing piano music backdrop to a gently engrossing shape-gathering challenge. The volume and tone of the music cause colorful shapes to cascade across the screen that you collect with the mouse. Though a range of colors are present, catching yellow shapes adds to your score multiplier and increase the size of your cursor. Catching a red shape decreases both. Purple shapes turn your cursor into a vortex, sucking in all the good notes flying around. The learning curve isn't terribly steep, but it's pleasantly stimulating nonetheless.

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Rounding out the bunch, Hell of Sand isn't a game at all. Rather, it's an open-ended physics toy capable of intermittently killing a few minutes of boredom throughout the day. Four streams of particles (sand, water, wax and oil) continuously fall in fountain-like fashion from the top of the screen. Using the mouse, you can draw barriers to pool and manipulate the streams, and you have a variety of volatile substances at your disposal to create some interesting effects. Equipping the fire tool allows you to melt the wax particles, burn oil or set off explosive fuses. Plant lines react to contact with water particles by sprouting green branches. Concrete starts out as liquid particles but slowly solidifies into solid lines. Essentially, this sandbox offers a lot of play without the stress of having to actually do much of anything. How very Zen.

As our trek through the digital realm of freebie independent gaming opportunities draws to a close, rest assured there are many more glorious adventures to be found. Mining the depths of the internet may turn up plenty of trash, but a little perseverance can draw works of independent brilliance to the top of the muck. It's in these treasures we find some small satisfaction when our pockets are threadbare and our wallets are empty.

Nathan Meunier is a freelance writer and game journalist. He loves to hunt down and write about awesome independently made games as much as he loves to play them.

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