Indie games come in all shapes and sizes, and this month we really have a wild and wacky collection. I love all of them and enjoyed that feeling of finding diamonds in the rough among the hundreds of free games, projects, and experiences uploaded to itch.io every month.
So… without further ado, here are our top picks for free games this month:
How to Cope With Boredom and Loneliness
Harold Fletcher has been a very naughty boy. So naughty in fact that he’s been grounded for over 30 years.
Originally starting life as a Ludum Dare project, HTCBL has been polished up and released as a standalone title; much like an earlier game we covered by the same team. You play documentary maker Nigel Wimble, who is here to capture all the details for PBS TV. Light on the “game” elements, it plays out closer to an interactive film. As you only have the duration of Harold’s visitation period to conduct your interview, you must choose three items to focus on.
After you’ve chosen, your very own custom documentary will play out. I took 40 minutes to 100% the game, but I did so because it’s absolutely hilarious. The writing is sharp and witty and had me laughing the whole way through. Each item for the documentary is funny by itself, but certain combinations will allow hidden songs into the film which are absolutely worthwhile seeking out.
HTCBL can be downloaded for free via Steam.
The Tragic Tale of Bark Scruffalo
There was no way a GameBoy aesthetic game with a name this good wasn’t going in the list.
Bark Scruffalo is a scared little pupper and it’s your job to defend him against the forces of evil. Monoliths and enemies will spawn in each corner of the yard, defeat them with your bat and by using mines. Effectively a fairly stripped down version of a tower defence game, TTBF delights in how polished it is for a small game.
The animation is great, the music is smooth, and it’s generally just a lot of fun to play. Try racking up a high score and you’ll find the difficulty curve can be a little on the exponential side though. It’s a solid first hobby game from artist turned game maker, Nicholas Vigna, and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.
TTBS can be downloaded for free on Windows via itch.io (at the time of writing, the Mac version is being fixed).
Variations on Pong and Air Hockey are a dime a dozen, but it’s been a long while since I came across one so strategic. OneShot is a game with a simple premise, but one that is easy to grasp and hard to master.
Click somewhere on the board and you will fling your puck in that direction. However, you won’t be able to move again until the ball has hit the wall three times or has been hit by a player. The name comes from the fact that in some matches you’ll only get your opening gambit before a goal is scored and the board resets.
The AI is surprisingly good in both the 1v1 and 2v2 modes, so playing alone is still an option. Some rounds will result in moments that alternate fast and frantic action and every player motionless watching the ball soar towards a goal. That latter part might sound awful to some, but it’s great for appreciating everything that happened up to that moment and considering what you could have done differently.
OneShot is available for free via itch.io.
War and Pieces
Games can be many things, but it’s generally still unexpected that they’re deep or meaningful.
A simple Twine-based text game, War and Pieces takes the form of an interactive novel. With a heavy lean on Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, this re-imagining focuses on recent events in Palestine. War does terrible things to people, and using the structure that a game affords is an interesting way of examining the stories within one.
By exploring the words and how each page links together, you discover a father’s anguish. There’s not much more I can say without spoiling a lot, so I’ll simply leave it at a recommendation. Poo-tee-weet?
War and Pieces is available for free to download via itch.io.