The Arcade: A Monthly Roundup of Freeware Games


 

For most of us, when you talk about free games, there are a few images that come to mind, none of them particularly flattering.  Usually, we tend to envision free games as having inferior graphics, not working well, or generally not holding up to the same standard as commercially produced games.  Through these monthly articles, I have tried to dispel this myth.  I think I have said this before, but every time I start a new edition of The Arcade, I am amazed by the quality of the games which developers are just giving away for free.  Many of these games could easily be sold commercially (in fact at least one, Galaxy Gate was sold commercially until recently).  Once again this month, I have selected five free games which I feel are particularly well designed, including:

1. 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe

2. Galaxy Gate

3. Lines FG

4. Nebulous

5. Japan Crossword

3-D- Tic-Tac-Toe.  This is a classic game which has been around for decades. How far back does it go?  It was first released on my Atari 2600.  For those of you who do not recall the Atari 2600, it revolutionized the gaming industry…in fact, it created the gaming industry.  This was the first gaming console which brought all of your favorite games into your home.  Looking back, by today’s standards, the graphics were  terrible, but there was no such thing as the Wii, X-Box 360 and PlayStation 3.  We had no idea how good graphics could get.

Anyway, I digress.  One of the games I remember from those early days was 3-D Tic-Tac-Toe.  The rules are relatively straightforward.  Rather than the typical 3×3 (9 square) Tic-Toe-Toe grid, you now have a 4x4x4 grid (64 squares).  Just like traditional Tic-Tac-Toe, the object is to make a complete of X’s or O’s.  In this game, however, a row is 4 instead of 3, and your four need not be on the same plane.  Thus, you might choose the upper left corner on all four grids for a win.  Or a row that traverses diagonally from the top grid to the bottom grid.  Although the object and rules of the game mirror traditional Tic-Tac-Toe, the countless options created by the stacked grids ensure a considerably more challenging game.

Galaxy Gate.  The first time I encountered Galaxy Gate, it was a commercial program from Inscenic.  I recall downloading the trial, and I was instantly hooked.  I do not remember how much it cost at that time (probably $14.95), however, I am rarely afforded the luxury of purchasing games, so I was not able to buy it.  The game stuck in my mind, however, because of its easy yet addictive play-ability.  

Recently, Inscenic announced that it would begin giving away two of its popular games for free.  Galaxy Gate was one of those two games, and I immediately added it to my rotation for inclusion in The Arcade.

Gameplay is fairly simply.  You have a board consisting of covered tiles arranged into a grid.  The grid is surrounded on all four sides by lasers.  Your job is to locate the bombs hidden under the grid without detonating them (like Minesweeper, you must mark them but not flip over the tile).  Additionally, valuable jewels are hidden under some tiles.  Find the jewels to increase your score.

To begin the hunt, simply tap on any of the lasers.  It will fire as a white beam until it encounters a bomb or jewel.  If it fires all the way across the screen, then you know the row is clear.  If it encounters a bomb or jewel, however, the beam will turn the color of the jewel (red, blue, or green) and divert at a right angle.  Bombs will turn the beam yellow.    Flag all of the bombs to advance to the next level.  Be cautious, however, with each new level, the complexity of the game will increase significantly.  Happy Hunting!

Lines FG.  Lines FG is a puzzle game unlike any I have played before.  You start with a blank grid (you can determine the size). Now, scatter a few balls around the grid (choose from as few as 5 to as many as 9 different ball colors).  The idea of the game is to move the balls around the grid so that they form into rows of five or more.  Once five like colored balls have lined up together, they will be eliminated.  As long as there is a clear path, a ball can be moved from any space on the grid to any other empty space, even if it is not in a straight line.  Be warned, however, each time you move a ball, three new balls will be added to the board.  These new balls may help you, but most likely they will serve to complicate your next move.  As such, you must plan carefully if you are to make it very far in this game.

Nebulus.  Recently, Meneisyys did a round up (I know that is so hard to imagine) in which he looked at a clone of another classic game, Nebulus.  Nebulus (also known as Tower Toppler) has been around in one form or another since the early days of video games.  This free version, which is ported to Windows Mobile by n0p, is one of those games which may even be better than the original (which admittedly looked excellent on the Commodore 64).

The object of the game is to follow a maze to the top of a cylindrical tower.  Fans of the game may recall that the major innovation of the original Nebulus game was that the tower always spun in the opposite direction of your movement.  This scrolling action meant that your character was always centered on the screen, regardless of your movements.  Along the way, you will meet a variety of enemies, all of whom are determined to knock you off the tower.  Fall all of the way back to the water and you will lose a life.

As I mentioned, Nebulus is even better than the game I remembered.  With slick graphics and smooth animation, it is like watching a home movie which has been digitally remastered to DVD.  Everything you remember is still there…only better. 

Japan Crossword.  It should come as no surprise that I am a big fan of Japanese puzzle games.  I have reviewed several Sudoku games already, including my Sudoku roundup.  Sudoku, however, is just one game in a growing genre of number and puzzle games.  One of my favorites is the Japanese Crossword puzzle, commonly referred to as Griddlers.

Until recently, I had not been able to find a good free version of Japanese Crossword puzzle.  Thanks to my good friend Judie at Gear Diary for pointing me in the direction of Japan Crossword, a free version which seems to have been in beta form for years (but works great) of this fantastic puzzle game.

The rules are fairly straightforward.  You are faced with a blank grid (typically 10×10).  Your job is to paint the correct squares in order to from a picture.  To help you, there are clues on the outside of each row and column.  The number clues tell you the groupings of the painted tiles.  So, for example, if a column reads "3, 2, 3"  then that column will have a total of eight painted squares in it.  The first group will have three, then two and the last group will have three again (the numbers are always presented in the correct order).  This is the perfect example of a free game which is considerably better than many of its commercial counterparts.  I was extremely impressed by the quality of the graphics as well as the difficulty of the puzzles.

 

Thanks for joining me for another edition of The Arcade.  Special thanks to Meneisyys and Judie for recommending some fantastic free games for inclusion in this edition.  I also wanted to mention that the last edition of The Arcade was recently translated into Italian!  Thanks to Legolas for his enthusiastic support.  Hopefully he will be translating future editions as well.  So, to our new Italian readers, ciao.

To see previous editions of The Arcade, check out our archives, exclusively at Just Another Mobile Monday. 

If you are a game player or developer, and would like to recommend a freeware game for use in a future installment of The Arcade please email me here at JAMM.  All requests are welcome.

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  1. #1 by spmwinkel on May 17, 2007 - 12:52 am

    Wow that last game – never expected to see that as a PPC game; and free!

    Alternative to Lines FG: Lines Gold, from http://www.not-big-deal.com/product.php?product_id=4

    Thanks Doug, you know I like the roundups!

  2. #2 by Brandon Steili on May 17, 2007 - 5:03 am

    Wow… congrats Doug. I had no idea you were being translated!!!

    That 3d tic-tac-toe looks wicked. I can’t keep track of the single level let alone a couple levels!

    Hey… by the way … can you find an Othello freebie?

  3. #3 by dgoldring on May 17, 2007 - 5:40 am

    Hey, SPM. Thanks for the link. I’ll check it out.

    Brandon. I have not found an Othello freeware. I’ll take a look and see if I can find one.

    Yeah, the Italian translation is pretty cool. The request came out of nowhere. :)

    Doug

  4. #4 by mike on May 17, 2007 - 5:49 am

    LinesFG is so far my favourite. I have played most of them but for most of them I have downloaded many of these with new versions from http://www.youpark.com

  5. #5 by dgoldring on May 17, 2007 - 5:54 am

    Thanks, Mike. I have never heard of youpark before.

    DOug

  6. #6 by spmwinkel on May 17, 2007 - 6:10 am

    I haven’t tested these, but you might want to check them out:

    http://www.freewareppc.com/games/freakothello.shtml
    (Said to be a difficult one to win)

    http://www.freewareppc.com/games/cezebrash3.shtml
    (for SH-3 processor it says, most devices are ARM right? Don’t know)

    http://www.freewareppc.com/games/ppcreversi.shtml
    Free registration, info from the website:
    - Username: free
    - Registration key: 1D5002D7

  7. #7 by spmwinkel on May 17, 2007 - 6:11 am

    btw – that post was about Othello, for Brandon, most games were found as Reversi but I believe that those are the same…?

  8. #8 by dgoldring on May 17, 2007 - 6:15 am

    Hey, SPM. Yes, you are correct. Othello and Reversi are the same game. I will check out the links you left.

    Doug

  9. #9 by Doug on May 23, 2007 - 3:31 pm

    Doug — does Japan Crossword work on WM5? thanks. jm

  10. #10 by dgoldring on May 23, 2007 - 3:49 pm

    I was not able to test it on a WM5 device, however, I believe it does.

    Doug

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