Sawbuck Gamer is our occasional roundup of free and cheap games ($10 or less).
Creator: Major Bueno
As Major Bueno wraps up its year-long project of releasing a game a month, we can look back on both the two-man team’s triumphs (Caesar’s Day Off, Pan Man) and less-than-triumphs (Bridge Please) with fondness and a bit of befuddlement. For their final installment, Party Bueno, the Buenos bring back Caesar for a raging party at his Roman dance lair. All the merrymakers, including the one you play, are picked randomly from the 700 designs submitted to Major Bueno from artists all around the web. Your character rolls up to the mansion and spies a beautiful or, more often, not-so-beautiful being on the balcony. You spend the rest of the game trying to dance your way up to them.
Inside, the party is in full swing. When you’re not slipping on rainbow vomit in the WC, you’re busy tracking down a VIP pass to get upstairs or befriending the emperor’s pet lion. Needless to say, the game does not adhere to most conventional storytelling techniques and is irreverent even by Major Bueno’s standards. Still, it’s a joyful affair, and the music is strangely hypnotic. (After playing the first time, I was walking around singing, “Party is nice, party is bueno,” for hours.) Party Bueno is more silly than clever, but for those that have so much as casually followed the developer’s venture for the past 12 months, it makes for a fittingly bizarre and celebratory finale. [DT]
The master thief has long been a captivating figure. These charming rogues cloak themselves in shadow, slink through the homes of the undeserving rich, and abscond before a soul is the wiser. They only take the most valuable bauble on the estate and leave behind nothing but a calling card so the Duke knows whose name to shout while shaking his fist at the sky. And they give the spoils to—well, themselves, usually.
It’s unlikely we’ll become equally enamored with the idea of very organized thieves, if The Very Organized Thief is anything to go by. These thieves break into modest, empty homes. They have a list of target items like “DVD player” and “perfume bottle,” and these are the only things that can be stolen—with the exception of big stacks of cash. In less than five minutes, the owner will return, so you slide around the house, knocking over the things that can’t be stolen in a desperate search for the things that can. Making it past the hapless victim and escaping the house is a victory, the size of which is based on the value of the plunder.
Every time you play the game, the list of target loot changes, as does the placement of items in the house. But there’s still only one house, and it’s so small that the possibilities exhaust themselves in just a handful of plays. Plus, your thief is an awkward sort who can, say, end up trapped between the wall and an open closet door. It’s not the worst way to spend five minutes, but The Very Organized Thief is unlikely to sweep anyone off their feet. [JK]
Plant Cat: First Blossom
Creators: Flashygoodness, Pongball, Potato-tan, Kenju, and Pix3M
One of the most fearsome antagonists in Greek mythology was the giant Antaeus, a monstrous wrestler who constructed a palace from his defeated foes’ skulls. Antaeus was so formidable that even Hercules couldn’t take him down—that is, until he discovered that the giant drew his power from the earth and crushed him in an airborne bear hug. In the end, humanity triumphed over nature, but the victory was by no means assured. It’s a story rooted in our fear of the natural world’s mysterious power, an ambivalence that continues in tales to this day, from the terrifying murderous plants in The Ruins to the laughable murderous plants in The Happening.
Plant Cat: First Blossom puts an adorable spin on the ferocity of flora. In this game, which is designed to look like a classic Game Boy offering, you control a cute kitten with a unique talent: the ability to summon quick-acting vines from the earth. Using this power, you can surmount treacherous terrain and paralyze your (equally cute) enemies. The vines move in a straight line and don’t stop until they hit something, which adds a fun puzzle component as you wind your way through a series of beguiling levels. Like Antaeus, you can only use your power when you’re touching the earth, so free-floating platforms and other objects that require climbing will render you defenseless. But unlike your monstrous antecedent, you don’t craft anything out of your victim’s skulls. We can always hope for that in the sequel. [MC]
Creator: Felix Park
Platforms: Browser, Mac, PC, Linux
Reviewed on: Browser
A while back, Gameological compiled a list of games that take the common game elements of fantastic sights and a first-person perspective to their logical conclusion: in-game photography. At a glance, FOC/US looks like it could join that list, but instead of snapping pictures, you use your camera’s near-infinite zoom to track down and talk to a smattering of very small and very sad people. They are secreted away in the nooks and crannies of your bedroom, waiting to be found and heard.
Discovering each person triggers a short, one-sided conversation. The little folks are hidden in inventive locations around the bedroom, and their despair or melancholy grows in relation to the obscurity of their hidey-holes. They have a lot to say in their dark, funny monologues. As you move from one distressed loner to the next, the nature of the interpersonal relationships in the room becomes clear. FOC/US works because it doesn’t allow you to mend the broken relationships. From behind the viewfinder, all you can do is witness the isolation. It creates a unique sadness hammered home by the game’s jolting ending. [MK]
Holy Crap, Bears!!
When I worked as a camp counselor, I had plenty of interactions with bears who liked to spend their nights rummaging through the trashcans outside our bunk like overgrown raccoons. Scary, but not immediately life-threatening. Unfortunately for your counselor character in Holy Crap, Bears!!, the animals he’s dealing with aren’t opportunistic scavengers but malevolent killing machines.
The goal of each level is to navigate a dark, bear-infested forest to rescue your scout troop’s chicken mascot. Picking up lost campers and their belongings along the way earns you extra points, and you’ll want to go out of your way to grab any honey, which can be used to buy all sorts of useful gear from a “traveling sales bear” who might be described as friendly if he didn’t insist on calling you a meatbag.
The counselor is armed with a lantern that will outline the silhouettes of bears as you approach them, but unless you spend all your honey on gas, that light goes out fast, leaving you to avoid predators mostly by listening for their growling. There’s a bar at the bottom of the screen that provides a sort of visual proximity alarm if you don’t want to play with the sound on, but this is a game worth playing with the sound up high. The sniveling of your character and his campers is the only thing cutting through the darkness until the dramatic crack of a branch sends any nearby bears rushing your way. [SN]