Time to play: Play outside or save a world . . . or do both

Business | Tech

This issue of the Martlet is dedicated to the environment, so I’m tempted to recommend shutting down whatever electronic device you are using for playing video games, getting out of the chair, meeting your best buddies and stepping out into the fresh air to play some real-life games, for old times’ sake. Enjoy and remember how easy life was when your biggest worry was that some other kid would take your perfect hiding spot.

Using Mother Nature as a playground has one big advantage: you don’t need any electricity to get the game going. Besides: it doesn’t cost you any money. You get some exercise and a good dose of laughter. It can be quite liberating to turn back time and play outside like the 10-year-old version of yourself. So, I guess my recommendation for this week would be hide-and-seek.

But I did promise to present you one free browser game in every Business & Tech section, didn’t I? So, in the spirit of this week’s special topic, prepare yourself to save a planet (or an asteroid to be more accurate) in Samorost, a point-and-click adventure.

The game — released in 2003 — was actually the thesis project of Jakub Dvorský, the founder of Amanita Design, a small yet successful game development studio in the Czech Republic. Samorost became quite popular thanks to its surrealistic graphics and its soundtrack, which picks up on the different settings in Samorost. The soundtrack is even important for the gameplay.

With the first click, you are thrown into Samorost’s short intro sequence, which shows the main character, a little space gnome in what appears to be pyjamas, on its home asteroid. Unfortunately, its home is threatened because another asteroid is on a collision course with our gnome’s little world. Our hero has no choice but to get into a rocket and fly to the intruding asteroid to find a way to change its course.

As soon as the rocket lands, you take over and the game starts. You can’t navigate the space gnome itself; instead, you have to find clues and solve puzzles so that it can make its way to the engine room. Yes, the asteroid has a navigation centre — how convenient.

Just as you’d expect from a point-and-click adventure, you use your mouse or track pad to click on characters, animals, machines and other items to activate them. That might sound a bit cryptic, but you’ll see what I mean as soon as you start Samorost.

This is a game whose puzzles include things like helping a man catch a fish. You also meet all kinds of strange characters, such as a man with a light-bulb head and a squirrel with a record player. The goal of the game is to help the space gnome save its asteroid so that it can return home safely.

Samorost, like many other free games, doesn’t have a very long storyline, but its unconventional, non-linear style will keep you occupied for a while. The puzzles are far from predictable, and Samorost uses every tiny pixel to hide clues.

Since the release of Samorost, the developers have gained more recognition. Unfortunately for us, this means that their newer games are not free to play. However, Samorost 2 and Machinarium, two video games in the same style, offer free demo versions the same length as Samorost. Both Samorost and the demos can be played in your browser.