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This week’s free game: ‘Dragonsphere’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

The point-and-click adventure has gone by the wayside in recent years, in favor of more action-oriented titles from Telltale Games, Tim Schafer and others. But in 1994, the genre reigned supreme on the PC, with titles like Myst, Monkey Island, and Day of the Tentacle filling gamers' CD-ROM drives.

Enter Dragonsphere, a whimsical journey into a fantasy land of shapeshifters, court wizards and cutthroat politics. You can download the game, completely free, from Great Old Games by clicking below. The game is available for PC, Mac and Linux systems.

Screenshot of point-and-click adventure Dragonsphere
Click here to download 'Dragonsphere' from Great Old Games! (GOG photo)

To download, you'll need to set up a free account with Great Old Games. Then click the green "Add to Cart" button (don't worry, you won't be charged). Click "Checkout Now" and log in. Go to your library tab at the top of the screen and Dragonsphere should be waiting there for you to download, free of charge.

In 'Dragonsphere,' you play as King Callash, the newly crowned king who must defeat the evil imprisoned wizard Sanwe. But not all is as it seems, and as the story plays out, you'll find out much more about the enchanted land you wander and the people that inhabit it.

Go inside the blog to learn more about MicroProse, the now-defunct company that produced 'Dragonsphere,' and the fate of the point-and-click adventure.

This week’s free game: ‘Commando’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

Modern military shooters require you to complete a lot of mental gymnastics. Do you have enough sniper rifle ammo to pick off those enemies miles away? How much damage can you take before you need to pick up a health pack or get into cover? If you stay put too long, will the enemy flank your position and cut you down in a hail of unanticipated gunfire?

Commando does away with all that arithmetic. It's you, a waistband full of grenades and unlimited ammo against waves of enemies that grow increasingly more difficult as you assault their base. Want to beat a retreat? Sorry, the arcade cabinets of the 1980s won't acknowledge that strategy. Click below to play it for free at the Internet Archive.

A screenshot of the high score screen from 1985's 'Commando'
Click here to play 'Commando' in your browser for free!

This game has 'Rambo' and the action films of the 1980s written all over it. Use the arrow keys to move your character, Super Joe, across the screen, CTRL to fire and ALT to toss grenades. Your goal is to infiltrate the base, at any cost, and you've got three lives to do it.

Go inside the blog to learn more about this arcade classic from Capcom, and Data East, the company responsible for the hit.

This week’s free game: ‘Superman’ (1988 arcade game)

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

In the long history of superhero video games, it's basically an established fact that Superman games…aren't any good. Perhaps it's Kal-El's invulnerability to human foes, or the fact that flying sans an aircraft in a video game has never really been nailed by a developer. But Superman games (with the exception of Detective Comic teamups like Injustice: Gods Among Us and Supes' appearance in Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes) have a reputation, and it's not the good kind.

Which is why Taito's beat 'em up for the arcade seems like a breath of fresh air. Click below to play on the Internet Archive!

A screenshot of the Superman arcade game
Click here to play 'Superman' for free in your browser!

The Taito game (you may remember them as the makers of Bust a Move, highlighted a few months ago on this blog) is notable for featuring John Williams' brilliant score from the original films, and allowing your character to fly across the screen, taking out enemies in traditional beat 'em up fashion but with tight, flying controls.

On your computer, press the arrow keys to move. The "Ctrl" key serves as your primary attack, a punch, and "Alt" launches your secondary attack, a kick (as seen in the screenshot above).

Go inside the blog to learn more about Superman's sordid history in video gaming.

This week’s free game ‘Marble Madness’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

We've featured a ton of games from the wonderful treasure trove that is the Internet Archive to date. Some of them play better than others, and often the sound or video quality is diminished. This week, we're bringing you a game that plays like a dream with the keyboard and whose sound quality holds up surprisingly well. Click below for a free, browser-based version of the 1984 puzzle game classic, "Marble Madness"!

A screenshot of "Marble Madness"
Click here to play a free, in-browser version of "Marble Madness"!

The object of the game, like many of its era, is painfully simple - guide the marble to the goal, avoiding treacherous falls that will smash your marble to bits and enemies attempting to push you off the maps or swallow you up. Don't worry about losing too many marbles - you're working against a clock in this game, and if you can't reach the end before the timer runs out, it's game over and you go back to the start.

I remember many a busted NES controller from this game back in the day. In fact, I think I learned to swear while guiding my marble through one of the more difficult mazes. Go inside the blog to learn more about Marble Madness creator Mark Cerny, who would go on to success in the Sega franchise Sonic the Hedgehog.

This week’s free game: ‘Tyrian 2000’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

We're sticking with the space-theme from last week's Star Wars game to bring you Tyrian 2000 this week, a free download from GreatOldGames.com that channels the spirit of Capcom's 1942 and other classic vertical-scrolling shooters from the arcade era. You'll download the title from the gog.com website, which requires an account with an email address. Click below for the link, then follow the download steps:

Screenshot of video game Tyrian 2000
Click here to download Tyrian 2000 for free from GreatOldGames.com!

1) Create an account by clicking "Sign Up" on the top toolbar.
2) Click the green "Add to Cart" button once you're signed in.
3) Click the green "Checkout Now" button that appears in the upper right corner. You will not be charged any money.
4) Click the "Account" button on the top toolbar to access your game library.
5) Click the icon for Tyrian 2000 in your list of games.
6) Select the PC or Mac version for download, then click on the Installer.
7) Run the game on your rig. You may be prompted to turn "Enable accessibility devices" on, as you'll be hitting the space bar - a lot - which can wreak havoc on your operating system.

Go inside the blog to learn more about Tyrian 2000 and its maker, Epic Games.

This week’s free game: ‘Super Star Wars’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

I've been wanting to highlight a great Star Wars game since the release of that awesome "The Force Awakens" trailer a few weeks ago. Seeing Han and Chewy took me back to the days of the Super Nintendo, when I had to enter Game Gear codes to finish the fiendishly difficult Super Star Wars series of side-scrolling adventures. I couldn't find the SNES version on the Internet Archive, but I did locate the Sega Game Gear version of Return of the Jedi. Click below to the play an in-browser emulation of that game!

Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi title screen
Click here to play Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in your browser!

Super Star Wars was notable for allowing you to select your character before each side-scrolling stage. It featured official licensed music and sound effects from the series, and in the Super Nintendo/Sega days, it was about as close as you could get outside the arcade to feeling like a truly empowered Jedi master in a video game. I never finished any of the titles, despite renting them over and over from Blockbuster. My side-scrolling skills were considerably limited in those days.

Go inside the blog to learn more about the Star Wars legacy in gaming.

This week’s free game: ‘Wasteland’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

Do you like "Fallout"? Thrilled by the idea of discovering another irradiated hellscape populated by monsters, thieves and psychopath? Don't mind old-school RPG mechanics? Well, then, Interplay's Wasteland may be just the game for you. It's available for free from the folks over at Internet Archive, and can be run in your browser. The save function doesn't work, however, which means you'll probably want to keep the game open while you progress.

Screenshot of post-apocalyptic game "Wasteland"
Click here to play 'Wasteland' in your browser, for free! (Image from Wikipedia)

Wasteland popularizes several mechanics that would become staples of the RPG genre in ensuing years. The 1988 title allowed party sizes up to seven characters and used a skill system, popular in tabletop games, to determine which characters could complete certain tasks, like lockpicking or charming a non-playable character. All of these features would appear in Interplay's follow-up game, Fallout, released almost a decade later and would become a more commercially successful series.

Go inside the blog to learn more about Interplay and the sequel to this title, Wasteland 2, released just last year.

This week’s free game: ‘Super Off Road’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

How's this for nostalgia? Leland Corporation's "Super Off Road" competed to gobble all my Chuck E. Cheese tokens from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle arcade game in the early 1990s, and now you can play it for free, in your browser, thanks to the Internet Archive! Click below to play this 1992 masterpiece of top-down racing goodness, sans the wheel and pedal.

Super Off Road screenshot
Click here to play Super Off Road, free in your browser!

The sound quality isn't the best, and the arrow keys aren't as responsive as I would have liked. But the game, one of my favorites of the genre as I mentioned in a post a few weeks back, is still enjoyable. Here's the default controls for your PC:

1 - START
ARROW KEYS - Steering
CTRL - A button
SPACE - B button
ALT - C button
P - Pause
TAB - Options

The goal of the game is to finish the season with as much money as possible. You start with $100K to purchase upgrades for your racer, and finishing higher on each track awards you more money.

Go inside the blog to learn more about this oft-ported classic of the arcades.

This week’s free game: ‘BurgerTime’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

This week, don your short-order cook hat and make sure your pepper shaker is full. You're wearing the big shoes of Peter Pepper, protagonist of the arcade classic "BurgerTime" in which you attempt to construct delicious hamburgers before dastardly hot dogs, pickles and eggs dash your dreams. Yeah, it doesn't make a ton of sense, but let's not pretend most Japanese games released at the time seemed to be the fever dreams of computer programmers interested in stealing all the quarters from your pockets. The Internet Archive hosts Mattel's Intellivision version of the game, released in 1982, for free through in-browser emulation. Click below to play!

An Intellivision console and a copy of "BurgerTime"
Click here to play the Intellivision classic, BurgerTime, for free in your browser!

The color palette is restricted on the Intellvision port compared to the vibrant greens and oranges of Data East's smash arcade hit, which was also released in 1982. But the game is very function on keyboards and even boasts joystick support, if that's your preference. Go inside the blog to learn more about BurgerTime and Data East, its now-defunct Japanese creator.

This week’s free game: ‘Papers, Please’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

This week, we're cheating a bit by just giving you access to the beta version of a full retail game. But you can play a substantial portion of the independent runaway hit, Papers, Please, that puts you in the shoes of an immigration agent deciding who can enter the fictional dystopian country Arstotzka.

Papers Please screenshot
Click here to download a free version of Papers, Please.

You'll need to scroll a bit to get to the beta. Make sure you stay on developer Lucas Pope's page if you want the free version; heading to the papersplea.se website will lead you to a paid version of the game ($10).

Pope's puzzle game tasks you with following the instructions of a Soviet-inspired state in allowing migrants into Arstotzka. To add to the pressure, you've got a family that needs food, medicine and other items, and your performance at your job determines your pay and whether those folks live or die. It's an existential quandary rarely seen in gaming, and accounts for the title's numerous awards from various organizations.

Pope worked for Uncharted series creator Naughty Dog before leaving to develop independently in 2012. He's since released a developer build of his next game, Return of the Obra Dinn, on the same website where you can get Papers, Please.

What's your favorite indie title, and do you like developers releasing their games piecemeal the way Pope is selling his content? Let us know in the comments below.

Bonus ‘Happy Hour’ free game: ‘Tapper’

We've already brought you one free title this week, in the form of the classic board game Stratego online. But we've received word in the newsroom that today is National Beer Day, and it being happy hour, what better way to celebrate than reliving perhaps the greatest arcade hit about barley and hops, 1983's "Tapper" from Bally Midway! Click below to play the game (sans its kitschy tap handles) through an in-browser emulation, for free!

Tapper arcade cabinet
Click here to play 'Tapper' for free in your browser!

National Beer Day celebrates the day when retailers were allowed to sell suds again following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Tapper debuted 50 years later. Several variations of the game were released, including a "Root Beer Tapper" clone that changed the beverage you served to a non-alcoholic variety in response to criticism the game was advertising alcohol to the minors wandering in to video arcades.

In "Tapper," you play a mustachioed barkeep trying to sate your seemingly unending customers' thirst and picking up tips as well as empty glasses. Each level of the game features different music and themed patrons, including punk rockers, athletes and even aliens. 

Though not technically a "tower defense" game, Tapper inspired future titles in the genre, including today's wildly popular 'Plants vs. Zombies."

Throw one back and enjoy gaming's yesteryear. And stay tuned Monday for a new free title here in the Tech Deck.

This week’s free game: ‘Stratego’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

Don't laugh. Stratego is the strangely addictive board game that started the most fights among me and my friends as a kid, and now it's available to play free in your browser! Click below to dive in to Stratego from browserchess.net.

Click here to play Stratego in your Internet browser for free!

There are some really cool Stratego apps out there for your iPad and other devices that allow you to play with friends, but if you're looking for a quick and dirty experience, this Java-based game can't be beat. There are options for quick play and to set up your board automatically, speeding up gameplay considerably. And just in case the boss comes around the corner, if your browser allows cookies you'll be able to save your board for the next time you log in.

If you need a guide to Stratego's rules, here's a good primer

Go inside the blog to learn more about Stratego's history, in board game and video game form.

This week’s free game: ‘High-Definition Mario 64’

UPDATE: Nintendo has sent Erik Ross a copyright infringement notice, and the high-definition level of Super Mario 64 is no longer playable at Ross' website. "In light of Nintendo recently making a deal to release some of their IPs on mobile platforms, it’s probably not in their best interests to have a mobile-portable version of Mario 64 sitting around," Ross wrote.

The original post follows. 

ORIGINAL POST: Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

Good news and bad news this week. The bad news first: We're not bringing you a full game. The good news? We're bringing you one gorgeous level from arguably the first great 3-D platformer, Super Mario 64, free to play in your browser!

The level comes from Canadian computer science student Erik Roystan Ross, who lovingly recreated the classic stage Bob-Omb Battlefield in development tool Unity. The game looks gorgeous and has been re-created exactly as you remember it, only without the Wing Cap and red coin. Click below for Ross' blog, where you can either download the level or run it in your browser.

Super Mario 64 high definition image
Click here to play Super Mario 64 in high definition!

Ross said the level is "free to use as-is." No word yet if Nintendo will pull the plug, so grab the game while you can. It has full gamepad support, so you can use USB-connected console controllers if the thought of playing Mario with a keyboard is unbearable.

Go inside the blog to learn more about the classic platformer and the Unity tools used to accomplish this incredible feat.

‘Apotheon’ a heroic effort, but not without flaws

Title: Apotheon
Genre: Side-scrolling action platformer
Platform Reviewed On: Playstation 4
Also available for: PC, Mac ($14.99)
Developer: Alientrap Games
Publisher:  Alientrap Games
Release Date:  Feb. 3, 2015

With each new generation of gaming hardware, the question players repeatedly come back to is whether they value style over substance. That can refer to graphical fidelity, as is the case with eye-droppingly gorgeous games like Crysis and The Order: 1886. Or it can refer to a game’s particular sense of panache, giving the player’s eye something it’s never seen before.

Apotheon falls into the latter category, and what it lacks (considerably) in substance, it almost makes up for with its incredibly unique design and art style.

You play as Nikandreos, an ancient Greek warrior whose village is decimated by invading forces. Your battle takes you to Mount Olympus and a fight with gods such as Apollo, Demeter and others in a quest to prove to Zeus that humanity is worthwhile and deserves his protection.

The meager plot is supplemented by in-game notices that fill in the backstory by brilliantly making use of the poems of writers like Plato, Homer and others. Apotheon looks like nothing else you’ll ever play. While its side-scrolling action has been standard since the days of Super Mario Bros., the fresco-inspired art style and emphasis on bright, warm colors in the design makes the game pop off a high definition screen.

If only Nikandreos handled as well as he looked.

Apollo: The ancient god of talking down to people.

Framerate chugging was frequent in my playthrough on the Playstation 4, and it’s impossible to avoid anger at portions of the game that require razor-sharp platforming accuracy. This is because Nikandreos’ jumping animation is a little off and the only way to make him run is to hold one direction on an analog stick for an extended period of time. Firing projectile weapons is also a bit of a chore because of the way the buttons are mapped to the Dualshock controller. I can’t speak for how the experience is on PC, but in my experience control schemes only become more difficult to master with a mouse and keyboard.

Apotheon screenshot
Ray, the next time someone asks, "Are you a god?" You say, Yes!

There are a bevy of trophies and secrets to unlock in Nikandreos’ world that should keep you coming back for multiple playthroughs on different difficulties. But I was personally so put off by the control scheme and visual issues that once was enough for me.

There are a lot of great ideas packed into Apotheon, and veteran developer Alientrap (Nexuized and Capsized) should be commended for trying something new in an increasingly bloated side-scrolling genre. But their controls and player movement require a little more time in the oven. Hopefully the next platformer the team releases can benefit from more responsive controls, as well as a more engaging and precise combat system. Let’s have a little more substance with our style.

Verdict: 2.5/5 stars 

This week’s free game: ‘Bust a Move’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

This week, we head back to the mid-1990s for Japanese developer Taito Corp.'s puzzle classic, 'Bust A Move.' This is an Internet Archive, in-browser port of the 1994 game that appeared in arcades, on the Neo Geo home console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and a handful of other now-defunct handheld devices. The series has seen several entries on smartphones and other portable devices in the 21 years since its introduction in Japan. Click below to play the game in your browser (Google Chrome recommended).

Title screen of 1994's Bust a Move game
Click here to play Bust a Move in your browser!

The in-browser emulator took some finagling of the settings to run play-ably on my system. You'll want to hit Control+F12 on your keyboard until the video speeds up for fluid movement. If you've sped up the game too fast, hit Control+F11 to slow it back down. The controls also aren't clearly labeled; you'll use the keys on your number pad (not above the letters, but on the right side of your keyboard) to play by default. The number 4 will move your pointer to the left, 6 to the right, and 5 will fire.

Your goal in the game is to eliminate all bubbles from the screen before one reaches the bottom and ends your game. After a few seconds, the rows will move toward your shooter, giving the game a time limit. Three bubbles of the same color touching will cause those bubbles to pop, eliminating them from the board. That's it - it takes a few seconds to learn, but a lifetime to master!

Go inside the blog to read about Taito Corp. and Bust a Move's takeover of American arcades in the mid-1990s.

This week’s free game: ‘Prince of Persia’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

Prepare your scabbards and your jumping fingers this week, because you're headed to Jaffar's dungeon and must save the princess in under an hour. Yes, you can play 1989's Prince of Persia for free, if you dare return to the days of permanent death and dodgy controls.

Prince of Persia screenshot
Click here to play 'Prince of Persia' online - no download required!

Prince of Persia is part of the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library that hosts abandonware for download and emulation. The 1989 original Prince of Persia, which launched a multimillion dollar franchise and…ahem…a forgettable film adaptation, is free to play today!

Go inside the blog to learn more about developer Jordan Mechner and the Prince of Persia franchise.

 

This week’s free games: ‘Command and Conquer’ series

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

This week, we're plunging you back into the heyday of the real time strategy genre with the classic Command and Conquer, Red Alert and Tiberian Dawn games. The link below will take you to downloads for the three games, released as freeware between 2007 and 2010.

In-game screenshot of Command and Conquer: Red Alert
Click here to download Command and Conquer games. Image from The Iso Zone.

Go inside the blog to learn more about Westwood Studio's genre-defining RTS experience.

This week’s free game: ‘Slender’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

This week, we're traveling down the horrifying path of Slender in a search for eight pieces of paper that will leave you quaking at night. Click on the image below to download this 2012 release that IGN called "pure horror." The game contains some violent undertones and should be played by adults.

The visage of Slender Man
Click here to download Slender: The Eight Pages for Mac or PC

In Slender: The Eight Pages, you're tasked with tracking down the eponymous scraps of paper that give you clues about the lore of Slender Man, the faceless, suited individual who's lurking around the corner and will creep up on you, causing instant death if you're not careful. Slender Man becomes more bold in his pursuit as you collect the pages, forcing you to use your sprint capability and the battery life of your flashlight wisely.

Go inside the blog to learn about the follow-up to The Eight Pages, and the controversy surrounding the game's main villain.

Slender: The Eight Pages was designed as a beta for Windows and Mac OSX by Mark Hadley for Parsec Productions. Hadley was inspired by the Internet web series Marble Hornets, a found-footage video blog that builds upon the myth of Slender Man, according to an interview he gave to Level Save. The Slender Man meme was created through a Something Awful forum project in June 2009 asking users to submit photos altered to include supernatural elements.

Multiple violent attacks by teenagers have been linked to the lore of the meme, including a stabbing by two girls in Wisconsin in May 2014 and a Florida girl setting fire to her home in December

This week’s free game: ‘Gorillas’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

This week, we return to the era of command prompts and IBM world domination. It's Gorillas, the game that forced you to learn math or suffer the explosive consequences of your buddies berating your lack of spatial knowledge. The game that shipped with copies of MS-DOS 5 is now available as a Flash game in any browser of your choosing. Click below to play.

A screenshot of the "Gorillas" flash game
Click here to play Gorillas online.

Go inside the blog to read more about this game of simian struggle.

MS-DOS 5 shipped with several pieces of software, including Nibbles (a Snake knock-off), Money (a calculator) and REMLine, a program that remains a mystery to me. But Gorillas was its finest gaming contribution, a 1989 program that allowed for two players and seemingly endless gravitational tweaks that could have your monkeys heaving explosive bananas on the Moon, the Earth or some strange combination of the two.

My twin brother and I would ask to go to our dad's workplace simply because one of his coworkers managed to get the game running on his work machine. We'd spend hours, while my dad crunch numbers, tossing yellow pixelated grenades at each other, squealing in delight when the inevitable explosion occurred and our monkey danced victoriously.

There's mobile versions of the game available too, but nothing really beats the experience of sitting around the same computer, trading barbs as you input angles and velocities that send your fiery fruit ever and ever closer to its target. This Flash version nails that experience, and is a vital piece of nostalgic gaming goodness.

This week’s free game: ‘Ghouls n’ Ghosts’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

This week, the Tech Deck returns to the arcade with Capcom's brilliant 1988 sidescrolling brawler, Ghouls n' Ghosts! The game is available to play free, in-browser, through the Internet Archive's Arcade emulation system.

Ghouls n'Ghosts screenie
Image from myfreewallpapers.net

Click here to play Ghouls n' Ghosts through the Internet Arcade. No extra software needed!

We've already written about the Internet Archive at the Tech Deck, but we didn't focus on this absolute classic of the side-scrolling era. You play as knight Arthur, battling the minions of hell with a bevy of thrown weapons. One hit knocks the armor right off your back, causing you to play in your underwear. Two hits and you're dead.

Go inside the blog to learn more about this Ghost n' Goblins sequel and whatever became of this classic franchise. 

Masterful storytelling returns in ‘The Walking Dead: Season 2’

Title: The Walking Dead, Season 2
Genre:  Adventure, interactive story
Platform Reviewed On: Playstation 4 ($29.99)
Also Available On: Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, Mac, Playstation Vita
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: August 2014

This game is rated M for mature audiences (over age 17). Some spoilers for Season 1 follow.

 

Walking Dead logo

Classifying Telltale Games' Walking Dead series would be an exercise in futility. Some don't call it a video game at all. But to miss out on the brilliant storytelling of this series, based on the Robert Kirkman comic book series as opposed to the wildly popular AMC television show, would be a mistake.

Season 2 picks up where the previous season left off. If you didn't play that game, I highly recommend doing so before diving into this season. You'll have a better handle of the gameplay, and many of the characters you'll meet have ties to the events of the highly acclaimed first season. Also, reading this review will spoil some of the events of the first game series, as it's impossible to talk about the storytelling in 2013's release without making passing mention of what happened before.

You play as Clementine this time around. Lee's death at the end of the first season still weighs heavily on you, and the clear theme from these five episodes is growing up. Though she's only 11, Clementine quickly becomes the leader of a new group of survivors, including the return of Kenny from Season 1.

Clementine makes a dialog choice in 'The Walking Dead'
Some dialogue decisions are more important than others.

Throughout the 10+ hours you'll spend with Season 2, you'll be asked to make several choices, some of them with wider reaching consequences than others. The Walking Dead plays like an interactive comic book, prompting you with quick time events and conversation choices as the story unfolds. If you were put off by the first season's mechanics, there's little here to change your mind. But if you were as hooked to the brutally violent and morally challenging escapades of the survivors in Season 1 as I was, you'll have a blast with the second installment.

The new characters are a bit of a mixed bag. Michael Madsen shines as William Carver, the megalomaniacal leader of an outpost who will prove your first main foil in the game. Christine Lakin also brings a powerful performance as Jane, a lone wolf type you'll have to recruit to stay with your band. Others, like Sarah, Nick and Carlos, are forgettable.

Clementine examines a photo of a family
The series' weighty approach to life after the apocalypse returns.

That's the main gripe I have with Season 2. The first installment of the game created a powerful relationship between the protagonist, Lee, and Clementine. The writers try to establish that same relationship with Jane, but the final episode lacks the punch that made the finale to Season 1 so damn heartbreaking. Also, I played the game on the Playstation 4 (it's available for almost every platform under the sun, with the exception of the Nintendo devices) and there was some stuttering in Episode 4. Also, Telltale hasn't quite figured out how to make the facial expressions of the characters match seamlessly with the decisions you make. You'll make a dialogue choice, then watch as the blank face of another character magically morphs into pleasure, or anger, depending on what you've said. It's a small gripe, but Telltale has had a lot of practice with this mechanic by now (in addition to the Walking Dead, they've done similar adaptations for Fables, Game of Thrones, Back to the Future and the Borderlands video game series), so I expect a little bit more.

Still, Clementine's adventures are an irresistible draw for fans of great storytelling, even if you're not a big video game fan. Waiting for the entire five-episode season to release is still the best (and cheapest) way to experience The Walking Dead, as discounted disc versions are now available. While the final climactic scene was a bit of a letdown after last season's stellar offering, you owe it to yourself to return to Telltale's Walking Dead universe.

Verdict: 4/5 stars

This week’s free game: Macintosh mainstay ‘Glider PRO’

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us atdang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

This week, get those paper-folding skills in order with the Macintosh classic "Glider PRO," free via an archived website that can be found at the link below.

Glider PRO home screen
Download Glider PRO here.

To read more about Glider PRO's development and recall the days when games for Apple's computers weren't awful, go inside the blog.

Death, fun keeps coming in multi-platform puzzler ‘Spelunky’

Title: Spelunky
Genre: Side-scrolling puzzle platformer
Platform Reviewed On: Playstation 4, Mac OSX
Also available for: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Playstation Vita (HD version $14.99, classic version free)
Developer: Derek Yu, Andy Hull, Blitworks
Publisher: Mossmouth
Release Date: Sept. 1, 2009 (classic); Aug. 8, 2013 (remake)

 

I wish I could tell you what the endgame of Spelunky – the much-decorated puzzle platformer that is now available for every platform under the sun – is like. I wish I could tell you the repeated deaths from snakes, spiders, punji pits and giant boulders led to a fully satisfying conclusion where the guy gets the girl, the treasure and fame.

But I can't get past the first four levels.

 

The death screen in 'Spelunky'
You'll see this screen every time you die in 'Spelunky Classic.' Read: A lot.

Derek Yu's fiendishly difficult title is exactly what an independent game should be: simple to pick up but nearly impossible to master. The cutesy art style – drawing influences from Indiana Jones, Super Mario, Lemmings and the 8-bit era of gaming – belies a punishing experience where death is a real “Game Over.” Whether you're playing the original PC freeware version or a port of last year's high-definition remake, prepare to die a lot. Learning will also not help you, as the level layouts are randomly generated with each playthrough.

Because of this, developing strategies is a trial-and-error experience that is at once maddeningly difficult and delightfully rewarding. The HD remakes for current- and next-gen consoles has the added feature of allowing you to play cooperatively with up to three friends, which makes the experience of mining for treasures and rescuing damsels in distress a hilarious endeavor in strategizing. Remember that cracking your whip into a teammate will take away a bit of their health!

A scene from the jungle in 'Spelunky'
'Spelunky Classic' can't compete with its high-def counterpart in the looks department.
But it's still a lot of fun.

The one criticism I have of the game when played on a keyboard is the control scheme, and the responsiveness of the directional keys. Fall damage is to be expected, but often the game won't register when you're trying to grab a rope while falling. Also, there isn't really a good finger configuration that works for holding shift to dash and pressing z to jump at the same time. You'll find yourself jumping too far, or too short, and cursing the keyboard constantly. For that reason, I highly recommend playing the game on the console with a controller pad, as opposed to the PC and Mac versions on a keyboard.

It would be unfair of me to review the entirety of “Spelunky” without completing all of the game's stages, though I'm told there's four worlds made up of four levels each that ends in a traditional boss battle. Even if you can't get there (like me, after weeks of trying), “Spelunky” is well worth your time, and money if you decide to go the console remake route.

Verdict: Kip sucks at video games.

This week’s free game: ‘Marathon’ trilogy

Are you a gamer? Do you like free things? Of course you do!

We here at the Tech Deck are just like you: poor gamers looking for cheap entertainment. And nothing's cheaper than cost-free gaming. Each week, we'll bring you a title (or two or three) you can legally play at home without plopping down a single dollar. If you see games you think we should be featuring on the blog, email us at dang@spokesman.com or kiph@spokesman.com.

This week we're bringing you not one, but three classic first-person shooters from eminent developer Bungie. You can play the precursor series to Halo, Marathon, for free right now. 

Marathon title screen

Bungie released the source code for Marathon 2, the second game in the popular series, for free in 2000 just before the release of Halo. In 2005, they authorized the free release of the games for PC and its original platform, the Mac operating system. The Aleph One project has been working to bring stable editions of the game, including multiplayer components, to modern gamers for the better part of 15 years. You can download Marathon, Marathon 2: Durandal, and Marathon Infinity for PC and Mac at their website: http://marathon.sourceforge.net/.

To read more about Marathon and for system requirements, go inside the blog.

Legislative town halls at the MAC today

The Museum of Arts and Culture will be a busy place this weekend for Spokane residents who want to ask their legislators what’s happening in Olympia.

As the 2014 session nears the two-thirds mark, legislators from the 3rd and 6th Districts have town hall meetings Saturday at the MAC, 2316 W. First Ave.

Democratic Sen. Andy Billig and Rep. Marcus Riccelli will have a meeting there from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Their district includes downtown, Browne’s Addition, the lower South Hill and neighborhoods as far north as Hillyard.

Republican Sen. Mike Baumgartner, Reps. Kevin Parker and Jeff Holy will be in the same location from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Their district includes parts of northwest and south Spokane, the West Plains, Cheney and Airway Heights

David Douglas naturalist exhibit leaving MAC Aug. 25

NATURE – An exhibition featuring the pioneering naturalist who collected and catalogued Northwest flora and fauna is approaching the end of its run at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane.

David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work will close Aug. 25 so it can be shipped to the Washington State Historical Museum in Tacoma.

Douglas, a Scottish naturalist, traveled the Columbia River and interior Northwest (1825-1833), identifying and collecting more than 200 species of plants, animals, and birds previously unknown to science. Native species such as the Douglas fir bear his name.

The locally curated exhibit features rare botanical books and artwork, species mounts, original plant specimens that Douglas collected and pressed on loan from The Herbarium and the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (London, England). 

Families with children can become explorer/naturalists themselves with the exhibit's interactive features.

Guest curators, Jack and Claire Nisbet contributed to a companion website with selections from Douglas’s journals and letters.

Jack Nisbet’s illustrated books, “The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest,” and "David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work," are available at the Museum Store. 

The MAC is open Wednesday – Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Aldo Leopold’s daughter coming to MAC for showing of Green Fire documentary

CONSERVATION — Estelle Leopold is scheduled to be in Spokane on Saturday at the Museum of Arts and Culture for a screening of a dumentary about her father and renoun conservationist, Aldo Leopold.

Enjoy a book signing with the Leopold, who's written a book about her family, and enjoy beer and wine for the viewing of Green Fire.

WhenSaturday (March 10) from 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

Cost: $5-$7.

Green Fire, the first full-length, high-definition documentary film about legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold, sold out last year at the Riverfront IMAX Theater.

The late Leopold, known as the father of modern wildlife management, shares highlights from his extraordinary career, explaining how he shaped conservation and the modern environmental movement.

Leopold is the author of A Sand County Almanac, which should be required reading for everyone who steps foot outdoors.

ArtFest will stay put next year

The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture's  annual ArtFest event will stay put in Browne’s Addition in 2012.

Museum officials had pondered moving the art, food and music festival from Coeur d’Alene Park in Browne’s Addition to the larger Riverfront Park downtown.

The Browne’s Addition Neighborhood Council viewed the prospect with alarm and called a meeting Wednesday night to voice concerns.

Forrest Rodgers, the MAC’s new executive director, talked to neighborhood representatives and said Thursday that ArtFest will remain at Coeur d’Alene Park next year.

‘Leonardo’ hits its mark

The final numbers are in for “Leonardo da Vinci: Man – Inventor – Genius.”

About 38,000 people attended this summer-long traveling exhibit at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC).

It came close to the museum’s attendance goals and more than met its financial goals, according to the people at the MAC.

The final week – the week before Labor Day – was particularly strong, attracting 6,500 people.

“There were lines out the front door and even out in the street,” said museum spokeswoman Rebecca Bishop.

The MAC would have liked to have broken the 40,000-visitor mark set by the “T. rex Named Sue” exhibit in 2007. However, the T. rex exhibit charged regular museum admission while the da Vinci exhibit had special (higher) pricing.

“Leonardo” was also a hit with schools. A total of 3,400 people visited as part of school groups.

The MAC also signed up 500 new members over the exhibit’s span.

A tasty MAC fundraising idea

Here’s a different, and potentially delicious, fundraising idea from the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC): the “Week of 100 Dinners.”

A group of museum boosters called the MAC 200K Club is hoping to convince 100 hosts to hold dinners at their homes the first week of October. Each dinner party will have at least 10 guests who will agree to contribute $100 each to the museum’s general operating budget.

If this all works as planned, this drive would raise $100,000 to help overcome the MAC’s well-publicized budget issues.

If you want to be a host, sign up by emailing to Mac200kclub@gmail.com or call Charlotte Lamp, (509) 536-4303 with questions.

By the way, you don’t have to hold a dinner party. It can be a breakfast party, a cocktail party or a beer and pizza party – although I would suggest that it should probably include above-average beer and pizza.