Updated: October 1, 2010
Welcome to the tenth mega compilation of Linux games. The magic number! ... one more ... This time, I truly do not have any grand opening. The only thing I'd like to mention is that the games included in the Humble Indie Bundle, as mentioned in my Linux news article, will be reviewed separately, in the eleventh compilation. Now, let us begin. In no particular order.
Caster is a third-person action shooter game, where you play an elfish-like creature of the Caster race, fighting bug-like thingies called Flanx. In the game, your task is to collect energy balls while avoiding or kicking Flanx as you master progressively more complex and difficult episodes. Sounds simplistic? Far from it.
In addition to Flanx, You will encounter other strange, gooey creatures that might pop along. With twilight setting, soft yet pervasive electronic music, thunder and lightning illuminating the rain-drenched forest scene, Caster plays rather well. Toss in toxic clouds, mini earthquakes and surprise attacks, and you're in for an unexpected treat.
The game has a very surreal feel, which definitely adds to the atmosphere. It's evident in the little details, the sound of discharged weapons, the sound of your own feet running. The lighting is just right. It is tuned to make you feel slightly uncomfortable. Energy balls will home onto you like a magnet, adding to the crazy beat. The surreal dominates, infused with green and purple colors.
You also have a few special moves, like super-jump and super-fast dash, which you can use to dodge enemy attacks or clear obstacles. Then, there are also Matrix-like bullet-time transitions, which kick in when you gain new weapons. You have six weapons available, each with its unique powers. Use them wisely.
All in all, Caster is a very interesting game, taking a somewhat formulaic idea and turning it bright, vivid and original. The game costs USD5, but there's a free demo available. Definitely worth a try.
Danger from the Deep (DftD) is a very unique game; it's a German WWII submarine simulator. Your goal is to sink Allied merchant tonnage as much as you can while avoiding embarrassing death in deep seas. You play the game as a submarine crew, manning one of many stations, including periscope, the engine room, the torpedo room, Captain's room, and more. If my memory serves me well, there used to be a late-DOS era game of similar concept.
Danger from the Deep is not easy to master. All of the panels and buttons have German writing, in a wiry font that's hard to read. So you might need to guess some of the functions, although most are kind of intuitive. Then, what you need more than even rudimentary knowledge of German is patience. Submarine simulators are not designed to be plug-and-play games. You will spend quite a bit of time sailing about at comfortable speed. You will need time preparing for the attack, arming the torpedoes and watch them lumber toward merchant ships. If you're a Counterstrike kind of person, this is not for you. DftD is Das Boot, played on the computer screen.
The game menus are adorned with old-style sepia photos and accompanied by soft pre-WWII music played on scratched vinyl records. The atmosphere is right, kind of slow and oppressive, as it ought to be in small, smelly electric diesel submarines.
The graphics level is also quite good:
Danger from the Deep is still a very early release, alpha or maybe even pre-alpha, so it is not recommended for general populace. You may struggle with the installation and there could be bugs. That said, I managed to install the game fairly smoothly, although the installer asks for sudo. Furthermore, some libraries were missing, but after installing them from the repository, it worked just fine. There were no crashes or any problems. I can't ask you to try it, due to its release state, but you may want to bookmark it and test once it's mature. Danger from the Deep is a very decent game. Marked!
FreedroidRPG is a sci-fi isometric role playing game, originally based on Freedroid Classic. In the game, you play a robotic creature of the Linarian race, which happen to look just like Tux, the Linux mascot. After waking from a 70-year stasis sleep, you learn about a terrible war between humans and robots. Now, it's your duty to save the world by killing the rebel robots, which look like 1950s-era futuristic-envisioned trash dispensers.
You play the game Diablo-style, wandering about, collecting items, gaining experience points and strength, and killing and hacking enemy robots. In a way, Freedroid is a sci-fi mix, with story premise somewhat like I, Robot by Asimov, Diablo gameplay with just traces of UFO: Enemy Unknown, and modern elements of geekiness revolving around Linux and hacking.
FreedroidRPG has a very decent atmosphere, with quirky music to set the mood. It's not the most astonishing work of graphic art, but it's reasonable and compensates more than well with humor and solid gameplay. While the game may appear simplistic, it's quite elaborate. You get tons of weapons and tools you can use, plus there are elements of repair, damage and hacking. If you overheat, you will temporarily shutdown. Similarly, you can use all kinds of tactics to try to take over enemy operating systems. Very original and challenging. Even at the easy level, fighting enemy robots takes skill, patience and clever tactics.
To get started in the game, you should definitely complete the tutorial, aided by aptly named Tutorial Tom, a human scientist who will teach you about basic movement, item collection, close-range and long-range fighting, as well as taking over enemy robots.
FreedroidRPG is a very sweet game. The graphics style reminds me of Little Big Adventure, so it's a definite nostalgia bonus. The gameplay is rich and challenging. I'm not a big fan of role-playing games, but FreedroidRPG has something special about it. You should try it.
X-Moto is a simple, addictive, challenging 2D motocross platform game, with focus on fun and physics. Your motorbike will do anything you ask, clinging to surfaces like Spiderman, but you will have to be very quick with your fingers and make good use of obstacles, ramps and other objects to finish levels on time. The game introduces progressively more difficult episodes, which require some really clever acrobatics to complete.
A perfect innocent game when you're in a mood for some fast-paced arcade. X-moto has a staggering collection of colorful levels. Furthermore, you can download a level editor and create your own custom maps.
Simutrans, as its name implies, is a transportation simulation game. The game is an open-source remake of the legendary Transport Tycoon Deluxe (TTD). Like OpenTTD, the game is a modern adaptation of the DOS-era game, with enhanced AI, much more sophisticated transport capabilities, new features, and more.
You may be put off by simple graphics - but you should not be. Simutrans is an extremely realistic and challenging game, with complex transport network system and strict rules, without which your business empire won't get far. In fact, I must admit I've only started exploring the game and I feel quite intimidated.
Learning the realistic basics of a proper transport infrastructure is not a simple deal. You will spend your first several hours floundering, wondering how to get going. Compared to OpenTTD, Simutrans is much harder and far less intuitive, although, if you're familiar with the former, you'll have some advantage.
For instance, I managed to build a two-stop bus line in Walden, without any major difficulties. But compare the available selection of tools, like many traffic signs that are unavailable in TTD games. You also have end and transit stops. Similarly, railway stations require entrances, signals and a whole lot more before even a first train will run. Intimidating, but a whole lot of fun.
You can compete against AI players, but there's no online multiplayer mode. You also have scenarios. The game offers an in-depth level of customization and settings, allowing you to adjust the game difficulty to your skill and fun levels. I cannot claim mastership in the game, but Simutrans has bitten into my soul. I can feel it. I shall be talking about Simutrans in the future, I just know it.
P.S. You may also want to read my OpenTTD review (the first one; second coming too) and the super-important version 1.0 release milestone, which comes with completely free graphics and sounds, meaning you no longer have to have the original files to play the game.
There you go, five games in this collection, some shooting, some role-playing, simulation, and arcade. Eventually, I'm going to run out of new collections and start recycling titles, but that day has not come yet. Linux gaming is a bottomless well; it sure shows no sign of drying up. Tastes and mileage may vary, naturally, but I do feel most if not all of the games I've reviewed warrant more than just a fleeting glance.
I hope you liked it. As always, if you have games you'd like to see reviewed, whether you're a fan or a developer looking for some exposure and support for his/her project, feel free to drop me a line or three.