It appears that one of my dearest and most favorite game categories -- that's right, Samorost-style -- has accumulated a more manageable number of new members since my last headcount, so let's start with those.
Haluz is a great new game by Slovak designer Tomas, made as a tribute to Samorost. Even the name is a nice hat-tip: similar to samorost, which is a Czech word meaning "a root or piece of wood resembling a creature" and also "a person who doesn't care about the rest of the world", haluz is a Slovakian word meaning both "tree branch" and "strange or dreamlike", from the same root as hallucination. Pretty nifty, eh?
You can read a brief e-mail from the author explaining the name and other things in the Haluz article at Free Games News. The game has its own walkthrough -- there's a link at the bottom of the page.
Gwen, which bills itself as "The Chinese Samorost", is a very nice addition to the genre. It was created by a team of four designers from Taiwan, and is referred to in some places by the alternate name "Hell". Sumptuous graphics, a pleasant ambient soundtrack, and lots of extra animations and non-plot-advancing things to click on and play with make this a very nice way to spend a few minutes. A journey through a series of seemingly unrelated locations decorated with Buddhist trappings leads to a brief, mystical experience of an indeterminate nature...I wonder if it means something.
There's a walkthrough at Free Games News, but you can also click the question mark in the upper-left corner of the screen to get in-game help in a nifty graphical format that avoids any language issues.
Wogger is a curious game, another of those that's clearly been heavily influenced by Samorost. The first part of the game is very abstract, and doesn't begin to make much sense until the main character shows up more than halfway through the first level. The gameplay is fairly limited and very linear -- usually there's only one hotspot at a time to click, and nothing else to play around with until you find that one little cluster of pixels. The very nice graphics compensate for this somewhat, though, and I love the surreal setting. It's pretty fun all in all.
Walkthrough at Free Games News.
The website of Japanese designer Hanamushi provides enjoyment and frustration in pretty equal measure. The games aren't new, but every time I tried to see them the flash apps wouldn't load properly, until today. This seems to be a recurrent complaint, so you'll just have to try your luck and hope for the best. Many times you'll see just a blank white screen that doesn't seem to be loading. There are reports that something will happen if you just wait -- that it's just very slow -- but I've never seen that happen.
The site has also apparently undergone a redesign since my last attempt, and now features an attractive flash interface, in both Japanese and English (vexingly, I can only get the Japanese version to load at the moment, so I don't know how easy the English site might be to navigate). In any event, here is a direct link to the flash gallery, where you may sample the following games:
First is a short and bizarre mini-game called Wheat Straw Girl, which I might call more of an interactive artwork than a game. There are just a few moves to make, which lead to a quick, somewhat inexplicable demise. But hey, the art is pretty neat.
If you really want to see it, there's a walkthrough by Shakespeare at the game's Nordinho thread (under "Game 1").
The real item of interest is the multi-part Pokku's Friend, which is a very nicely-executed game in the true Samorost tradition. There are even some interesting puzzles along the way, like rotating puzzle pieces and spot-the-difference games.
Here is my summary of the storyline as explained by a Jay is Games reader:
Pokku was a lonely boy who spent all his time alone, doing nothing and feeling nothing, when one day there appeared a horned boy who introduced himself as Tum, and told Pokku that they would be together for a while. Pokku asked how Tum knew his name, and Tum replied that he knew because they were friends. Pokku walked away, saying he didn't want or need a friend. Startled, Tum called out "wait up!", and ran after him.
Later in the game, Pokku and Tum are separated, and Pokku is confronted by a dark image of himself, who tells him that he doesn't need any friends. The image changes into a monster whom Pokku must defeat to save Tum.
Tum and Pokku are reunited in the end. When Pokku throws his hat off, it signifies that he has come out of his shell and opened up to the world.
Hopefully some knowledge of the plot will increase your enjoyment of this very lovely game. The walkthrough is also in that same Nordinho thread (the two entries for Game 2).
The next item in the gallery is not a game but a very cool flash animation called, as near as I can tell, Fantasy Girl. It's basically an extended hallucination, possibly a fable about the power of books.
The next thing in the gallery is I don't know what, and the last one, the one without a thumbnail, just looks like a playful piece of flash art, but I'm pretty sure that's it for the games. If you're having problems accessing them, you can also try the mirrors for Wheat Straw Girl and Pokku's Friend at Jay is Games.
Bird's Way certainly isn't one of the most challenging games I've ever seen, but it is among the most darling. In this cute Japanese offering you must clear obstacles from the path so that the little bird can pass and deliver a bone to a dog friend. Short and sweet. (See, if I were really corny I might have said something like "short and tweet," but that's just not the way I work.)
You really need a walkthrough? Here you go.
Sononamo is a basic Hapland-style game in which you must perform a series of actions in a precise sequence in order to escape the house. The game has a few notable drawbacks -- there seems to be only a single sequence that works, even when the actions don't seem to have any bearing on each other, and there's essentially no feedback. Plus the game seems to be plagued by quite a few bugs. I haven't been able to complete the game because the red man never walks through the window when he's supposed to, even though it worked on the first try. Some sound would be nice, too. But if you're into this kind of game, you still might want to give it a try. If this isn't your favorite genre, it won't win you over. You'll want a walkthrough, found at lazylaces.
Blast Off! is a cute cartoon game where you have to perform actions in the correct order to launch a rocket. Short and pretty simple, and fun.
Walkthrough at Nordinho.
Alfa is a decent stick-figure game in which you must overcome a series of obstacles in order to accomplish your deepest desire to get sucked into a whirling vortex of color, your monochrome existence apparently having become no longer bearable to you. Simple but nice.
There's a walkthrough in the comments for the game.
In Escape from Alcabrass, you must help a snail escape from an evil chef by clearing a safe path for him in three different scenes: the laboratory, the kitchen, and the sink. It's a nicely-done game with shiny graphics and wacky sound effects, and it's pretty fun.
Hapland fans, rejoice, for there is a new sequel out, and it is good. Hapland 3 is just as fiendishly clever and maddeningly complex as its predecessors, and perhaps even a bit more so. One of the great things about the Hapland series is just how entertainingly things can go wrong -- which is a good thing, because there are a LOT of ways to screw up.
Have fun, and here's a walkthrough at Jay is Games if you need it.
I've got a lot of gaming ground to cover still, so how about Grow-style games for next time?