Open Source – more than 57 varieties
The world of freeware and open source games is vast and the games that populate it are of varying quality. It’s this vast variety of both quality and genres that is open source games biggest appeal and biggest drawback.
So with everyone’s bank balance being almost £100 pound lighter thanks to the phenomenal Portal 2, The always brutal Mortal Kombat and the release of L.A. Noire only hours away i’ve decided to plunge into the world of open source and freeware games.
Not having a huge affinity for free games, I have started with free variations on two very familiar and extremely popular games.
Open Theme Hospital (CorsixTH-Beta6)
The original Theme Hospital was released in the spring of 1997. The game was developed Bullfrog productions the then home to Peter Molyneux. Molyneux the game designer renowned for early advances in game artificial intelligence, the creation of the ‘God’ simulation game and the game designer responsible for many of the traits and hooks of modern western role play games.
So to give you some background on Theme Hospital just encase the game is totally alien to you. Theme Hospital places you the the position of hospital manager. Your goal is to design, develop and evolve a hospital that keeps profits high and the grim reaper away. On paper a simple concept, but Theme Hospital is like no hospital you will ever go to.
Yes people are sick and in need of medical attention, but they don’t have broken bones or nasty burns they have outlandish ailments like the Uncommon old, Gastric Ejections and 3rd degree sideburns.
Crazy medical emergencies apart Theme Hospital ran fairly close to the workings of a real hospital. Patients arrive at the hospital, they are assessed at triage, their medical condition is diagnosed, a treatment is prescribed and the patient leave the hospital on their own two feet.
Originally designed for the PC in the late 90’s, the game has been ported onto all Sony platforms. What CorsixTH does is bring the 1997 PC version up to date. Full native support for all modern operating systems and adding a full wealth of resolution options. No longer will you need to see a patient soil themselves in old block 640×480, you can watch every medical emergency in 1920×1080 if you so desire. Now you would assume that taking a game almost 15 years old and cranking the graphics up you’d be left with a muddy mess. But the game doesn’t just scale to modern high resolution displays it refines, polishes and actually improves the graphics to levels comparable to many current games in the tycoon genre.
However no just being content with just creating a high resolution version of theme hospital the CorsixTH team have also improved the game beyond the retail release. Game difficulty options, customisable keyboard shortcuts, a user interface most suitable for higher resolutions, the ability to zoom and multiple languages all now grace this brilliant game.
It is to be noted that the game isn’t 100% stable. In the tens of hours i’ve played it has crashed but that is only to be expected with a game still in a beta phase.
Note – It has been brought to my attention that in order to play CorsixTH you require either the original game or demo installed on your PC. For installation help please refer to the ‘Getting started’ page on the CorsixTH website. http://code.google.com/p/corsix-th/wiki/GettingStarted
Hedgewars (Hedgewars 0.9.15)
Ok so let me get this out of the way right now. Hedgewars is essentially Worms with Hedgehogs. So if don’t like worms, hedgehogs or turn-based artillery action you can stop reading now.
I’ve always had an affinity for Team17’s subterranean warmongers. I vividly remember reading an Amiga Power/ Format magazine in comprehensive school while dodging work in Art & design lessons many many years ago. There was a double page spread with two gun touting worms facing each other down. Now anthropomorphic absurdities aside it looked cool then and still looks cool now. Whats not to love about a rocket launcher touting worm wearing a red Rambo styled headband? How about if it was a pink Hedgehog? and hedgehogs waging war on other hedgehogs.
Its difficult to continue talking about Hedgewars without any reference what-so-ever to Worms. In fact it would be near on impossible to talk about Hedgewars and not talk about Worms. Hedgewars for all intents and purposes is Worms but with Hedgehogs albeit with some small tweaks and unique comic leanings. Graphically hedgewars take its look from the stylised cartoon design of worms 2, with its bright colours, exaggerated explosions and many witty one liners.
Gameplay is simplistic with minimal skill required to perform rudimentary attacks, basic weapons just require line of sight to an enemy hedgehog and that you apply the enough power power to reach said hedgehog. Things get a little tricky when you start attempting to bounce grenades off walls or start throwing watermelon bombs with its secondary concussive explosions.
Hedgewars has a fully realised single-player game mode with an evolving campaign mode and a training mode that will guide to through the minutia of using the games multiple weapons and utilities. But it is the games multi-player where you will spend the majority of your time. Whether local play through hot swapping controls, via a LAN or even online on the official server. This is one free game that is worth more than the asking price.
Hedgewars is practically available on all non-console platforms and the hedgewars team even have ambitions release an android version. They hope to have a demo available on the android marketplace this Summer.