by Chris Barylick
August 5th, 2005
As summer's 97 degree days slip by, a combination of free time, air conditioning and the best of shareware gaming have created a comfortable geek nest in which to dwell.
Kill Dr. Cote
First on this list is Kill Dr. Cote, Justin Ficarrotta's Mac OS X recreation of the classic overhead twitch-shooter. Simple, to the point, practically soaked in gore and perfect for both a quick five minute game as well as an hour plus of seeing how far you can go without dying, Kill Dr. Cote recreates a classic Smash TV arcade feel in which players must defend themselves from an arena full of encroaching zombies using only a gun, grenades and whatever weapons they happen to find.
True, the idea may not be completely original, but Ficarrotta recreates a classic almost to perfection. Kill Dr. Cote even drew enough attention to draw the adoring glances of the monkey-lovin' Freeverse Software, which tapped him to help create their Kill Monty shooter using his work as a template. Overall game play is both fun and challenging and tactics become critical as players must learn to control a veritable tide of opponents rushing towards them via limited means. Strategies may range from confronting the mass head-on to aiming grenades towards the center mass of the mob to a movement pattern that strafes around the edge of the screen and focuses on remaining alive.
Free to all without registration fees and requiring only Mac OS X 10.0 or later to run, Kill Dr. Cote is a 6.6 MB download that occupies a mere 8.5 MB of hard drive space when decompressed. Freeverse's Kill Monty, which functions as an iconic amalgamation of Kill Bill, The Matrix and several of Freeverse's own titles as well as Kill Dr. Cote, requires a 500 MHz or faster G3 processor, 256 MB of RAM and 20 MB of hard drive space. The game will run in a demo mode for several launches before its serial number (available for $12.95) is required to activate it.
Perhaps one of the strangest shareware games I've ever seen, this is definitely one of the best. Lugaru by Wolfire Software, tells the story of Turner, an anthropomorphic rabbit warrior fighting to avenge his slain family and village in the context of a three dimensional fighting game.
Unlike anything you've ever played, Lugaru uses an adjustable camera system with standard movement and control keys to allow players to move across the terrain, grab weapons, jump and initiate combo attacks against opponents. One of the most technologically advanced shareware titles you may ever see, the game features fully detailed models, intricate textures, extensive levels (which come in handy when sneaking around a group of enemies or in luring individual opponents out for one on one combat), extraordinarily precise rag doll physics (mistime a landing as you jump onto a slanted surface and the character will fall) and a sound system that makes you glad you bought your external speakers, Wolfire has done their homework and it shows.
The term "shareware" hasn't always carried the most professional associations with it, and, like anything, there are shades of gray. Often ranked among fledgling, "Hello World"-esque programming attempts, there exists a stigma that the quality of the work will be amateurish. Whether a labor of love or something else, Wolfire has made Lugaru a lightning-paced, well-plotted game with a dark feel and a genuinely gripping story line comparable to the best of any game commercially available for any platform. This is a tale of revenge for a protagonist that's lost everything and the game pulls no punches where its plot is concerned.
Finally, the game is simply fun with a look all its own. Head into a battle and the computer will test your limits, tactics and reflexes. Attempt the same technique two or three times in a row and the computer will catch on, block the effort, then change its own tactics as a result. Take on multiple enemies at once and the computer will make no concessions to the player by focusing one a single battle between the player and a given opponent while other opponents "orbit" the battle until their turn to fight arrives.
Attack a mob, and you have just that to defeat. A mob. And unless you can figure out a way to kill multiple opponents within seconds of their taking notice of you, they will make every effort to beat you to death. One of the nicest touches of the game is the idea of perception as to your character's condition. Absorb a series of blows and Turner will appear scarred, complete with deep scratches and other wounds. Near-death status will cause the screen to darken and blur, the character needing to clear the scene of the battle in order to heal and continue fighting.
The mark of any great game is one in which you can hit "the wall" (namely a challenging point that proves to be overwhelming) a few times, yet still want to keep playing. With Lugaru, even if an opponent wipes the floor with you several times in a row, there's a drive to come back later with a new tactic in mind and try this out as opposed to becoming bored with the game and never playing it again. Between the story, game play and overall inventiveness of new techniques to use (including a move in which you can leap behind an unsuspecting opponent and break their neck or impale them), the player is all but compelled to go back and pass the level.
Lugaru, a 25.9 MB download, retails for a $19.95 shareware registration fee and is available for both Windows and Mac OS X, requires a 400 MHz G3 processor, video card with at least 8 MB of VRAM and 64 MB of RAM. The game takes up 29.9 MB of hard drive space upon installation. One of the finest shareware games it's ever been my pleasure to play, please download this, give it a chance and see what you think, especially considering the fact that David Rosen essentially is Wolfire Software and took on the modeling, coding, writing and almost every other aspect of the project with almost no help whatsoever. Encourage this person, for his work is nothing short of incredible and given the consistent updates the game has received since its initial 1.0 release, the title will not fester on a back burner if he has anything to say about it.
Once again, if you've seen a cool shareware game, mod, utility or anything else nifty in the Mac universe, please let me know. In the meantime, stay cool, have fun with the rest of your summer and I'll be back next week.
Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.
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