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Free games: The 15 best sites on the internet

Free games sites and the best downloads

Bonus: Free downloadable games we love

Unless you're playing games at work (and we know some of you are), it's very likely that your internet connection will bomb out occasionally. But don't let being offline interfere with your gameplay. There are loads of free games you can play in a few minutes (you have to do SOME work today, don't you) and are available for download.

Here's a taste:

And Yet It Moves

Side-scrollers are the 2D games, epitomised by Super Mario Bros and Sonic the Hedgehog in their younger days. But mention them to newer gamers who cut their teeth on 3D action games like Castle Wolfenstein, and you'll get only a blank stare. I mean, blanker than usual. And Yet It Moves offers proof that simple 2D side-scrolling games still have plenty to offer.

The typical side-scroller puts a character in an underground labyrinth from which they must escape by running, jumping, and solving the occasional puzzle. And Yet It Moves similarly starts off with a young man trapped in a cavern. Instead of being made out of the usual Lego-like blocks and hackneyed texture mats - so 20th century - this cave is fashioned from crumpled paper. The character is made from simple line drawings.

Despite its simple graphics, And Yet It Moves is not a simplistic game. It makes gravity a key element by allowing you to rotate the world. (That explains the title, which is based on Galileo's defiant heretical claim that the earth revolves.) A false turn can send our young hero plummeting onto spiked rocks or put him in the trajectory of a falling boulder. In the second level, solving puzzles requires an understanding of the laws of physics evoked by each turn of the earth. The game is clever in concept and ground-breaking in design.

Flow

Even more abstract and just as fascinating is Flow. This game is reminiscent of Edwin A. Abbott's classic Flatland, a mathematical novel about creatures in a world where a third dimension is unknown. Flow is certainly the most relaxing game you will ever play that involves killing other creatures. In it, you are some sort of microscopic life form that looks vaguely like the petroglyphs drawn by cliff-dwelling tribes.

You swim though a primordial soup looking for smaller forms of microscopic life to consume. Your goal is simple: Eat and evolve. Other creatures are obeying the same primordial mandate, of course, and they're bigger than you are. There are no sudden movements, and the mechanics of the play assure that each move made by the abstracted creatures is as graceful as the soothing background music, even while they are being eaten.

Warning Forever

There are occasions - such as when your internet connection has broken for the fifth time, or when the stupidest person in the office has got your promotion - when nothing will do but a good, noisy, fiery ka-BOOM! Like what you get with Warning Forever.

The great thing about Warning Forever - I have no idea what the title means - is its simplicity. If you have at least three fingers spread over two hands and a passing familiarity with arcade games of the '70s, you have everything you need to play. You're at the bottom of the screen, moving warily back and forth, as you shoot gracefully wavy streams of - oh, let's call them 'vortex torpedoes' - at a mother of a mothership.

Right off the bat, you've got a fighting chance. But it diminishes rapidly with each new level, which of course brings a form of new spectacular weaponry that the mothership uses to kick your butt in a new spectacular way. The retro graphics are primitive compared to those of most games, but so what? You didn't launch Warning Forever because it's Art Appreciation Day. You needed it to vent some of your inner killer before you take it out on the next person who wishes you a 'nice day'.

Rrootage

What's that you say? Oh, it is Art Appreciation Day? In that case you should launch Rrootage. It's essentially the same type of game play as Warning Forever. You scoot back and forth at the bottom the screen firing off lasers and bombs to take out the enemy ship, which is half dreadnought, half work of art.

The action is more intense than in Warning Forever, but better still are the amorphous, semi-abstract artwork and the high-energy techno background music. You could run Rrootage, and then not touch a key until your ship disintegrates, and your body would be running on pure adrenalin. If you're the type who needs a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, Rrootage will pick you up and throw you out the window.

Astro Battle 2

If you think the spaceships in Warning Forever or Rrootage aren't good enough, why not just build your own? You can, with Astro Battle 2, a game where skill in assembling a deadly fighting machine from power generators, thrusters, cannons, and cockpits is equally as important as your skill with a joy stick. To test your theories of weaponry, the game features constantly raging fights on Astro Battle's home page. The fighting itself is top-down 2D, which is generally lame but works well for testing the strength of armaments and munitions instead of a person's fighting skill.

Scorched 3D

One of the best games of the olden days was Worms, which really wasn't about worms unless the worms you know are capable of calculating bomb trajectories and elevating cannons to try to take each other out. Scorched 3D is the ultimate extension of Worms. You're still lobbing shots at each other, but the game's full-colour 3D extends to the rippling ocean waves and the gently falling snow. Full camera movement, zoom, and rotation let you scope out the enemy and catch all the action - and, of course, the magnificent, billowing fireballs.

Scorched 3D begs you to modify it by allowing you to create custom battlefields and cities just so you can blow them up. But best of all, cannon balls have evolved into missiles that screech toward their targets on tails of flame. The armament even includes multiple warhead rockets to spread the explosions over a bigger territory. In true Worms tradition you can play by taking polite turns, sweating it out as your enemy takes his time calculating range and wind. But you can also engage other players over a network in a real-time, catch-as-catch-can battle. Who said the apocalypse won't be fun?


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