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Freeware Friday: Clean Asia

Welcome to Freeware Friday, a weekly column showcasing excellent games that you can play free of charge!

Well, we've covered side-scrollers for the past three weeks, so it's time to return to the topic of the very first Freeware Friday: shoot-'em-ups. A genre of fast fingers and faster minds, it's probably the most prolific of all the freeware genres, having countless games in its ranks. One such game, which is also one of the best, is the incomparable Clean Asia by cactus.

Clean Asia has a very bizarre story. In the future, mankind's eyes (yes, eyes) leave them to go to the moon to develop weapons technology in a bid to take over the human race. Upon their return, they take over several countries in Asia, most notably Thailand, China, and Korea. Two gifted pilots, who have a sixth sense and can fight the eyes without seeing, fly off in their custom-made ships to destroy the invasion and save humanity. The two pilots cover their empty sockets with different means. The pilot of the Attractor uses a double eye-patch, where his companion, the pilot of the Reflector, uses shaded glasses. This is about all the story there is to it, and rightly so. It is a shmup, after all.

After you get past the main screens, you are given the option of which ship to pilot, and which zone to start in. Upon picking both, you will fly off to go defeat the sinister invading eyes in a certain course. Any zone is fine to start, as they are all about the same difficulty and can all teach you the mechanics of the game fairly easily. Speaking of difficulty, this game is hard. It's not for people who get frustrated easily or those who lack hand-eye coordination. It's a ruthless stab at anyone who plays it, but as you conquer the challenges that are thrown at you, you'll start to appreciate the underlying beauty of the game.

The graphics are very simple and appear to be vector graphics, with a trance vibe oozing from every pore. Everything is brightly neon colored, making enemies easily noticeable and lending a hypnotic air to the game. Backgrounds scroll by at breakneck pace, eyes blink at you, and things are always changing colors and pulsating. It all adds up to a game that could probably give you a seizure, but you'd like it.

The sound is rather interesting. While the normal sound effects are the default explosion, dash, and other such things, the music is what captures your attention from the start of the first level. It's a techno beat with some strange vocal scatting over the background in Thailand, an aquatic beat in China, and an industro-trance song in Korea. They are not appealing at first most of the time, but soon you start grooving with the beat, and suddenly it's highly enjoyable and makes the game that much more immersive.

The ships themselves are completely different, so lets start with the Attractor. This ship is unusual in that it has no weapons. Instead it rams the opponent, causing chunks to fly everywhere that it can then attract to itself and release in either a stream of bullets or as a single shotgun-styled blast. Just keep in mind that when you ram an opponent, you will actually go through them, so make sure that you will come out of the dash somewhere you survive.

The Reflector plays much more like a traditional shooting game than the Attractor, for those who can't stomach the unconventional gameplay. Holding down a button shoots, while holding another charges the shot, allowing you to fire off a single powerful shot. However, charging causes you to freeze in place, so can be highly dangerous. As you gather debris from enemies, you will level up, and having certain amounts of debris can give you shields and a bomb-styled weapon.

That's all there is to Clean Asia. It's a sublime shooter that offers both something completely non-conventional and something very traditional. Coupled with high-scores, different paths through the stages, and various strategies for each ship, you have a lot of replayability packed into a 6 mb game that took only 2 months to complete. You can download the game through our very own downloads section.

For another look at freeware games, take a look at Joystiq's Free Game Club weekly feature!


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