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Freeware Friday: Within A Deep Forest

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

Some art games take the approach that games can be more like interactive paintings than challenging games. That visuals and emotional imagery is more important than gameplay, and gameplay should be sacrificed at its expense. Within a Deep Forest is not one of these games. An artsy game, Within a Deep Forest is a freeware classic that manages to be both incredibly hard and very affecting at the same time. It's the characteristic style of Nifflas, and it is in full form in Within a Deep Forest. If you haven't played it, either ever or in a while, it's worth another look after all this time.

Within a Deep Forest revolves around two experiments by the diabolical Dr. Cliche to create an ice bomb to freeze the earth. The first is a failed experiment: you. The second succeeded. Now you must platform your way through the wilderness to reach Dr. Cliche's lair and disarm the freeze bomb before the future you have seen comes to fruition. In gameplay terms, this means jack squat. The story is only ever explained in the intro and the ending sequence, never anywhere else.

The main gameplay of Within a Deep Forest revolves around the gimmick of multiple ball types, each with its own control scheme, bounciness, and other attributes. The balls you can obtain are, in order from first to last:

  • The Blue Ball, which is the average ball in weight, handling, and bounciness. Has no special characteristics. As soon as you get your first new ball, you won't use this one much unless you need something straight up vanilla.
  • The Pink Ball, which is superior to the Blue Ball in bounciness, but is lighter and has trickier handling. The ball you will use most often, the Pink Ball requires a lot of skill in order to use correctly, so get lots of practice in.
  • The Metal Ball, which, as expected, is extremely heavy. Has half the bounciness of the Blue Ball, but double the weight and finer handling. Used primarily for breaking through rotted wood barriers, which are located throughout the world.
  • The Alien Ball, which is obtained from the alien spaceship. Has a much higher bounce than the Pink Ball, but is almost uncontrollable it zips around so fast and weighs as light as a feather. Extremely susceptible to wind.
  • The Glass Ball, which is unique. Has a bounce about as high as the Pink Ball and roughly the same handling, but has two characteristics no other ball has. First off, lasers pass through it, which is incredibly important later in the game. Second, if you hit any surface with too much velocity, the ball will break. Sets you up for easily the most frustrating platforming level in any game ever.
  • The Yoga Ball, which is a mix between the Blue Ball and the Alien Ball. Bounces extremely high, but moves slowly and gracefully through the air. Also has a wind resistance comparable to the Metal Ball. Extremely useful, as one might expect.
  • The Pathetic Ball, which is, as one would expect, pathetic. Half the bounce size and same handling and weight as the Blue Ball. Only used in one situation, and you never use it elsewhere. For obvious reasons.
  • The Rubber Ball, which is the final upgrade to the standard ball. Bounces the highest out of any ball, weighs the lightest, and moves the fastest. Use it to traverse around the map quickly before you get the last ball, and for making those humongous jumps.
  • The Cold Ball, which controls similar to the Pink Ball with one addition: it is the only ball that can travel through the time machine into the future. A future where the freezing bomb has exploded. Once used there, it serves no more purpose.
  • The Flying Ball, which is the best and final ball that you get. This baby is completely independent of any surface requirements. Just tap the up key and it will give little boosts into the air. Move fairly fast, but once you learn how to control it, it is the best by a long shot.

The balls are all unique characters in their own right, and the levels accentuate this. The game is exceedingly hard as a result, with most levels being tailored to a specific ball. Perhaps the hardest is the glass level, which is ridiculously difficult for most players due to the pixel-perfect timing required to move forward. All of the levels are hard, however, so don't get complacent if you are doing a little easy. We promise the game is coming to kick your ass.

Within a Deep Forest is very much a Nifflas game in that the graphics and sound are so simplistic and minimalist that they bring forth a sense of longing and loneliness. This is a characteristic of all of his work, but it is in full force in this game. The graphics are simple sprites, with the odd creature going about his business. You can't interfere with anything, so it is almost as if you aren't there. The moody, orchestral music adds to this ambiance, building a mental image of a dark and mysterious forest. Fits the title, certainly! It's games like this that show that you don't need to mangle games to create art: great, emotion-invoking games were there all along.

Within a Deep Forest is a freeware classic on par with the big names. Its developer knows exactly what he is doing, and crafted an excellent, incredibly hard platforming game that stirs right to the soul. Anybody wanting to try a new experience in both frustration and emotion should give Within a Deep Forest a try. You can download the game through Nifflas' website. Native to Windows, Mac and Linux users will have to emulate!

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


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