Eight affordable games from Ubuntu Software Center

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Whereas Edge has a cube coursing through the different levels, the Gravi player must navigate a one-eyed blue energy ball through various alien traps (Figure 10). Among the deadly obstacles are flames, spikes, rollers, and lava. The player cannot jump as in other jump-and-run games; instead, he has a kind of magnetic lasso. A mouse click propels a small plasma ball that draws the blue energy ball along. In this way, you can lurch your way over precipices and falls and reach higher playing levels.

Figure 10: Gravi: The blue energy ball on the wall to the right pulls the one-eyed Gravi along.

Players navigate the small ball through 40 levels with difficulty increasing fairly quickly. To pass the later levels, you must control the gravitational lasso well and often fire it quickly in succession. Graphically, the US$ 8 Gravi has little to offer. You roll through a barren industrial plant that has the same old blocks. Regardless, Gravi is an entertaining skill test for the casual gamer.

Hotline Miami

Although Hotline Miami at first glance looks like a harmless arcade game from the early 1990s, it's a brutal and very violent action game for adults. The player takes on the role of a nameless contract killer (Figure 11) working in Miami in 1989. His contract assignments are a relentless mayhem of brutal beatings and bloody murders (Figure 12). Each hit from an enemy is deadly: As soon as the protagonist dies, you have to start the whole section over again. Consequently, it's important to plan your way through the levels carefully; stealth is advised. The anti-hero can arm himself with up to 35 different weapons, from a lead pipe to a pump-action shotgun. The latter unfortunately is rather noisy and attracts patrolling enemies.

Figure 11: Hotline Miami: The serial killer gets contracts by cryptic phone messages.
Figure 12: Hotline Miami gives points for especially brutal murders and isn't stingy with pixelized blood.

In the course of the game, you're continually given animal masks, one of which the protagonist puts on before each hit. Each mask gives the contract killer special abilities or even changes his environment (Figure 13). Thus, you can don the rabbit mask to run faster or wear the pig's mask to pick up more weapons. The game gives points for every kill and especially for the approach taken. More weapons become available with more points.

Figure 13: Hotline Miami: Before every hit, you must select an animal mask to provide you with particular abilities.

The game only partially reveals who's behind all this murderous activity. A suspenseful story unfolds primarily through interspersed cartoon-like scenes. The story changes depending on what you do. Depending on the choices you make, you'll see one of two alternative endings. The difficulty level of this US$ 10 game is extremely high, and you usually have to repeat each section several times. Hotline Miami glorifies power and murder, but it's so surreal that it's almost a satire. The background story in the second part provides food for thought.

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