Broke? Game store closed for the night? If you’re reading this then you’ve got everything you need to play some excellent free games right now! In Cheap as Free, we look at fantastic games that won’t cost you a penny, often developed by people who just love games as much as you do.
Super Product Line is pretty short, but it pulls off some interesting things while you play it. For the horror buff and NES fanatic in me, it manages to perfectly capture those moments from Dr Chaos when monsters came shooting out of rooms to chase me around the building. I hated Dr Chaos, though, but Super Product Line manages to maintain those intense moments of panic while still being a fun game.
It’s got an odd premise. You seem to be stuck inside the factory you work at during a zombie attack, and your job is to get out of the building and avoid being eaten. You can select one of three available workers in the plant, each of which has a strange description. They’re all racist, so at least that’s easy to remember, I guess. None of the workers seemed to have any difference in how they played, although one of the unlockable characters doesn’t use ammo or guns, so there is some slight variance when you played with him. Who you’ve chosen does have one effect on the game at the very end, so make sure you’ve been paying attention lest you end up with a big screw you from the game when you’re just about to win. It’s not as rough of a screw job as the one from Megaman Sprite Game (A permanent game over requiring you to restart your game if you ever walked on the grass instead of the walkways), but you’ll wish you’d paid closer attention at the start of the game.
It’s graphically simple, although the silly movement for the characters is smooth in its own funny way. There is a dark filter over the area you’re standing in that creates a nice lighting effect given the limitations of the game jam this was made for. The zombies, as simple as they are, are actually a little unsettling. There’s something about the way their heads are shaped that makes them look like their skulls have been split apart from their infection. It’s like an 8-bit version of the creatures from The Last of Us, as the heads just look really wrong.
The zombies would still look goofy without some help. The game makes them a little more frightening by having them move quickly, as they move just a hair faster than the main character. This is made more troublesome by the lack of ammo in the game. There is technically enough ammo in the game to kill everything, but typically you’ll meet your enemies with an empty clip. The zombies also tend to travel in packs of two, something that’s not an issue when you have enough ammo, but is a nightmare if your gun is empty and they’re standing in front of a door you need to enter.
The music that plays when they see you is jarring as well. It’s a very low tone, and one that felt like it hit a primal part of my brain. It gives the zombies a similar feeling as the creatures from Lone Survivor, where having one see you made this horrible sound play that made you just want to turn and run in the other direction. It’s great to see the effect here, although it loses some of its power when you have enough bullets to kill your attacker. Still, at one point you run into a lot more than two zombies, and having that tone play while you’re scrambling to survive helped keep me feeling panicked and a little scared.
It’s not going to scare you too badly, though. When you have some ammo the enemies are really easy to dispatch; only requiring that you fire in the right direction to hit them. The game mentioned something about doing more damage from close range, but I didn’t find that made any difference. Also, you can often just go in another direction when you see a zombie if you have no ammo. The game has enough to kill almost everything, so you typically just have to explore the surroundings a bit better to find some more.
Looking around showed me some neat visuals, too. I am continually surprised at the stuff that 8-bit graphics can portray, such as the hanged man in one of the offices. It’s gross, but also leans a little bit toward being funny. There was also a nice fire effect when I tried to leave using the fire escape. It can all look very simple and blocky, but considering this was thrown together for a game jam, it’s pretty impressive.
The game has lots of odd little jokes in it as you play. You can see some of the game’s humor in the character descriptions at the start, and once again when you try to leave using the stupid fire escape. There were a couple more fun nods to things like Monty Python, and the ending did have me shaking my head and chuckling. It kept the piece fun while still managing a horror tone, and helped me enjoy the game a lot more.
It can get tedious at one point, though. The building is fun to explore and relatively easy to get around, but there is one point where you’re moving through the ducts that is an absolute chore. There are dozens of paths that branch off the ductwork in the building, and you’re forced to look for the one path that leads into an office. It took some time and was pretty dull, although the developer, Swofl, did number many of the areas so that you could keep track of where you’d gone so you didn’t get lost. It was helpful, but I would have liked to see more areas instead.
Picking up items took some practice as well. It’s pretty easy to tell what items you can interact with, but being able to do so is another story. I thought I had filled my inventory or something when I couldn’t pick up some bullets, but I just wasn’t properly centered on the object to pick it up. I find the easiest way to get around that is to hammer on the down button as you walk over something, as I could pick it up every time that way. That issue sometimes makes it difficult to interact with things in the environment as well, and it made me have a hard time with some puzzles even when I knew what I should be doing.
The music, while setting a decent mood, plays for a little too long. The game isn’t that long, a half hour at most, but beyond the zombie appearance music only one very simple song plays during the whole game. Again, this was for a game jam and was put together in a hurry, but that single song does really start to drone before the game’s done. It does set the mood effectively when you first hear it, giving the game a sombre, eerie feel, but its power falls apart after listening to it for too long.
I still really liked where Super Product Line was going. On its own, it’s a fun but simple game — one that’s pretty strong considering the short development time frame. It had some neat monsters, decent tension, and an ability to laugh at itself. It also shows seeds of what could end up being a pretty solid horror game if Swofl felt like taking the concept and tweaking it a bit further. I’m interested in what might happen to my poor office manager once he’s crossed to the other building. I’d happily take him out for another spin instead of leaving him there on that dark rooftop. As is, it’s a fun horror diversion for someone who wishes the NES had more decent horror games.