[’Free Play’ is a new, regular weekly column by Ancil Anthropy about freely downloadable video games, and the people who make them. This week’s column profiles excellent Japanese 'doujin' PC Flash game website babarageo.]

The first thing you see when you visit babarageo is a game—a tiny shooting game, just fifty pixels tall. Move the ship with your mouse, dodge bullets, left click to fire, shoot enemies. At 1000 points the image below the game will change to something different. Maybe it’ll look like a screen from Dig Dug. Maybe if you click the cherries, your tiny ship will get a new weapon.

This game serves as the banner of doujin developer babara’s website. In a small way it’s every game on the site: simple gameplay, charming pixels, and nods to older games that reward the player who picks up on them. And it’s in Flash, seamlessly integrated into babara’s frontpage.

Kill ghosts, challenge skeletons


babara’s influences are reflected in the population of babarageo - tiny tributes to Dragon Quest, Wizardry, Game & Watch-style LCD games. My friend Tim W. pointed out Great Kung Fu G on his blog—less a remake than a reinvention of Irem’s Jackie Chan title Kung Fu Master. In babara’s Flash version, enemies march toward the player to be swatted away by left-click combos, and dragon-headed bosses announce themselves with haughty laughter before striding onto the screen.

A less scoring-oriented title is Xenoraider, a kind of abridged Legend of Zelda. Xeno fights monsters, rescues fairies, and fetches items for bearded elders in a quest for a lost princess. Our hero swings a huge sword, but enemies do no damage—an acknowledgement that in contemporary Zelda games battles exist more to pace the game than challenge the player. Xenoraider’s solution is elusive.

Thousands of battleships


Other games take advantage of the fact that they’re on the internet — Dezao stars a tiny figure in a red cap who runs and jumps, collects coins and avoids enemies. The coins, enemies and pits are all positioned by visitors to the site: the game includes an editor which allows anyone to design a stage and add it to the game. There isn’t much room for fancy design in an auto-scrolling game with three lanes and only three objects, though. But Dezao wasn’t babara’s last experiment with user-created content.

Boschvos is a manic shooter to which anyone can contribute an enemy space fortress, bristling with lasers and cannons to fire at the player. The game currently boasts a fleet of over 350,000 user-made warships. Poking through them (the database seems glitchy—you may have to hold RIGHT until you reach playable stages) reveals gunboats shaped like boats and moons and Doraemon. I found a laser-armed fish that made me think of Darius. Other battleships are composed of a single weaponless tile, floating in space. And others are rigged to explode at a single shot.

The surprising part is that they’re all very playable. I don’t think I’ve encountered a design that seemed impossible to beat. And of course you can browse and skip through the entire fleet with the arrow keys. There are incentives for destroying enemy ships, though-though the ship you start with can’t pick up power-ups, victories unlock additional ships that can, each equipped with a different weapon.

Finally, be sure to check out...

...Robodome, a game of hefty robot combat that’s mostly about manuevering your stodgy bot to get a shot at your opponent.

[Ancil Anthropy is a game developer and space invader. She fills dessgeega.com with lots of good stuff and writes for a bunch of places, including The Gamer’s Quarter and The Independent Gaming Source.]