[’Free Play’ is a regular weekly column by Ancil Anthropy about freely downloadable video games, and the people who make them. This week’s column profiles d_of_i.]

Most of the games on d_of_i's website were originally blog posts, physics toys created in Processing, a Java-based programming environment aimed at non-coders, but the blog entries were so frequently linked that they ended up on d_of_i's frontpage. d_of_i's creations, which now include Flash- and Windows-based games, revolve around a set of physical laws which the player must learn to manipulate. Some of them are just toys, sandboxes where the player is free to tinker with the rules and pieces endlessly.

Sand sand sand


World of Sand may be d_of_i's most impressive toy, a literal sandbox. Sand and water, salt and oil pour from the sky, and the player can use the mouse to draw walls, creating containers, fountains, mixing pots. The substances all interact in different ways—plants grow when exposed to water, burn when exposed to fire. Oil will ignite if it catches flame.

Being a toy, it has no real goal—you just tinker with it as much or as little as you like. More game-like variants exist: slay slugs with salt or extinguish fire with sand. Similiar is War of the Hell, where the player dangles a rope that tiny, damned stickpeople grab onto, and swinging your mouse will toss them up towards heaven (the top of the screen). Later, d_of_i combined the game with World of Sand to produce Hell of Sand.

Other Java-based games worth playing include Rolling Omusubi, a game about a spinning rice ball's journey home, and its more interesting sequel in which the rice treat swings from its nori wrapping like Umihara Kawase. X Snow Cats is a kitten bobsled race—the Z and X keys are used to make the player's cat turn in mid-air, executing flips and backflips for points.

Neko neko neko


In addition to blog-posted browser games, d_of_i has also released a few downloadable games for Windows. In Cannon Cat, the titular kitten uses a mounted gun to propel itself through polygonal caverns while fighting giant sprite enemies. The mouse is used to aim and fire—shooting backwards will propel the kitten forward. The goal is to get the cat to the rightmost end of the cave before the time limit expires, but the exit usually won't open until all the enemies have been defeated—also with the cannon, backfire still applies.

The same cast of monsters makes an appearance in Magic Puppet (guide to downloading from Vector for non-Japanese readers), but in this game they have to be hacked up with sword slashes and magic attacks. The player controls a wooden puppet that can change its size by consuming mushrooms, and explode into pieces as a special attack.

Finally, be sure to check out...

Egg Way is a short but tricky game that asks the player to use the drawing mechanic of the sand games to guide an egg into a frying pan.

[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.]