It's a weekend of Ludum Dare! The solo game development competition sends people on a quest to create a game from scratch in 48 hours based on a theme. The results are always interesting, though don't expect a long and polished product from two days of work. The theme for the most recent Ludum Dare competition was "caverns", and voting for the finalists is open for another week!
Beacon (Windows, 2.5MB, free) - A quiet little platformer with excellent visuals and an even better premise. When a game can invoke a strong emotion, it's done its job. Beacon is one such game. Alone in a darkened cave, a beacon of light suddenly floats down from above. Your only companion as you walk and jump around the cave, you find yourself oddly attached to its presence. You won't mind waiting for it to catch up, and if it has to take a different path than you, you get just a little bit frightened.
Broken Cave Robot (Windows, 12MB, free) - You have fallen into a cave. Maybe the fall erased your memory? Maybe you're a newborn. All you know is your batteries are running low and you have five minutes to get out of here alive. Explore the darkened cave and find a number of power-ups (wall climb, high jump boots, bigger flashlight, etc.) in this excellent minimalistic sidescrolling adventure by Matt Thorson. Great music, a surprisingly intriguing environment, but I'm not a big fan of the pressure to explore with such a restricted time limit.
NICE CAVE! (Mac/Windows, 5MB, free) - A beautifully colored 3D cave exploration game with locked gates, keys, and penguins! Look around the world using the mouse (side-to-side only, sorry!) and walk using the [WASD] keys. Touch keys to pick them up, and if you have the right key on your person, gates are opened automatically. You can play the game online using the Unity plugin, but the download is a much smoother experience.
Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows Vista and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!