Exploration is most of the reason why many of us play video games. When a developer crafts an entire world for you to play in, it's easy to get giddy with the concept of probing every corner and climbing on top of every boulder. This week's selection features several games that are heavy on the discovery aspect of gaming. Whether it's a magical world filled with moonlight or a dark pixel cave, you never know what's around the corner until you look...
Dreamside Maroon (Windows, 62MB, free) - A truly beautiful game that will have you enchanted from the moment you start playing. A third person exploration game at its core, Dreamside Maroon is all about Aster and his wish to reach the moon. Using a lantern on a stick, Aster can control the growth of a vine in any direction, using it to climb higher and explore some of the strange floating islands in the night sky. It's a breathtaking (but brief) experience that's as magical as it is imaginative. The tiny screenshot to the right doesn't do the game justice, you should download it to see its full glory.
Focus (Windows, 17.5MB, free) - A brilliantly-executed platform puzzle game by Jesse Venbrux, creator of the Karoshi series of games. In Focus, you take control of a little guy trapped in a cave stuffed with traps, missile-firing robots, and lots of other baddies. Early on you learn how to use "focus mode", an ability that lets you teleport yourself anywhere the blue circle extends. Momentum is applied when you teleport, allowing you to move yourself to surprisingly exclusive parts of the screen. This mechanic is superbly implemented and the puzzles require you to think of new ways to use it in almost all of the 50 levels. As Venbrux put it himself, "very solid, difficult-but-let's-try-one-more-time gameplay".
Saut (Windows, 6.2MB, free) - If Canabalt were a downloadable game and the main character couldn't run, it would be Saut. The nighttime world is filled with hazards to avoid, and as a blocky little character who can only leap forward, it's tough to stay safe. Explore the landscape by controlling the distance of your jump with the [spacebar]. It's difficult to do at first, but once you get the physics down, you'll have a great time!
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!