words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by John Thyer for PC, originally released in 2013.
Fugitive begins with a familiar science fiction premise: You are an astronaut alone on an alien world. You set out from your ship and make your way through the dangerous landscape, destroying hostile creatures along the way. However, unlike most games where you are slowly building your skills and strength throughout your journey, here you are slowly losing your abilities.

You begin at maximum strength with five units of health, a 2x jump, and the ability to double jump. At your disposal is a powerful laser that can fire a long beam across the screen, as well as a shield which can defend you from enemy attacks and even deflect missiles.

You can only have one laser blast on the screen at a time, but given the small number of enemies in most rooms and their predictable patrol routes, this rarely places any restriction on the player. The shield, on the other hand, is considerably more difficult to use, but arguably even more useful. The shield can only be activated for a brief moment, and mis-timing its use will cause you to take damage. However, there are numerous missile-launching enemies that can only be destroyed by deflecting their missiles back at them. In fact, it’s entirely possible to complete the game using only the shield and not firing a single shot.

The world is made up of interconnected single-screen environments. Enemies respawn when you leave the screen and return, but there are only a handful of instances where you might find yourself revisiting a previous screen, as progression is entirely linear.

In addition to the various enemies, caverns are also lined with insta-kill spikes, requiring adept use of your jump and double jump abilities. There are also a number of multi-screen falling sequences that may cause flashbacks to fans of VVVVVV. At one point, you must also contend with darkness, using spike and enemy placement to clue you in to possible pitfalls, and the occasional blast of your laser rifle to check for obstructions ahead.

You must regularly contend with water as well, including sections where currents push you backward. At the start of the game, you have the ability to remain underwater for as long as you like, but this is one of the first abilities you lose. From here, you are instead given an oxygen meter, requiring that you move quickly through underwater sections before your air runs out. This can make enemy-filled underwater areas particularly difficult, although many of these areas have bubbles as well, allowing you to refill your oxygen meter. The bubbles also push you upward, forcing you to contend with enemies and spikes while being pushed around the screen.

Basic platforming and enemy destruction become more complex as you go, including sequences where you must double jump around platforms, move through areas with hidden pitfalls, and even destroy enemies and deflect missiles in midair. You will regularly face turret walls that fire a barrage of missiles at you, leaving you to time multiple shield activations in a row. Fortunately, checkpoints appear frequently, and these also restore your health.

Part of the game’s difficulty comes from the fact that your health is steadily dwindling. You begin the game with a maximum of 5 units, but there are several points throughout your adventure where you will lose an ability and/or lose one unit from your maximum health. So, while the game gets steadily more difficult, your ability to sustain damage is also steadily reduced.

The game is presented in Grayscale and uses lighting and music to create a lonely and foreboding atmosphere. While there is nothing in the way of overt storytelling, there is an underlying narrative. The game is short and meant to be played in a single sitting, although you may also reload your most recent checkpoint from the title screen.

Fugitive was created by John Thyer and released as a freeware title. The game features music from the Newgrounds Audio Portal, as well as some “borrowed” assets from other games. John’s only previous release was another freeware game entitled Quaratine.

Quarantine is a puzzle platformer where the player controls a small rectangular being that must travel through an environment filled with lights and colored blocks. The player only has two controls: the ability to jump, and the ability to alternate red and blue blocks between solid and transparent. Solid blocks may be used as platforms, whereas transparent blocks may be passed through freely. This allows for situations where you must jump from a solid red block, change the block status in midair, and land on a now-solid blue block.

Later, spikes are introduced into the equation, creating situations where you may need to turn them transparent in order to pass through them safely. Walking off either side of the screen causes you to warp back around to the other side, as does falling through the hole in the bottom of the room. Progress is made by exiting the screen marked with a flashing light, which eventually leads you to the next level. The game is comprised of just a handful of screens and, like Fugitive, the game is meant to be completed in a single sitting. As in Fugitive, there is no overt story, although the game is not absent of narrative progression.