Who Needs the Outdoors? A List of Fun Web Sites to Explore

August heat is already here in full force and the summer camps are about to end.

August heat is already here in full force, the camps are about to end and the alternatives left for amusing the kids without getting drenched in sweat are diminishing. This is the time to eke a few more moments of relative quiet out of the computer as well as some pleasure for parents and children together.

The penguin and the paintbrush

Tux Paint is a free and open code drawing program. Not surprisingly, the logo features Tux, the Linux spokespenguin. The program offers a large number of filters and amusing toys that make using it into a game.


Newtonian crayons

Crayon Physics is a game in which players try to help a ball roll around a world drawn in simple colors and reach a star. In order to do so, it is necessary to draw accessories that will help the ball avoid the obstacles in a way that corresponds to the internal physics of the game. The full game costs $20, but there is a pretty decent free trial version available.


Rock out with your keyboard out

One of the biggest revolutions in the world of games in recent years has been in music. Even copyright holders of works by groups like The Beatles have joined in. But in order to get in the world of Guitar Hero, Rock Band and the like, one has to shell out some clams. Anyone looking for a good, open code musical game with a supportive community and without having to break the bank can try Frets on Fire. The keyboard, preferably wireless, gets held sideways and is turned into a guitar for the game.


Another game along the same lines is Audiosurf, which won the people's choice award at the Independent Games Festival in 2008.


Blueberry fields forever

It is also worth checking out this year's first-prize winner at the festival: Blueberry Garden by Swede Erik Svedang. The experimental game lets you explore a surreal universe. "Blueberry Garden was so beautiful I almost wanted to put it in a ribbon-wrapped box with a kitten and cry a little," Bobbie Johnson of the Guardian wrote about the game. It costs $5 for the full version.


Hogan's cyber heroes

For slightly older children and adults looking specifically for action games, EA recently released Battlefield Heroes, a humorous and free version of the successful series of multi-player war games. Here you can choose between joining the German or British forces and among three types of soldiers, regular infantrymen, a commando or a gunner. The game takes place in the third person and combines jeeps, tanks and planes for the fighting.


A classic game you can play from your browser is Quake Live, based on the graphics engine of Quake 3. Here you fight in futuristic settings against human and computerized gladiators.