December 2004 Archives


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For the next few days I will be posting a countdown of the best Web games of 2004, from the perspective of this humble Web site. There were a lot of games posted here during 2004, too many for me to go through and count them all—I will leave that as an exercise for the reader. =)

Disclaimer: I do not profess to be an expert on anything, but I do know good gameplay when I experience it. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough time to play every game out there.

So, I want to thank everyone who helped make the selection a bit easier for me by voting for your favorite games. This countdown is as much your voice as it is my own, possibly even more so.

With that said, I also want to give a nod to all the fantastic Web games out there with which I have not yet been acquainted. You know who you are. I will hunt you down sooner or later and give you the praise you so rightly deserve.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for—ok, so maybe not, but play along with me, hmm?—Following are the games that did not quite make the Top 10 list this year, yet for one reason or another I feel they deserve more attention than they received...

PixelFieldPixelField: an action puzzle strategy game, this game shines from its intuitive gameplay, immersive physics, soothing soundtrack, and excellent replay value. The 3 red pixels that dangle and stretch as the base is moved around each level create a sensation in which you can almost feel the physics of the game. PixelField is one of my favorite Flash games ever, and one that I keep coming back to again and again. Click.
SaltacolSaltacol: also an action puzzle strategy game, it became an instant favorite when I found it earlier this month. Saltacol features excellent level design and gameplay, and just finishing the game (or even a level) is such sweet success. Infinite lives allows you to keep trying, yet the level design ensures that you won't soon put this game down. Excellence in design, physics, graphics, and replay value. Flash games don't get much better than this. Click.
BubblesBubbles: an action arcade game that excels in fun. This is one of those games that comes along every once in a while that you just know will be a classic the first time you play. And it's easy to see why: simple gameplay makes it accessible to anyone, awesome power-ups keep the pace frantic, and the arcade action keeps you coming back for more. Instant classic, major league fun. Click.
Warthog LaunchWarthog Launch: another action strategy game, and one with an explosive fun factor. And who doesn't like to blow things up once in a while? The best part is that Warthog Launch provides a gratifying stress-relieving experience allthewhile exercising the analytical portions of the brain. The sound effects alone make the experience worthwhile, and thus worthy of being included in this year's honorable mention. Click.
MudcraftMudcraft: a real-time strategy game created in Flash, and quite a remarkable accomplishment. And while this game offers familiar gameplay mechanics to anyone who has played any of the Blizzard *craft games, it offers a non-violent approach instead. And it works. Mudcraft features adorable mud people graphics and animation, voices, and a delightful soundtrack, packaged together with gameplay that is engaging and that will keep you busy for hours. Click.

Honorable honorable mention: Squares2, and DR3I.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (25 votes)
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Snow Plow gameBoston.com is hosting this Flash Snow Plow game in which the city of Boston has been hit by a Nor-easter and it's your job to plow the streets clean. Take control of the city plow using the arrow keys for movement: up is forward, down is reverse, while left and right turn the vehicle. Steering the plow is a challenge, as well it should be, while driving on snow-covered streets. There is even an occasional ice patch where steering is near impossible, therefore the game physics make the game challenging and fun.

Collect all the snowflakes to move on to the next level, packages offer additional time or bonus score, candy increases the bonus awarded once you complete a level. A cute and fun little seasonal Flash game. Click.


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Operation TigerEscort, scout and fight your way through enemy territory in an armed reconnaissance helicopter, the Tiger. This Flash game is also from the Australian military's website, and it offers up similar challenge difficulty as that found in Thunderbolt and Seahawk.

Operation Tiger features richer and deeper gameplay than the others, yet the controls are a bit more complicated. Movement of the helicopter is controlled with W (forward), A (left), S (back), and D (right) keys. Pressing Ctrl switches weapons between cannons, rockets, and hellfire missiles. Aim with the mouse and fire by clicking. Pressing space performs a defensive roll maneuver.

There is a lot to do in this game. You must escort a transport, protect it while clearing a path to the village, rescue civilians and escort them to the checkpoint, allthewhile being fired upon from all angles. If you're up to the task, that's only your first mission.

Play Operation Tiger


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Operation SeahawkMore military training Flash from the Australian government's website. The game Operation Seahawk has you piloting a navy Seahawk helicopter to fire torpedoes at enemy submarines and patrol boats, and to rescue stranded military personnel. The arrow keys control the craft, while the space bar fires torpedoes, picks up personnel, and is used to land on the ship as well.

Not a bad game, though the interface could be improved a bit. While I was trying to land on the frigate after the first mission was over, pressing the space bar launched torpedoes at it instead. One of the problems, I suppose, of using the same key for offensive and defensive maneuvers. Still, the suite of games offers serious challenges that mimick real-world scenarios.

For all those who just have to blow something up once in a while, these military games from Australia are just the ticket.

Play Operation Seahawk

If you like this type of game, check out Operation Thunderbolt, which I am happy to report is now back online.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (55 votes)
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Hamure-suOften it seems I come across a Flash game that is so very simple in design, and yet offers a remarkable gameplay experience. And by remarkable I mean gameplay that is easy to pick up, difficult to master, and compels you to play again and again. These types of games are the holy grail of game design: Simple, straightforward, accessible, with universal appeal. Probably not the next Halo or Doom, but they sure do engage people in astounding number.

Enter Hamure-su. A very simple game from Japan in which you guide the little hamster around the track by clicking the mouse. For as long as you hold the mouse button down, the hamster will turn to the left. Run off the course and the game is over. How far can you make the little bugger go?

Play Hamure-su (Hamster Race)


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Rating: 4.4/5 (20 votes)
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World's smallest websiteIt shouldn't be surprising that from the world's smallest website comes the world's smallest games. From British game and Web designer Alan Outten comes this very tiny website, only 18 pixels wide by 18 pixels high, yet it is packed full with games such as Pong, Pacman, Footy, Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pinball, and others. These teeny tiny games are surprisingly challenging and fun to play, if only a bit difficult to see on a high resolution monitor.

There is certainly more here than meets the eye. While at first glance it may seem incredibly simple to make a game as small as these are, and yet it is likely just the opposite is true: Making very small games requires just as much attention to gameplay as full-sized games do.

For example, Pacman (shown here) features only one 'ghost' but the AI is designed to come directly at you using a shortest path algorithm. This makes the inner 'dots' much more difficult to get to. And to pull off a game like Asteroids in such a small area requires some thoughtfully designed pixel graphic manipulations to accomplish believable animation.

The entire site is an amazing accomplishment, and a fascinating exercise in game design and development discipline, even if just for the novelty of it.

Play World's smallest games


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Tobby CrisisPanic strikes in Tobby Crisis when Bull ties Jelly to a rocket and lights the fuse. Your job is to put out the fuse by aiming the water hose with the mouse and clicking the mouse button. The longer you hold the button down the farther the hose will spray. With the fuse always on the move, it becomes a challenge to douse the fuse before it reaches Jelly and sends her into space.

Another simple game in Toshiba's series of Tobby Flash games, yet one that employs unique gameplay mechanics and a simple backstory to create a fun little game. Click.

Update: It seems that Toshiba has taken the Tobby games offline. =(


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Tobby CraneAnother game in the Toshiba series of Tobby Flash games, Tobby Crane puts you in control of the release switch of a factory crane trying to fill the pipes below with gifts for your girlfriend, Jelly. Simply click the mouse as the crane moves over the pipes to release the item, and try not to let Bull get his grimey hands on it. If Bull catches it, he will throw it anywhere he pleases. Toss a heart in the pipe where Jelly appears to increase your lives. Miss all the pipes and have your lives reduced by one.

For anyone fascinated with pachinko machines, this game mixes an element of chance with a little timing strategy for yet another cute Yoshio Ishii Flash game. Click.

Update: It seems that Toshiba has taken the Tobby games offline. =(


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Tobby Sling ShotToshiba Corp offers a series of Flash games on their Japanese website, and Tobby Sling Shot is one of them. While that may not be a very accurate translation of the name, it does describe well the primary gameplay mechanics. Use the mouse to click and drag the platform Tobby stands on like a sling shot to catapult him into the air. Aim him to catch gems and to reach higher platforms. Make your way up to the top of the level to save your girlfriend, Jelly Tobby from the clutches of Bull Tobby. A charming platform game with unique gameplay mechanics. Click.

The art style and game physics lead me to believe it's another creation by Yoshio Ishii. This game would also translate well to the Nintendo DS touch screen interface.

Update: It seems that Toshiba has taken the Tobby games offline. =(


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Rating: 4.7/5 (41 votes)
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Make-a-FlakeWho hasn't enjoyed the simple pleasures of cutting paper into snowflakes on a cold winter day? With Make-a-Flake there is no mess to clean-up and you can even undo cuts gone wrong. This Flash toy is a fun way to express your creativity and get into the spirit of the holiday season.

Play Make-a-Flake

Created by lookandfeel new media, now part of Barkley US.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (59 votes)
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For a thousand years, the prairies of Siberia were plagued with saltacoles, the rarest species of mollusk. But now, only a single male remains and it is trying like a crazy person to reproduce. Fortunately, he learns there is a female that exists, and sets out on a journey through 5 terrible caves to be with his love and save the species.

That is the odd and poorly translated story of Saltacol, a beautiful and original Flash game by Voet Cranf.

You are a snail in this story of saving your species, and you must make your way from entrance to exit in each of the 5 cave levels of the game. At the start of each level you drop into the cave from a hole, and you must find your way to the other hole that looks just like it. Problem is, it is initially closed, so you must first find the little switch that opens the exit hatch. Still with me?

(1) Find the switch, (2) trip the switch, (3) get to the exit.

Your only means of movement is by jumping, swimming or rolling. Using the mouse, point to the snail, then click and drag the mouse in the same direction you want to jump, swim or roll. The farther you drag the farther the snail will travel. Let go. Repeat.

Hint: if you hold the mouse button down for a couple of seconds, you will see the path of an arc drawn that the snail will take when you release the mouse button. This helps considerably when judging where and how far to drag the mouse.

Falling doesn't kill you, but enemies will. Fortunately, you are given infinite lives with which to complete the game. Also, at the end of every cave you will receive a password ('el código de la siguiente fase es...'). It will let you go directly to that cave in future sessions.

The enemies are nasty. There are white anemone-like things that will make you start the level over if you even touch them. And you will touch them, a lot. Yet persevere and be rewarded with a remarkable and wonderful Flash game experience.

Update: Due to a special collaboration with the author, an English translated version is now hosted here at JIG, and there is now one additional level to play, and boy is it a doozie! Says the author: "it's very hard, the hardest level you can imagine... and it has a new feature not present in previous levels. so enjoy."

Play Saltacol


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SwingerSwinger is an odd little arcade-style Flash game that offers familiar "clear the board while avoiding the enemies" gameplay in a unique style all its own.

Created by Mark Arenz of Ridiculopathy.com, the object of the game is to swing the bar from post to post to clear all the colored dots from each level—some colors require more than one visit. Clear all 10 levels in the shortest time possible.

Use the arrow keys for swinging left and right, press space to jump, and Ctrl to skip a post. Each of the 10 levels offers a different challenge, with some enemies freezing you for a short time, while others reduce your lives by one.

Getting the hang of movement around the board is tricky, and yet gratifying when done correctly. Some posts can only be visited by jumping, but be careful not to fall off the board and lose a life. The various devices employed in each level make the game fun like a game of mini-golf. It's a cute game with character, if at times a tad frustrating.

Play Swinger

Thanks to Scott Niven's SaltWaterPizza Blog for the link.


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Wings of Megaira is an official entry of the 2005 Independent Games Festival in the student showcase, and I couldn't be happier to report that the game was designed and built by four (4) esteemed colleagues here at RIT.

The made-for-Windows game is a classically styled top-down shooter in which you control a fighter ship against fast-moving waves of alien enemies. Along with the standard single-player mode, Wings of Megaira offers two player cooperative play on the same computer using keyboard or joystick.

The game offers up a variety of weapons and special features to keep the action blazing across the screen, or suspended in time. Lasers will light things up with their awesome mind-blowing power, and time shift will slow all enemies to a snail's pace, thus giving you the upper hand in battle. You start off with just a machine gun, and before you can use more powerful weapons you must absorb the soul of the enemy—effectively stealing their weapon. Red enemies carry machine guns, blue enemies carry lasers, and green carry grenades. Other power-ups are also available along the way.

The game is amazing and gorgeous, and I really believe these guys are going to walk away with an award of some kind for it. Michael Clark has outdone himself by designing all the models and in-game art, and it shows just how talented he is with ‘Wings'. Andy Lorino, Eli Tayrien, and Alex Cutting all mastered the art of Direct3D game programming while building other 2D and 3D games for RIT's Andy Phelps. They then got together over the summer and decided to build one for the IGF. Wings of Megaira is what they came up with, and it rocks! Click.


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HighWheelsHigh Wheels is a brand new game from master game designer, Tonypa, and available on his website to play.

This great little Flash game is about collecting red dots for points by jumping from wheel to wheel as they turn. Use the right and left arrow keys for movement, then press the space bar to jump. Each red dot is worth a point, and a random floating blue dot offers bonuses such as: extra points, extra time, no gravity or stopped wheels. Time begins to count down from 5 minutes. Collect as many as you can, or get a bonus for every remaining second by clearing the board. It's a cute little game from a really nice guy.

Play High Wheels


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Rating: 4.7/5 (40 votes)
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XiaoXiao 9:Fight ManThis classic fighter has been around for a couple of years, and yet it is still one of the best Flash fighters I've seen. Stick figures are the characters in the XiaoXiao series of games, and there are plenty of them to challenge you in XiaoXiao 9: Fight Man. Default controls are the arrow keys for movement, the [Z] key for boxing, [X] for jump, and [C] for protect. An options screen before the game begins allows you to configure different keys to suit your taste. If fighters are your thing, then XiaoXiao.

Play XiaoXiao 9: Fight Man

Created by Zhu Zhiqiang. Thanks go to Matt for reminding me about this great stick figure fighting game.


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Wired has an article up today regarding open virtual worlds, and RIT's Andy Phelps is mentioned along with the MUPPETS project. Click.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (34 votes)
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Thinking Machine 4Thinking Machine 4 is just such a game.

In response to each one of your moves, the Java applet creates a breath-taking display of beauty as the AI maps out future potential moves whilst deciding upon the best one to make. As each move is presented by an arc connecting two squares, yellow for black and green for white, a window into the soul of the machine is opened for all to see. And while the computer contemplates the possibilities, some often several moves ahead, a network of color is formed with the brighter arcs drawn representing moves the AI thinks are better for white. It is fascinating to watch the machine think 'out loud' as it determines each move, and those who are astute might even learn something in the process.

Created by Martin Wattenberg, with Marek Walczak. The authors state that the goal of the piece is not to make an expert chess playing program but to lay bare the complex thinking that underlies all strategic thought.

Play Thinking Machine 4


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Alien TerminatorAlien Terminator seems at first to be a mindless click-the-bug shooter, though to play through several levels will reveal a rich and addictive gameplay experience.

Your basic mission is to terminate all the "unknow creatures" by firing missiles at the creepy crawlers. For the first couple of levels this is rather easy since the creatures are barely moving: Simply click on any of the bugs and the missile will eventually land on it, though several direct hits are required to do away with each one.

Things to keep in mind: It takes a couple of seconds for each missile to arrive at the target, therefore during later levels you will have to estimate where you think the bug will be when the missile hits. Save up your missiles, since when you run out the game is over. You get an additional set of missiles with each level completed, and the unused missiles get carried over to the next.

It's a very easy game to get started with, and then ramps up in difficulty with each new level—13 total. There is also a variety of sound tracks (it changes after level 4), and did I mention the gameplay is addictive?

Play Alien Terminator

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