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April 2005 Archives


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Difficult Questions About VideogamesA few months ago I mentioned that I had contributed to a book written about video games. Compiled and edited by James Newman and Iain Simons, the answers to several questions about videogames were collected from people in the games industry and beyond. A few of those questions were:

  • What is a videogame?
  • What is gameplay?
  • Why do you play videogames?
  • Why is playing videogames fun?
  • How can you tell if a videogame is rubbish?

Just this week, the book was made available free at the PublicBeta website for only the cost of postage. So, what are you waiting for? Find out what some famous names in the games industry (and I) think about the games we play. Click.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (66 votes)
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SurvivooOne-half interactive story and one-half game, Survivoo is a quirky Japanese Flash piece that is charming, cute, and bizarre. Created by Igawo.

Although all the text in the game is Japanese, that doesn't spoil the fun this short little adventure has to offer. Most of the animation speaks for itself. It tells the tale of a little Frenchman who is swept away to a far away land of peculiar beasts that make very strange noises.

At several points along the way, a whistle will blow and the action will stop. You will be presented with a situation that you must solve to continue the story. Use the mouse to click and drag objects to satisfy the puzzle. Use your imagination. The solutions are logical, and none of the puzzles are very difficult.

Persevere and you will be rewarded with a strange and charming little interactive story from Japan.

Play Survivoo


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Rating: 4.5/5 (42 votes)
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There's a lot to love about LightForce Games from Athens, Greece. Nick Kouvaris, and his wife Helen, develop Flash games as a hobby and make them available to play on their LightForce Games website. The site makes it very easy to find and navigate to any of their games. Best of all, in the true spirit of sharing their Flash game programming knowledge with others, each game features a link to the .fla source file used to create it. [Edit: this is no longer true, unfortunately]

Most of the games are clones of classic puzzle games, and yet all of them are presented with a simple and consistent style. From puzzle to platformer, many games feature their own graphics that are rather plain and ordinary, however the programming consists of solid implementations. It is evident a lot of love was poured into these little gems, and there is certainly enough to keep anyone busy for a rainy afternoon.

Highlighted here are a couple of noteworthy games that I particularly liked:

LightForce: BlixBlix is a block-matching puzzle strategy game in which the player shifts rows in either direction to create columns of the same color. Simply click one of the six (6) orange buttons to shift a row horizontally in that direction. Each column matched is eliminated from play and adds 100 points to your score.

You begin with only four (4) moves. Additional moves can be earned by clearing more than one column in a turn. Each turn costs two (2) moves, but you break even if you also clear a column. Each additional column cleared in a single turn increases your moves left by one (1).

Blix is a very simple and enjoyable game with a very pleasing appearance and soundtrack.

Play Blix

LightForce: ZnaxA puzzle strategy game against the clock, Znax is about eliminating entire groups of squares by finding four (4) same-colored corners of any rectangular shape.

Simply click on each corner to highlight it. Once the fourth corner is selected the entire group of squares disappears and your score is increased relative to the number of squares removed. You have only five (5) minutes with which to find all the rectangles you can. Znax is another delightfully simple Flash puzzle game.

Play Znax

LightForce: FroggerHere is one for the classic game section. Frogger is a solid remake of the classic Frogger arcade game designed by Konami in 1981 and released in the US by Sega.

This Flash version of the game features the same classic gameplay along with appealing pixel graphics and arcade sound effects. Another solid Flash implementation by Nick and Helen of LightForce Games.

Play Frogger

There are many more games available on their website, including puzzle games, platformers, driving games, and flying games, too. And if you enjoy creating games as much as you do playing them, then you will appreciate the source code offered to each of their creations as well. The LightForce Games site is an especially valuable resource for anyone just getting started with game programming in Flash.


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I have not had time lately to scour the Web for games worthy of discussion here. Presently I am 'nose to the grindstone' at work studying for a practical exam in XSLT tomorrow, and working on a multi-user Flash adventure game. Look for another update again soon.

Orpheus' RevengeFiled under the 'downloadable' category, someone recently asked if Orpheus' Revenge was available anywhere online to download. Well, it just so happens that it is. Dan Volpe, code-master and one of our original Orpheus' Revenge team members, has put up a Web page for the game complete with a zip-file containing an executable of the game (Windows, DirectX 9.0b+).

Orpheus' Revenge is a 2D side-scrolling platform shooter game. It was developed at RIT as part of the Games Programming course concentration taught by Andy Phelps during the 10-week winter quarter, 2003-2004. The team responsible for the game consisted of: Dan Volpe, Nate Rode, Alex Cutting, Patrick Bellanca, and yours truly. Click.

While you are there, check out Dan's resume and other details. I hear he's looking for a job, and he is one of the best software engineers I have met while at RIT.


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Fishin' Fun 2

I must have missed the first Fishin' Fun Flash game, probably when I was playing Animal Crossing and doing some fishing of my own.

Fishin' Fun 2 is an action arcade game in which the player catches fish in a sequence, and against the clock, to gain points and move onto the next level.

At the start of each level, the sequence of fish you must catch appears in the top left corner of the game window. The object is to catch the same sequence of fish in that exact order. If you catch one out of sequence, you must start the sequence again.

Control is by moving the mouse only. Left and right moves the poll in the respective direction, while up and down raises or lowers the magnet bait. Touch the magnet to a fish to 'hook' it, and then slowly raise the fish into the boat.

Several things can thwart your successful catch. If you reel in a fish to quickly, or jerk the line suddenly, you are sure to lose the fish. This can be helpful to know if you inadvertently hook the wrong fish. Also, if another fish passes by and comes too close to the fish you are reeling in, your fish will get away. Also watch out for the nasty crab and swordfish, both of which will cut your line and lose your magnet. You get only three (3) magnets per game.

The gameplay is nicely balanced between the selective catching element and a timer that forces level completion. Although each successive level increases in difficulty, the curve is not a very steep one. The player is given ample time to complete each level's sequence, thereby capturing the essence of fishing with a laid-back charm reflected in the game.

Olli (nGFX) and the talented folks at Q-Affairs in Deutschland (that's Germany for you Americans) have created this gorgeous affair for German fashion and apparel company, Gardeur. This is no ordinary clothing company. Surf their site and not only will you find Flash games, you will also find permanently grease-resistant trousers with nanotechnology, and Gardeur denims with active anti-cellulite formula. I'm not kidding.

And this is no ordinary Flash game. The artwork is some of the most eye-catching and appealing graphics I've seen in a casual game. According to nGFX, some of the characters where rendered in Cinema4d with textures painted in photoshop; some were made in 3ds Max; while others were first rendered in 3D, printed out, traced, scanned and colorized (the Ball fish).

Everything about this game screams polish from the artwork to the interface, the sound design to the gameplay. Having never played the first Fishin' Fun, I have nothing to compare the sequel to. However, the second in the series stands on its own merits and offers boat loads of fun for everyone, and oceans of eye-candy to boot. Click.

Note: Firefox seems to have trouble with this game, as the animation becomes choppy when using the browser. Safari has no trouble with it, for those on Macs.

Update: It looks like Gardeur has either moved the game around again, or has taken the game offline. I'll try to track it down. In the meantime, I've removed it from the recommended section.


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Pigalator 2K5I found this on the FlashKit game forum a couple of months ago and had a lot of fun with it. It's not very often that a new—at least to me—dice game comes along, and fewer still done in Flash. Pigalator 2K5 is a single-player only dice game, you play against three (3) computer-controlled opponents.

The rules of play are fairly easy to understand: the object is to win rounds by being the first player to exceed 100 points.

Each player takes turns throwing the dice. Rolling a one is bad, your turn ends. Rolling two (2) ones is worse, your turn ends and your score resets to zero (0). Throwing doubles counts double but forces you to roll again. Throwing three doubles in a row resets your score to zero (0). Any other roll counts what is shown on the dice and you get to choose whether you wish to keep rolling for more points, or quit rolling and add your points to your score.

The first player to score over 100 points wins the round, but if you hit 100 points exactly, you bust and start again at zero (0). If a player has no points when the round ends, he pays the winner double. Each of the other players pay the winner the difference between their score and 100. If any multiplier is in effect, the difference is scaled by the multiplier. Each time double ones are rolled, the multiplier is multiplied by 2.

Each player starts with 500 chips, the first player to win all the other player's chips wins the game.

The Pigalator 2K5 was created by Kyle Bradshaw following a trip to Chicago for the New Year. It was there that he played a similar game, and so he decided to create a little 'handheld' to play the game at home. A skins button lets you change the color of the device to suit your mood. Sound has been implemented only partially, and there is presently no way to play against another human, even at the same computer. Still, it's a fun little dice game, good for a quick diversion over a cup of coffee.

Play Pigalator 2K5


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Rating: 4.6/5 (42 votes)
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The Machine

No one is likely to argue that games contain art, for games today are created by whole teams of artists as well as engineers. The works produced by these artisans often exceed our expectations and the standards set by previous works, and/or change our perception of what a game can ultimately be. And yet what artistic merit is afforded to games by the very society that consumes them? Certainly games are at the heart of popular culture today, and yet the notion of games as art is anything but widely accepted.

Enter The Machine. Created by Tilman for Kaliber 10000—also known as the Designer's Lunchbox—and featured in their online issue #0077, this game is indeed a work of art.

Without going into too much detail that might spoil the fun, The Machine is a Shockwave game about a normal computer interface gone awry. The object of the game is to correct the chaos, right the wrong, and make it through to the end. In other words, figure out what to do on your own because the journey is the reward. What I will say is that you will only need the mouse to point, click, and drag.

It's short, and oh, so beautifully done. Game. Art. Perfection.

Play The Machine

Thanks Toby! =)


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Rating: 4.6/5 (31 votes)
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The Way HomeSome fresh Orisinal goodness for you to enjoy on this beautiful spring Monday in April. The sun is out and shining bright, and there's not a cloud to be found in the sky. The fresh scent of spring drifts in on the breeze through the curtains as they flap themselves loose from a long winter's nap. It's a glorious day, the birds are singing, and all the animals are out to play. While out for a stroll, the neighborhood squirrel finds herself leaping from rooftop to window ledge, following a trail of apples on The Way Home.

Ferry Halim has released another jewel in his premium collection of fine Flash games, and this one is a side-scrolling platformer starring an energetic squirrel with a fondness for apples and cupcakes.

Use your mouse to jump and run and help collect all the apples you can, but don't let the squirrel fall! Move the mouse to the right to go faster, move it to the left to go slower. Click the mouse button to jump. Collect cupcakes for a special 50 point bonus.

Graphically speaking, there just isn't anything that comes close to the beautiful vignettes that Ferry paints on his Flash game canvas. The Way Home features elegant animations of a squirrel as she leaps and glides through the air with her tail waving like silk in the breeze. A piano solo soundtrack adds a nice touch of tranquility to this game with soul.

Playing Ferry Halim's games always puts me in a good mood. Click.


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Floatin AssaultUminin strikes once more with this gorgeous Flash shmup from his Flash Game Zone website, titled: Floatin' Assault. Well, that's not exactly the way he spells it, and yet I am sure that is what he means. =)

Floatin' Assault offers two different fighter types to choose from: Heavy and Standard. The Heavy ship type is powerful but a bit slow to react, while the Standard type is quick though a bit weaker on the attack. Heavy features an auto-firing special attack with similar attack power; Standard has a manual special attack with homing-type fire power. Both fighters have a force field of limited duration for protection.

Force fields and special attacks each consume one (1) option unit when activated. You start the game with three (3) options, and gain an extra option for each 10,000 points. Each hit taken without an active force field reduces your energy by one (1). You start the game with five (5) energy units. Additional life energy power-ups are released when beating certain enemies at various points within the game.

Fighter control is with the mouse. Press [Z] to fire, [X] for force field, and [C] for special attack.

The game is a fairly ordinary space shooter with some very pretty Flash graphics and an excellent soundtrack. The choice between two very different fighter ships provides the player multiple strategies with which to play. The game engine moves things along quickly and keeps the pace frantic. Although the game is only three stages in length, the difficulty level will be challenging enough for many to have fun with this game for a long time. Click.


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If you have experienced a problem connecting to the site within the last 36 hours, that is because there was a server failure with one of the RIT servers that hosts this site. Work continues on it today, so access is likely to be spotty at times. I apologize for any inconvenience you may experience.


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Rating: 4.1/5 (23 votes)
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UnlockUnlock is a unique little puzzle game in which you must unlock the secrets of each stage to advance to the next. Some stages are easy, while others are maddening difficult. This game will tease your brain and test your patience and resolve.

Another game designed by Uminin of Flash Game Zone in Japan. And while it's definitely a smaller scale Flash game than his more recent offerings, this game offers a variety of puzzles to keep you interested, and to keep you guessing. He first created "normal" mode, and then added "another security mode" a month later. Together they form 12 challenges for you to unlock. Click.

This game reminded me a lot of Jonathan May's The Dark Room, though on a smaller scale. If you like games like this, then check out Jonathan's excellent puzzler, too.


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Moment ZeroThis time a Flash shmup from Uminin of the Flash Game Zone in Japan. Moment Zero is a mostly grayscale shooter of exceptional design. Noteworthy features include a lock-on targeting mechanism and multiple paths through the game.

From the initial enemy wave you can tell this isn't any ordinary shooter. The game displays a dynamic crosshair, positioned with mouse movement, with which to aim. Move the point of intersection onto an enemy to establish target locks. Locks are indicated by semi-circular lines that close in around the enemy being targeted, and the number of locks established is indicated by small gray triangles above the lock. Locks accrue one-by-one until the maximum number of eight (8) per enemy is attained, or until the number of locks required to destroy the enemy have been accumulated. The lock around an enemy turns red when the number of locks required to destroy the enemy have been established.

Understanding the locking mechanism is key to getting higher scores, since the number of locks indicated becomes the score multiplier for enemies targeted in red lock state. At several junctures along the way, the path of the game diverges and your score determines the route you take. Open map.

Control is with the mouse for targeting as noted above, and the space bar is used for firing. All targets locked-on are fired upon with once press of the space bar. You can press [B] to cancel locks targeted. This may be useful since later enemies will fire at you when you lock-on them. By canceling targeting, you can therefore aim at only the shots fired at you and rack up more points by repeating the process.

I believe the translated name comes from the fact that once a lock is established, the distance to the target is displayed. As enemies close in, that number approaches zero. If you are unsuccessful in destroying the target before the target distance reaches zero, you will take damage at that moment. Hence, Moment Zero.

While this is certainly not the first game to utilize a targeting mechanism, Uminin's implementation is nicely done and integrates well with the design of the game. Add to that a solid game engine that features lots of enemies and multiple paths through the game. Another fine example of exceptional Flash game design coming from Japan. Click.


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Flash Game Zone: CubeNext up is a series of Flash games designed by Uminin of Japan and available on his Flash Game Zone website. Each of the games exhibit high production values with a solid design that offers compelling and rewarding gameplay. From puzzle games to shmups, Uminin has created a nice variety of Flash games to challenge gamers of all ages.

The first one up is Cube, an action strategy game of skill. Similar to a Shuffleboard game, the objective is to propel colored cubes across the play field so that they come to rest within designated rectangles. Each rectangle contains a number indicating the number of cubes required to eliminate it from play. Eliminate all rectangles on the play field to move on to the next level.

There are two modes to choose from: Snipe and Quick. Each mode features six (6) stages of increasing difficulty, with each stage consisting of five (5) levels of play.

Snipe mode provides you with a fixed number of cubes for each level, arranged in a formation, and requires you to eliminate all rectangles using only the cubes provided. Sharp shooting is required to advance in the later stages. If you fail to complete a level in Snipe mode, you may retry the level as many times as you wish until you get it right.

While Snipe mode emphasizes precision, Quick mode is all about haste. Each level is presented with a timer that counts down and within which you must eliminate all rectangles from play. Cubes in this mode replenish as you shoot them, so fire them fast. If you fail to complete a level in Quick mode, you must start the stage again from the beginning.

Cube control is entirely with the mouse. Simply click and drag on a cube to view the angle and power meters, and then position the mouse for the correct angle. The power meter will fluctuate rapidly between the two extremes, just let go of the mouse button at the desired power to fire the cube like a slingshot.

The controls are intuitive and the graphics and sound effects make this game very effective in its presentation. The gameplay is solid and offers an excellent difficulty curve with each new stage. The game saves your progress as you complete each stage making it easy to pick up where you left off. Cube is exactly the kind of casual game I like to play. Click.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (72 votes)
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ParkPark is another point-and-click experience from Patrick Smith of Vector Park, the very same that created the tranquilizing Levers game. This one is easy and a bit short, and yet it will certainly delight those who enjoy the thrill of discovery that this type of game offers.

Simply use the mouse to point, roll-over, and click on objects to activate the animations. The only object of the game is to see all there is to see. Somewhat like the game of life.

Play Park


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If you've been keeping track, then you probably knew this was coming. =)

I am hopelessly addicted to playing Lumines on Sony's new PSP. There is really nothing else available for the handheld that I am all that interested in. Many of the games released so far are smaller versions of games already available for the PS2, games that would benefit from being played on a much larger screen. However, the types of games that do work exceptionally well on handhelds are puzzle and arcade games, and Lumines is one of the best puzzle games to come along in a very, very long time. The game was created by Q? Entertainment in Japan.

Lumines quad exampleThe object of Lumines is to drop quads—blocks containing four (4) tiles of two possible colors in a random configuration—onto a widescreen sized play field to form combos.

Lumines combo exampleCombos consist of at least one 2x2 quad of same-color tiles. Once a combo is formed, it is highlighted and stays on the board until the timeline sweeps past.

Lumines multiple combo exampleAdditional quads can then be formed by adding as few as two additional same-color tiles to the combo. The score increases for each additional quad that is formed before the timeline sweeps them all away. A multiplier bonus is awarded for combos consisting of 4 or more quads in a single pass of the timeline.

Lumines is a classic in the making. It has qualities that set it apart from other puzzle games and that put it squarely in the same league as the venerable Tetris—the mother-of-all falling block puzzle games.

First off, the game is very easy to pick up and play. Anyone can drop blocks and match quads. The sounds and particle effects that reward you for your early efforts are extremely gratifying and hook you into this very addictive game.

Second, the game is difficult to master. Even after playing through several battery recharges with the game, my high score is still less than 100K, and yet it is consistently inching upward. And don't even get me started on the Vs. CPU mode that kicks my ass everytime I play. I've made it to only level 5 of 10 total. The unlockables are HARD as you get further into the game, thereby providing excellent replay value.

Third, the challenge mode is brilliant with its ever changing skins, music, and strategies required. By independently varying both the rate of the falling blocks AND the rate at which the timeline passes, the designers have created a game with unbelievable richness and depth of gameplay.

I can't stop playing this game. There are a total of 40 gorgeous skins to unlock, and each one consists of a unique background design and color scheme for the quad tiles. The visual effects are spectacular, and with each new skin comes an entirely different mood. But the visuals are only part of what makes Lumines so compelling.

The music is infectious, and I am already craving a soundtrack CD with the best tracks to listen to when not playing the game. Featured artists in the game are Shinichi Osawa (Mondo Grosso) and Eri Nobuchika, responsible for the unforgettable rhythms of: Shake Ya Body, I hear the Music in My Soul, and the lead-off track, Shinin'.

Complementary to the soundtrack, sound effect samples are introduced with each button press and combo, which together seamlessly mix with the music. The result is a level of immersion I have never experienced before in a puzzle game.

I am looking forward to Q? Entertainment's next puzzle outing, Meteos, coming out for the Nintendo DS in June.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (108 votes)
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Happy SeedI have point-and-click happiness to spread throughout the world today in the form of a cube. Not so much a puzzle as it is an interactive narrative that unfolds with each click of the mouse in the appropriate place. Happy Seed is a beautiful Flash piece, and it was created by Taku Inoue.

See what happens when a mysterious cube falls out of the sky and lands on the ground in the middle of a very round town filled with round things. Naturally people are curious about that which is different from the norm, and yet is it better to embrace change, or to run from it? Does change threaten identity? culture? existence? Or does change make possible a brighter, happier future? What if you were trying to sell square cars to a round world? What would your marketing strategy be?

Play Happy Seed

Update: Nissan keeps moving this beautiful piece, and I am not sure why. Since it is essentially advertising, I have decided to mirror this work of art to share with the world for posterity. If the content owner wishes that I remove it, I will do so upon request.


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (22 votes)
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Ball Revamped III: GeminiJohn Cooney has just released the third in his series of Ball Revamped games, and this one grew so large that he had to split it up into two parts: Andromeda and Gemini.

Like Metaphysik to come before, this game is an action arcade game in which the player balances a ball while moving it through a maze of obstacles toward a goal. This time out, John implements levels larger than the game view window, which makes finding the goal an additional challenge. As the ball is moved, the play field scrolls smoothly both vertically and horizontally. A similar game that uses this technique is Dyson's The Ball Game, which was reviewed here last month.

Controls are the same: use the arrow keys by tapping lightly on them to influence the ball in the direction desired. Avoid walls and moving objects, roll over switches to activate them and open gates.

New to this version, in Gemini, stars exist that change the size of the ball when rolled over: green stars make the ball very small, pink stars make it very large, and blue stars return the ball to its normal medium size.

There is a lot to do in this game, and it will likely keep you busy playing for a long while. The game boasts a hundred different levels split between the two parts, but there are actually many more than that. Many of the levels are very similar, or are duplicates of a previous one. This is especially true towards the end of Gemini. There is still no save feature, and it is sorely needed with a game of this length. Still, if you liked Metaphysik, then you will likely enjoy Andromeda and Gemini, too.

Update: John keeps moving his games around. Now they are located on Newgrounds, and so the above links have been updated accordingly. You will have to click on the "Play Game" button on the NG page to play the game.


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Rating: 4.4/5 (32 votes)
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NoName Game #1Next up are a couple of games with no name, simply referred to as NoName Game #1 and NoName Game #2, created by MadMax of Poland. An action avoidance game of hand-eye coordination, the games are similar in design to DR3I and Reverse that were previously reviewed here.

The objective of the game is to move the little red dot through the maze without touching the sides, and all in the shortest time possible. Simply enter a nickname and then click the red dot to begin. The timer begins as soon as you click.

NoName Game #2There are moving parts and rotating widgets that will challenge you and attempt to slow you down. A steady hand is required to make it through quickly, and a little luck wouldn't hurt either with respect to catching some of the rotating widgets at precisely the right moment to slide past them quickly.

The games are very simple in design and will take but a couple of minutes to complete. A quick little exercise to sharpen your skills at moving a mouse with precision.

Play NoName Game #1
Play NoName Game #2

Update: The No-Name games are back online!


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Escape from AlcabrassSimilar to the click puzzle from yesterday and its big brother Hapland, this game is all about timing.

Escape from Alcabrass is a point-and-click action game in which you must click or drag objects to create a safe path of escape.

You play as a snail named Maniac trying to escape the clutches of a mad scientist named chef Louis of the Brasserie le Alcabrass. Select one of the three levels to play: the Kitchen, the Sink, or the Lab. You are given 13 tries to get Maniac all the way through each level.

Once a level begins, Maniac will begin moving at a constant pace and will keep moving throughout the level. Simply click or drag on the various objects in the scene to activate devices or move them into position, all at the correct time. If you click or drag too soon, the object will return to its location after a short timeout.

Things to think about to get you started: look for opportunities to build bridges and ramps, disable traps, clear a path, or provide a means of transportation. And if the cursor turns to a hand, then you know it must be good for something. =)

The graphics are top notch and the puzzles are inventive and original. There's probably not much replay value once you figure out what needs to be done, but it's good fun while it lasts. If you get stuck there is even a hint system that shows you where to click (but don't do that it will spoil the fun!). Created by the talented folks at Grinlock design studio in the UK. Click.


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Rating: 4.3/5 (29 votes)
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IndustryI broke down and bought a PSP over the weekend so I could play Lumines. And now, that is all I can think about. The game is brilliant, loads of fun, and the music is infectious. In fact, I have to post this game quick because the battery on the PSP is almost recharged. =)

Industrial Place Thingy is a game that is quite similar to Hapland. Both are games in which you click on little stick figures and devices to solve the puzzle and make things happen. There are four (4) levels to this one. The significant difference with games like this over other point-and-click Flash adventures is that it is possible to get yourself into a situation where you cannot win. Therefore, a "Reset" button is provided to reset the level and try again.

Although the graphic quality of this game looks a little rough, the design seems to have been well thought out and is overall quite challenging and fun to play. The game was created by James "Dangerskew" after playing Hapland "many times" and deciding to create one like it. So he did, and then posted it on deviantART and called it "Industrial Place Thingy."

Play Industry

UPDATE: Now also available from the same author, Industry 2.

Thanks to Kim for suggesting this game. And to jy for pointing me to the original author of the game.

N


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (241 votes)
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NWinner of the Audience Award at the 2005 Game Developers Choice Awards, N, 'the way of the ninja', "is a highly advanced system of spiritual, cognitive, and physical training. It emphasizes pacifism, humility, and the need to traverse a series of 5 rooms before the end of your lifetime."

First I should mention that although the game was developed in Flash, it is for download only and is not available to play online. However, the compelling gameplay featured in the game is reason enough to break from the norm.

This game, designed and created by Raigan Burns and Mare Sheppard of Metanet Software and released in 2004, isn't your normal ninja game, in fact it is far from it. In the game of N, there is no flipping out and killing everything in sight. Instead, your goal is to traverse a series of rooms using your speed, dexterity and honed senses. The main skill, one that you will need to use frequently, is the ability to hold onto and jump from walls, which allows you to reach greater heights. It can also be used to slow your descent.

Of course, this may all sound pretty easy: given ninja skills and enough time you can probably traverse any landscape, right? Unfortunately, time is not on your side. Ninja dexterity comes at a cost, and due to your heightened metabolism, you have only a ninety second life span. And yet there is something to help offset this problem: gold. For every piece of gold you collect, your life span is increased by two seconds. Granted, this isn't much, but there are often plentiful amounts of gold on each level and this provides an extra goal other than 'press the buttons and get through the door'.

Then there is the matter of the enemy force. This force consists of mines, drones and turrets which have been strategically placed within each room to make life hard for the ninja. These enemies range from fairly easy to avoid: static mines and mindless pattern-following drones, to the irritatingly difficult: chain-gun drones and turrets that fire heat-seeking missiles.

Avoid enemies at all cost, because one hit and you're dead. You will also want to avoid hitting the floor (or the ceiling) with great impact, as that will also bring an end to your life.

If you die, you have the option of starting the level over again. If you do, you begin with the same amount of time on the clock as you started with previously. You may rest only when you have completed all five levels, called an episode. Once you complete an episode, your progress is saved and you move onto the next. There are 60 such episodes in the game.

When levels are completed, the best scores for each level and episode are saved and stored. In addition to the best scores, the game also keeps a detailed record of the entire 'run' so you can view it again at any time through the high score system. When connected to the Internet, the high score system can even download the best runs so you can watch how the experts complete a level, or a set of levels. Also included is a map editor, Ned, which makes it easy for users to create new maps. There is even an online map depository, NUMA, that allows users to find new levels and to submit their own.

The game features an advanced collision detection and physics engine. Noteworthy are the 'springy platforms' that are displaced by the ninja and then spring back to their original position, and the ragdoll physics that come into play when dying, ensuring that no two deaths are the same. The authors have made available tutorials based on the theory and implementation of the physics engine used in N, and they intend to release even more tutorials and source code in the future.

Although the game does not include its own music, I feel this adds to the atmosphere of the game since music would detract from the experience. Besides, it's easy enough to put on some music if you feel it needs to be present. And while completing levels can at times be a frustrating experience, N has superb animation, wonderful physics, unique gameplay, and an addictive quality that will keep you coming back for more, again and again. Add to this the fact that the game is completely free to download, updates are still being created for it, and it includes a map editor with which to create your own levels. The end result is an excellent game that is unique, original, and fun to play.

Play N


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Google GulpIf you haven't already heard, Gmail is one-year-old today. And to celebrate the event, Google has increased everyone's storage capacity to 2GB, and plans to continue to increase the storage limit as they are able. Also implemented today is rich text formatting, allowing users to change fonts, colors, sizes and alignment, and to include other word processing formatting features in their email messages.

For me, it's all about being able to search through all of my emails in an instant for that piece of information I saved months ago; and the spam filtering that learns what I don't want to see in my in-box each day, automatically routing it to its own folder.

Yes, I love my Gmail. And you can too. If you don't already have an account, hit me up for an invitation.

Did I mention they have a great sense of humor? =)

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