September 2006 Archives


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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dancemonkeyAny self-respecting definition of steampunk must involve goggles. Goggles, goggles, and more goggles. And Sean Connery. Sean Connery is pretty much essential to any discussion worth having.

For a more entertaining schooling on the nature of steampunk than Wikipedia's, and a less nonsensical one than mine, download a trial of Steam Brigade from Pedestrian Entertainment. Believe it or not, this downloadable game is a side-scrolling real-time strategy game, and an exciting one at that.

steambrigade1.jpgThe only unit which you have direct control over is your unarmed steam-powered Airship, which has a magnet attached that allows you to pick up and move units, yours or your enemy's. Your goal in every level is to get an engineer into the opponent's factory, which is always placed at the opposite end of the map from your own. You accomplish this through the use of several different unit types, pitting them against your enemy on the field of battle. Money is your main resource, though thankfully you don't have to collect it like in traditional RTS games. It simply builds up over time.

You have several different units to choose from, ranging from basic infantry to armed whirligigs. There are also several map elements that you and your opponent will vie for control over, including bunkers and gun emplacements.

After building a unit it appears outside your factory and begins its inexorable march to the right. You can only affect its fate by either keeping its path clear from harm or by directly picking it up and dropping it somewhere more strategic. You may also pick up and drop enemy units from great heights and watch them fall to their death, but your foe is a master at that tactic as well.

steambrigade2.jpgAs you whizz around the battlefield and take fire from enemy anti-air units, you lose steam, which in this game is your airship's health bar. You replenish your steam by floating near your factory and filling up, but this may force you all the way to the rear of the battle at a key moment, so it's usually in your best interest to stay just short of the front lines.

Analysis: I enjoyed this game for a lot of different reasons. The production values are superb; and not just the graphics, which are beautifully stylized. The music is well-done, the story is well-written (cut scenes are in verse, no less), and the game as a whole has the polished feel of a retail offering. The designers' dedication to their work is present in every element of the game.

The gameplay is fast and fun. I never spent more than 15 minutes or so finishing a level, of which there are 12 total in the campaign. There is also a configurable skirmish mode, though at this time they only offer games against the AI. Multiplayer, as well as a level editor, is promised soon on the developer's website.

My one quibble with this otherwise excellent game (besides the lack of multiplayer) is how each level, over time, blends into the next. Despite the interesting story elements and different units that are gradually introduced, you are basically playing a giant game of reverse tug-of-war. You churn out unit upon unit until you gradually push your opponent back far enough to be able to drop an engineer in their factory. The missions lose their distinction once you've gotten the hang of gameplay.

One way to remedy this would be to implement different objectives for different missions: hold a particular bunker for a certain amount of time, build a certain number of units or unit types, shoot down 3 enemy airships, etc. This would create a need for a different strategy than just the scorched earth strategy that I found most effective in each level. At some point down the road maybe even adding a vertical component to the ground units would be interesting, like a watchtower or a bridge over low ground, allowing two different levels of play while still keeping the side-scrolling paradigm.

In spite of that, Steam Brigade is a fantastic game from an independent developer that deserves our support. In addition, your purchase will also help us maintain this site and allow us to continue to bring you the very best in casual gameplay.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (41 votes)
| Comments (60) | Views (434)

JaySeen on ScreenBrand new from Bart Bonte, creator of fine Flash point-and-click experiences—such as Bonte Room, Bonte Room 2, and Free the Bird—comes this latest effort, a collection of short and simple little point-and-click puzzles.

Seen on Screen uses a computer monitor theme to present a variety of puzzles that you must solve by figuring out what to do for each. Sometimes the solution is straightforward, and others you will have to apply a little logic to derive the answer; and yet none of them are very difficult at all (ok, so I did get stuck on one of them, but the answer is really easy and I am embarassed to even mention it.)

So, if you're looking for a little puzzle action that won't take too much of your time, give Seen on Screen a try.

Play Seen on Screen


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (26 votes)
| Comments (15) | Views (56)

JayLiquid ColorsLiquid Colors is another creative and original puzzle game entry to our recent game design competition. It was created by DDams of France.

The objective in Liquid Colors is to turn the target square (in the lower right corner) to the target color: purple (pink or fuchsia depending on your own perspective of color). To do so, use the mouse to either add or remove wall segments by clicking anywhere on the play field. Removing a wall segment that separates two colors will mix the two resulting in a new color, the formula for which can be found in the chart in lower portion of the game window. By adding wall segments, you can create new blocks to hold desired colors for later use.

Choose between three (3) different puzzles: normal, hard, and very hard. Here's a hint to get you started: you won't have to add any wall segments to solve the normal puzzle.

Analysis: Liquid Colors is a brilliant idea for a puzzle game and one that works exceptionally well in Flash. The idea is unique and has a great deal of potential to be taken further than the 3 levels provided in this version. The implementation of the game engine appears to be of solid design, and the graphics are appealing if just a little plain. I would have preferred to see randomly generated puzzles, though that certainly wasn't a requirement for the competition. Another downside to the game, besides having gameplay dependent on color perception, is having to familiarize oneself with the color formulas before any serious puzzle solving can begin. These are smallish complaints, however. Overall, an excellent game with huge potential. I look forward to seeing where DDams takes this very creative idea.

JohnBJohn: A great puzzle idea with one of the most descriptive names ever to grace a flash game. It reminds me of Color Box that we featured several months ago, but much more dynamic. Liquid Colors gives you full control over mixing colors, allowing you to easily "quarantine" certain blocks for later mixing or build paths to mix colors that are far apart. It's fun to find the easiest solution, but I've gotten a thrill out of trying to find the most complex solution as well. Any game that lets you play around that much is worth some time. Cheers to DDams for a great game!

Play Liquid Colors


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (10) | Views (122)

runnroll.gifJohnBRun n' Roll is an online multiplayer Flash game from Yamago that lets you play chase with people from around the world. Your character runs on his or her own, all you have to do is jump over or roll under objects. You stay ahead by, well, not falling behind. Grab a few fun power-ups to stall your opponent as you race around a giant sphere in the sky.

After you log in and customize your avatar you can choose from a single player mode or the multiplayer arena. Go solo first to get a feel for the controls, then take your skills out into the wild. You can join players waiting to race by clicking their planet in the sky, or simply start your own game. There are a number of different environments you can choose from to hold matches, each one with a different level of difficulty. The harder the planet, the faster the land scrolls, and the more you'll find yourself falling to the ground.

The entire presentation of Run n' Roll is bright, cheery and friendly. The cartoon-like visual style is quite inviting, and the music has been stuck in my head for days now. Although it's very kid-friendly, users can chat while waiting to play games, so it's a good idea to sit with children who want to play. It's been my experience the players are more interested in running/rolling than chatting, though.

One drawback for Run n' Roll is there is no long-term goal or incentive to keep playing (other than high-scores). Unlockable costumes or other features would be a great addition that might draw players back more often. As it stands, it's an excellent game to pick up and play every once in a while. The skill level of the players varies a lot, so you never know what the next match will be like. Play.

Thanks to mmodule for suggesting the game!


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (27) | Views (19)

JayKeywayA brand new game from Tonypa, this one is a variation on Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) designed for playing with fingers, instead of legs, and using a computer keyboard for input instead of a dance pad.

Like most games from Tonypa, Keyway is very simple to play. Using symbols to represent the arrow keys and the space bar, the game displays a sequence of keys that the player must press in order, and as quickly as possible, to advance to the next level, or screen.

There are 20 screens total, and you begin with 100 seconds total with which to make it through them all. You receive an additional 10 seconds for completing each screen, and you lose 5 seconds every time you make a mistake and press the wrong key.

Scoring is relatively simple and straightforward: you receive a point for every correct key you press, 10 points for every level you complete, and bonus for the longest correct chain. Bonuses are added up at the end and tallied to reach your final score. If you finish the game you receive another 1000 bonus points.

Play Keyway

Analysis: Like so many of Tonypa's game designs, Keyway is simple and elegant and a wonderful addition to his growing collection of casual games. Although the game features similar gameplay to the previously reviewed Beat Bubbles, he changes many of the characteristics of the game to make this one stand on its own. For example, I especially liked that each level's key sequence is randomly generated, as well as entire levels being switched around at random. This allows the game to feel fresh every time. Also, each level's key sequence is initially hidden from view, and then a smooth animation fade is used to reveal each key slowly. This actually has more than an aesthetic affect, as it forces the player to pace through each level. It also creates an additional challenge since the ability to look ahead is removed.

The only nitpick I have is that eventually the key down sound becomes a bit grating to my ears, though your experience may be different. Also, sometimes a background task causes Flash to pause for a split-second and that can cause me to retype the same key thinking that the first time didn't 'take'. This usually ends up in a mistake, which can be a little frustrating. And while this is not a flaw with the design, it is probably an indication that this type of game is not best suited for the Flash platform.

All things considered, Keyway is another fine design from Tonypa that is very enjoyable to play and one that can be picked up again and again.


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (24 votes)
| Comments (19) | Views (18)

tankedup.gifdancemonkeyOften the best things come in the simplest packages. The idea behind Tanked Up, the latest game from UK developer Nitrome, is a simple one: race a tank through eight tracks of varying terrains while trying to blast your opponents to smithereens. You must win each race in order to unlock the next track, and the difficulty increases the farther along you go.

Each race is only two laps, but on the harder tracks it can be tough to keep your lead for that long. The main reason you'll find that it's hard to stay ahead is the unique control scheme: steer with the arrow keys while aiming and firing your turret using the mouse. Even after several races you'll find yourself occasionally overwhelmed by the task of firing in the opposite direction that you're steering and run yourself right into a wall, cursing a blue streak as the computer opponents pass you by.

Shooting is more defensive in this game than offensive. The tanks take a lot of damage before blowing up (which, unfortunately, they don't really do, they just sort of fizzle out), but when a tank is hit it stops dead in its tracks. That may be your main tactic: get out in front as early as possible, aim your turret behind you, and start shooting at your opponents to keep them at bay. It's hard to climb out from last place because you're every one's target.

The difficulty level overall is fairly easy, so the control issue becomes as much a part of the fun as the shooting and the racing. I never lost more than three times on one track before finally getting my act together and placing first. The computer opponents are sometimes as inept as you are, occasionally getting locked into clusters, firing all around and keeping everyone from getting anywhere.

The pixelated graphic style is great, reminding me of old shareware games (like Death Rally, which the gameplay in this game also reminds me of). The music fits the game well, but with my limited musical tastes I can only describe it as a blend of 80's Depeche Mode and funk.

All in all I had a great time playing, and managed to finish all eight tracks in probably around 30-45 minutes total playing time. I'd love to see this game become something of a franchise, mainly because I'd love to race on more tracks, see more hazards, and if it's possible race against human opponents.

Play Tanked Up


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (35 votes)
| Comments (23) | Views (359)

Reader reviewtexttwist.gifThe following is a reader-submitted game review by Maxro:

The computer game is not the strongest medium for word games. The crossword puzzle and word jumble dominate the papers; Boggle is the board game master. Computer games are often overlooked by the linguistically minded. But then, Text Twist changes all that. I'm tempted to call it the best word game I've ever played. Of course, there are lots of awesome games out there. Scrabble, Boggle, Funny Farm—you know the drill. But I think Text Twist's the best, or one of them—and here's why.

Text Twist's rules are simple. Combine the six letters on the screen to make as many words as you can. This is by no means an original concept, but it's been spruced up. The goal of every level is to get the six-letter word. Once you do that, you are allowed passage to the next level. However, there is not much pleasure in just determining the six-letter word. I found that by just typing words as they come, eventually the long one will pass through my mind. Play is at it's best when you complete every single word before time runs out, giving a huge score bonus. Very satisfying. Play is available with keyboard or mouse. This is particularly useful for the "Twist" button. Twist shuffles around the letters for you. It's annoying to have to click during a keyboard-oriented game, so press spacebar instead. The versatility is great for speed. The interface is understandable from the start, and it has a nice presentation.

Despite the great gameplay, the game does not vary much between levels. Eventually you will start to recognize some letter sequences (when I see A R E T, I think tea ate era are art tar rat rate tear etc.) Text Twist's word bank is not perfect; some words are omitted from the game that should not be. The game is not exactly built for longevity and playtime. That being said, if you want variation in levels and gameplay and a larger word bank, the full version is available to buy. The full version's strongest point is that it includes seven letter words and a high score list. However, these criticisms are from the point of view of someone who has played this game for a long time. For a beginner, none of these points apply.

Analysis: Text Twist is a wonderful word game. The joy experienced when having just uncovered a word in the nick of time is quite satisfying. The sound and interface suit the game well. The criticisms I've covered are quickly overcome by purchasing the full version. A good presentation and simple rule set make this game perfect for a quick break. And that means many, many rewarding quick breaks for you.

A last word of advice: "Ade" is indeed a word. Click.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (22 votes)
| Comments (88) | Views (69)

Andrew Wyrmwone.jpgEveryone loves planes, trains, and automobiles, but nobody cares much for the little-old wheel. Underrated and ill-appreciated, wOne and wOne 2, by Sean Cooper, give the lowly wheel center-stage in its very own arcade-style Web game.

Use the arrow keys to control the wheel, with your task being a simple one: collect barrels (or coins) and stars by rolling through a myriad of levels full of ramps and platforms.

Collect all barrels in a level to advance to the next. There are only 6 levels in wOne, varying in difficulty from easy to nightmare, and all of them have the same bricked look and feel. If you'd like to play the 6th level, however, you will have to collect all the stars in each of the first five.

wone2.jpgThe follow-up to first, wOne 2, expands upon this greatly with 19 different levels, including several different environments and a couple of power-ups. wOne 2 only has one level open by default, and you unlock new levels by collecting all the coins in each. So far I am unsure of the benefit to collecting all the stars, as the higher levels are a bit too much for me. But so far it appears to be nothing more but bragging rights. You'll also find scattered throughout the levels 4 differently-colored balls. These fill up the grid along the top of the screen. All 4 are neccesary for the last level, but I'll let you find out why for yourself.

Beyond the new collectibles, wOne 2 adds three (3) new environments: slippery ice, bottomless pits, and levels based around a central force of gravity. The last of the gravity levels adds items which change the direction or strength of the force.

In some levels you are also given a bungee system and/or a jet. The bungee attaches to any solid surface and allows you access too places not otherwise possible. The jet basically allows you to fly, though I will warn you that the controls while "jetting" are very sensitive, so take it easy.

Nice little additions to wOne 2 is the time par, rating system, and highscores table. Based on how many stars you get, and how fast you complete the level, you are given ratings from "Not Bad", to "Excellent".

Analysis: I thoroughly enjoyed both games, and I like the additions included in wOne 2. That being said, the improvements do make the game significantly more difficult, at least for me. Also, I do have a couple of quips: 1) the physics in both games seem to overreact a bit when you're moving too fast; and 2) although wOne 2 upgrades the wheel graphic from wOne, the new graphic isn't as smooth, and on the leaf-background it's visually a bit jarring. Regardless, the visuals on a whole are fantastic, the control structure is simple and the gameplay makes both games easy to jump into. Whether you're a die-hard platformer fan or just a casual gamer, wOne and wOne 2 are your new friends. Click! Again!


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (44 votes)
| Comments (97) | Views (137)

Jaysling.jpgIf someone were to have told me that I'd be spending the next several hours flinging, flicking, snapping, bouncing, dropping and shooting a green gob of gooey slime around 50 levels of a unique new Flash platform puzzle game, I'd probably have expected to see an exceptional piece of work. Well, Sling is exactly that: an amazing new physics-based platform game and I have been playing and enjoying it for hours.

Sling is also an animated creature with a single hand and a head connected by a long stretchy piece of springy slime. You control it with the mouse by clicking on its head to grab and pull it around, or snap it like a sling shot. Sling can attach only to small round spheres, or "grabs", that are placed around each level. It can also bounce off of walls, ceiling and floor provided they are free from hazard. A realistic physics model is used to give Sling its behavior and its springy, sling shot properties.

The objective (for most levels) is to visit all the grey grabs to turn them green. That will open up a portal that will take you to the next level.

Some levels will require you to flip switches and avoid enemies as well as visiting all the grabs, and every fifth level introduces you to a 'boss' level to complete. To create an added incentive, you play against the clock to beat the "gold time" set for each level. Although gold time performance is not required to advance, if you do achieve gold on all 50 levels a special bonus game is unlocked as a reward.

Analysis: There is much to enjoy from this beautiful piece of work: The opening introduction and animated tutorial, the cut scenes after the boss levels, the graphics, the sound design, as well as the unlockable levels and bonus game, Sling has all the features of a commercial game product. It is a gorgeous Web game with an exceptional physics implementation. That in itself is quite remarkable considering the usual Flash performance bottleneck we're used to seeing with action-oriented games.

In terms of gameplay, Sling plays as smooth and fluid as it looks. The levels start off fairly basic and gradually introduce new concepts and complexities as you make your way through the game. Each new level presents a puzzle with a little something added here or there. Just enough to keep you interested and challenged the whole way through. At first I wasn't as concerned with making gold times as I was with simply making it through each level; but now that I have acquired new skills and tricks from the later levels, back tracking to get those missed gold times is simultaneously enjoyable and gratifying.

Sling was created by two brothers from Australia, Jamie Edis and Simon Edis, who together have created over 200 Web games and animations between them. The game is available to play for free from their ezone website.

Play Sling


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (95 votes)
| Comments (177) | Views (1,695)

MDenAh, the rural life. Nothing but vast expanses of farmland, the occasional sounds of the barnyard animals, and life-shortening, back-breaking manual labor. But Funny Farm, by Igor Naverniouk, is distinctly different than the farmer lifestyle. This word association game starts on the farm, but quickly branches out into greener pastures. What at first looks to be no more than a simple inventory of a cultivator's possessions quickly expands far beyond Green Acres—unlike this review, which has remained firmly planted in farming gags. (I'll stop now.)

The concept of using words to find more words in a chain is hardly original, but the implementation is what makes this game so incredibly addicting. The spider web-style of displaying words gives a flowing sort of feeling as you progress through the chains. As you extend outwards, new sections of the map are opened, giving a definite sign of progress.

The most useful feature, however, is the merging system. In order to encourage cooperation between players, you can merge another player's correct answers into your own puzzle by copying their game URL. If you can get a group of people all working on the puzzle together, hints, answers, and URLs will be flying around faster than one can follow.

Ultimately, the game is won by solving the meta-puzzle, which has clues in the four corners of the map, but you won't consider the game truly won until you've hunted down every last word. If you can do that, then you certainly should be put out to stud.

Play Funny Farm


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (47 votes)
| Comments (145) | Views (98)

JayLine RiderThis strangely compelling and unique little webtoy was just released over at deviantArt, and a bunch of us were playing while chatting about it in our new irc chat room (if that link doesn't work for you, the chat room is always available via a Java client by clicking "Chat" in the menu above.)

The idea behind Line Rider is a simple one: You are given an interface with which to draw a surface for a little character on a sled to slide upon. Once the surface is drawn, just click the play button (triangle pointing to the right) to watch the ride.

Although still a work in progress, there is a lot of fun to be had with this little toy. In fact, you can even save and load tracks that you build, which are saved locally on your own computer.

The author, FSK, has also made available a downloadable version that promises to have a better frame rate and is resizable, though it is in .exe format and therefore will only run on Windows.

Tiralmo and Blauwbaard (author of Panic) suggested the toy needs a few objectives to make it more enjoyable, so here is a list of tasks to get you started:

  1. Create a ramp to slide down without crashing.
  2. Create a ramp with a jump, and a smooth landing.
  3. Create a loop-de-loop.
  4. Create a backwards loop-de-loop.

Any other objectives you'd like to add? Let us know in the comments.

Play Line Rider

If you loved Line Rider but were frustrated by its limitations, then be sure to check out the new updated version, Line Rider Beta 2!!.

(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (74) | Views (492)

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JohnBCake Mania is a fast-paced arcade game where you play the role of Jill, a new graduate from culinary school, who returns home to discover her grandparents' bakery is closed. Business fell when the new Mega-Mart opened and not even their special recipes could help them compete. Jill decides to open her own old fashioned bakery to earn money and re-open her grandparents' store. Through nearly 50 levels and four different locations you'll help Jill serve customers as efficiently as possible. Along the way you'll buy new appliances for your kitchen, set up a bakery at the circus, and serve pink frosted cakes to vampires.

cake3.jpgCake Mania's simple formula is very easy to learn, but when customers start swarming the shop those simplicities start to get a little more complex. Each time someone comes in your first step is to give them a menu. When they select their cake shape, hop over to the oven and bake it, ice it with the correct flavor, add any decorations, then serve it up hot. Each customer has a set of hearts that shows how happy they are. Wait too long and the customer will get angry and might leave the store. The happier your customers, the more money you'll make. Which, of course, is a good thing.

Cake Mania plays out in rounds, each one lasting approximately five minutes. At the end of each round you can use some of your cash to buy new equipment or upgrade existing appliances. Add more icing stations, extra ovens, or even upgrade Jill's shoes to give her a little extra spring in her step. You can even buy things that will help keep customers happy while waiting in line, such as a television set.

cake3.jpgThere's a good variety of locations and types of customers in Cake Mania, enough to give each round a unique feel. Depending on what month it is different people will visit your store. For example, in February Cupid will stop by the bakery. As you can imagine he's quite busy this time of year, so you'll need to work fast to fill his order before he gets upset. In December Santa Claus will pay you a visit, bringing with him holiday cheer that perks up everyone in the room.

Cake Mania has the wonderful ability to draw you in and keep you wanting more, kind of like real cake. The fast-paced gameplay doesn't sacrifice overall progression, giving you more reasons to stick around for "just" one more round. It blends action and strategy together in a game that's easy to learn and very easy to enjoy.

Analysis: As I type this, I'm thinking about my kitchen. Well, Jill's kitchen. Should we upgrade the other frosting stations or save and upgrade the third oven? Maybe I'll go and play just one round and see what happens. Only one, I promise... Cake Mania is one of those rare games I just can't stop playing. The blend of short spurts of action with long term goals captures me and I'm helpless to resist. Or maybe it's that I really like cake?

What's so engaging about Cake Mania is how the initially simple formula grows and evolves as customers' demands become more intricate. While you play, your brain is keeping track of four unique orders, trying to figure out the best way to fill them, and monitoring their happiness levels. It sounds like a full plate, but it feels like just the right amount of information to keep you interested without becoming frustrated. Rounds last around 5 minutes, so time never drags, but each level brings new customers and a chance to try out my new kitchen upgrades.

Cake Mania is a superb rendition of a classic action/arcade formula. It wraps almost everything a gamer needs from a good casual title into one nice little package. With frosting on top.

Try the online Flash version.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Cake Mania is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games

CDX


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (45 votes)
| Comments (199) | Views (384)

JaycdxJust launched by the BBC History team along with the design and technical prowess of those amazing Preloaded folks (wasn't I just pining for something new from them?), CDX is a brand new multi-episode adventure game that uses real actors and video segments to spin a tale of mystery and intrigue around an ancient Roman sacrificial blade.

The first episode was just released on September 21st with three (3) more soon to follow. The format of the game, at least in this first episode, is very much like a point-and-click adventure in that you're presented with a brief cutscene introducing you to the story and your role within it, except it is entirely live action video. You're next dropped into a room in which you must figure out how to move the story forward.

Exceptional attention to detail and high production values set this effort apart from other Web-based point-and-click adventures, and the acting is fairly top-notch. There are even selectable dialog sequences in which the actors will play out a scene based on the choices made by the player. These choices do not appear to have any affect on the outcome, however, as the game seems to be quite linear in structure so far.

CDX is shaping up to be yet another remarkable effort from the BBC and Preloaded teams, and they have created an engaging and compelling interactive experience that is very enjoyable to play. Looking forward in earnest to the next installment.

A broadband Internet connection is highly recommended for this interactive adventure.

Play CDX

Update: If you are located outside the UK and wish to play this fantastic piece of work, you may now access the game from Preloaded's CDX website.


| Comments (18) | Views (18)

Casual Gameplay ChatWe've just launched our own IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channel, which you can get to by clicking "Chat" in the menu above. That will take you to an open source Java client and automatically log you onto the chat server being hosted at Casual Gameplay. If you prefer to use your own IRC client, then point it to irc.jayisgames.com and join channel #casualgameplay. See ya there! =)

Note: When launching the Java applet by clicking Chat in the menu available on every page of JIG, you will get a dialog requesting that you accept the digitally signed application. This is to allow the application to communicate with our IRC server only. It is signed by Philippe Detournay, the author of the chat client application, PJIRC. While the certificate may have expired, we assure you that launching the chat app is perfectly safe.

The Java client is just the easiest and most convenient way to access our IRC channel, but it's not the best client to use. Here are some recommended clients. Choose one based on your OS:

So, come on and join us! Don't be shy. We have a great bunch of folks that hang out in there everyday and who ensure a family-friendly, safe chatting environment for everyone. Come talk about your favorite game(s), or help us solve the latest game posted on JIG. Whatever your gaming pleasure, you're sure to find someone there who shares your joy. =)


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (41 votes)
| Comments (15) | Views (90)

JayCryptogramaCyptograma has to be the most appealing interface to a cryptographic puzzle that I have ever seen. Created by Alicia Ramirez of Manitoba, Canada, the game features quotes and phrases to decrypt from famous people, and they are available either in English or en Español.

Each puzzle is in the form of a simple substitution cipher in which each letter of a phrase is substituted with a symbol. It is up to you to figure out the letter that each symbol corresponds to.

To play, use the keyboard and the mouse in combination by first clicking on a symbol to select it, and then typing a letter on the keyboard. All like symbols will then become the letter you typed, regardless of whether you guessed correctly, so keep working with the puzzle until you get it right.

Analysis: The fluorescent lime green and yellow colors together contrasted against the black background creates a visually stunning appearance to the game that really grabs you and pulls you into the puzzle. The use of symbols instead of other letters broadens the appeal of this game to include even those that may not usually play with cryptograms. Overall an excellent game design by Alicia Ramirez. The only area in which I see room for improvement would be a greater number and a wider variety of phrases. Additional languages would also be a nice to have.

Play Cryptograma


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Rating: 4.7/5 (35 votes)
| Comments (29) | Views (34)

JayMotocross 2Wow. How could I have missed this? Suggested by Marijn and John-Paul a couple of weeks ago, I can't believe I let this one slip under the radar as I am a huge fan of David Thorburn's prolific game development efforts on his Teagames website.

TG Motocross 2 is the sequel to another fine game of the same name, TG Motocross, which we haven't covered before. Both games actually appear to be quite the same except for different courses. This is not such a bad thing, however, as both are excellent games in the motocross genre.

As with other similar Teagames, use the arrow keys for control. To accelerate the motorbike press the [up] arrow; press [down] to brake. Use the [right] and [left] arrows to shift your weight forward and back on the bike, respectively. To climb very steep inclines you will need to shift your weight to the back to take the weight off the front tire. Shift your weight forward on stretches to gain momentum.

A light area in the upper right corner of the game window shows a map of the terrain for the level to give an idea of what's coming up so you can be ready to jump that chasm or land safely on the rocky and uneven slope. Race against the clock and try to get one of the top times, or just have fun trying to make it through each of the 11 courses. Great casual fun with an added incentive for the hardcore gamer.

Analysis: The physics engine here is very much the same as we're used to seeing in David's work, and yet the implementation seems to be a bit different in terms of bike and rider. Whereas previous games had the rider attached to the bike, the TG Motocross games separate the two so it becomes entirely possible to actually fall off. While I am not certain if this is important to the gameplay at all, I did notice that the physics in this iteration of the engine seem a bit more polished and produces a greater sense of immersion and enjoyment than previous efforts.

In comparison to Teagames' BMX series of games, I enjoyed TG Motocross much more. This is most likely due to the fact that the bike is motorized and that makes climbing steep inclines less of a problem and improves the relative level of enjoyment for the casual gamer.

Try it yourself and add your feedback to the comments.

Play TG Motocross 2


| Comments (10) | Views (7)

JayLately I've been working on several projects for the site as well as scouring the Web and going through all the game submissions looking for something truly exceptional to share, though nothing has really jumped out at me yet.

However, yesterday I did look through all the results from the recent Flash Forward Film Festival that were just announced last week in Austin, Texas, and there are some exceptional items that simply should not be missed.

Death in SakkaraFirst off, in the game category, award-winning design studio, Preloaded in the UK, took home the prize for their stellar work on Death in Sakkara, a game you should play immediately if you haven't yet. Kudos to everyone involved there at Preloaded and at the BBC for commissioning the piece. And yet that game was released almost a year ago(!) BBC and Preloaded: come on, you've whet our appetites, we want something new! =)

Ferry Halim's latest game, Bugs, was a finalist. That's another name we haven't heard much from in many months. I hope to see a new Orisinal game soon.

Also landing finalist spots were two intriguing Web games you may want to check out: Guardians of Altarris, an elaborate Flash fighter with a rich and deep control scheme and very pretty graphics and effects; and Playdo Jam, a browser game played with a Webcam that tracks player movement and motion, and uses that for the basis of its gameplay.

Bendito MachineGood Morning IsamuBesides the highly revered "game" category, there is still much to peruse through all the other categories as well. Just to get you started, be sure to see Bendito Machine, a finalist in the "cartoon" category. And while you're there at Zumbakamera check out some of Jossie Malis' other work, especially Good Morning Isamu and also Pacha. Absolutely brilliant style and design. Gorgeous.

Samorost 2 was a winner in the "original sound" category. Thanks for reminding me about that one, as it definitely deserves another play.

And in the "technical merit" category the Flash Commodore 64 Emulator deserves a mention for it's authentic emulation of a playable Galaga game, even though the controls for the game were technically messed up on my Mac—pressing the [right] arrow moved the ship left—though that didn't stop me from scoring over 50,000 points. =)

And that should keep you occupied for a while. I'll try to get another game reviewed later today. Cheers!


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Rating: 4.6/5 (27 votes)
| Comments (30) | Views (65)

pollock.gifJohnBThe Jackson Pollock emulator is a simple Flash toy that simulates the drip style of painting popularized by Jackson Pollock. The entire browser window is a blank white canvas and your mouse becomes the paintbrush. Move the cursor over the surface to pour paint, changing colors with the left mouse button. Linger over one area for some time to leave large blotches or shake the mouse back and forth for light streams of paint. You may not create a masterpiece, but it's an engaging way to let your creativity flow.

Pollock produced a number of paintings in the 1940s and 50s, pioneering his now-famous style. He would tack a large piece of canvas on the floor of his old shed, preferring the solid feeling of the earth to an easel. The brush would never touch the canvas, Pollock would simply move around the painting pouring and dripping colors as he saw fit. A photographer once watched Pollock produce a painting. Over the half-hour session he describes being entranced by the playful focus of the painter. He moved like a dance, poured paint here and there, and then suddenly stood back and said "This is it."

To quote Pollock on what he experienced while he painted:

When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.

The Jackson Pollock Emulator captures some of the same creative magic. Produce a beautiful piece of art or just scatter colors on the screen. Either way, it's an entrancing experience. Play.

Thanks to Rob for sending this one in!


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (13) | Views (3)

JayPanicA little bit of mindless fun to follow up that wonderful yet frustrating brain teaser puzzle from Lars. This one from a newly formed, independent game design and development company in The Netherlands, Coin-Op Interactive.

Panic is a simple and stylish arcade game made in homage to a classic on the Commodore 64, Astro Panic. Made in Flash and sporting an impressive new soundtrack as well as eye-pleasing particle effects, Panic plays like a cross between Space Invaders and Pang.

The objective is to shoot all enemy spaceships (UFOs) that enter in wave after wave of increasing number. The higher you hit a UFO the more points you earn. And you have just three (3) lives with no power-ups.

Analysis: With intuitive controls and immediately understandable rules of play, the game is quick to pick-up and play and thus can provide that desirable dose of instant gratification during your afternoon lunch or coffee break. The graphics are simple and plain, and yet the monochrome backdrop is nicely contrasted by splashes of red when an enemy is destroyed. It is a well-made game that features a high score list that also lists the highest score attained for a single kill, adding one more reason to return for just one more go.

With graphics and code created by Sander van der Vegte, Panic is simple, mindless and classic arcade fun.

Play Panic


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Rating: 4.3/5 (32 votes)
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JayThe Alchemist's ApprenticeAt first glance, when submitted to our recent game design competition, I thought perhaps The Alchemist's Apprentice would be similar to other 'recipe' games like Grow that have been popularized by Eyezmaze. And while recipes actually play an important role in this game, the concept is an original and creative idea from the mind of Lars Andreas Doucet.

In this entertaining puzzle game You are the alchemist's apprentice left in charge of the alchemy shop while the master is away (probably away on business, but we don't really know for sure; details are sketchy, you see, and therefore we shouldn't jump to any conclusions.) In any event, she left some instructions behind: you must conjure three (3) items before the master returns.

You will have to read through tomes of material (ok, maybe not 'tome' in the literal sense, but definitely in the figurative sense as it relates to figures drawn on the screen) to solve the mystery ensconced within this delightfully interactive experience. And in these tomes is where the brilliance of this game shines its brightest.

Lars toiled, no, he double toiled and troubled over the charming drawings and imaginative stories that unfold within the pages contained therein. I found myself chuckling as I went through each recipe and ingredient, even letting out an occasional guffaw(!) at the clever and witty references he tosses around. Great stuff!

The core of the puzzle itself may be a bit difficult to solve for some and, on the downside, once the 'key' is found there's little motivation to return to this otherwise engaging and inviting game. But don't let that stop you from rolling up your sleeves, donning an apron, and trying out this rather bewitching little puzzle game created by a Norwegian born American now living in Texas, USA.

JohnBJohn: The Alchemist's Apprentice is an extremely creative idea that should be played even if only for its wonderful sense of humor. It's tough to figure out, but at least you're smiling the whole time. Look at the ingredients book, flip through the recipes, then start experimenting. Despite the tomes of information before you, it's still easy to feel rather lost in the alchemy shop. This works both for and against the game: you feel like you can create anything, but it can be frustrating at first to make even one recipe. I quickly became an expert at making Aglaglop, and I'm not stopping until I make Unobtainium. I don't care what the book says. Thanks to Lars Doucet for a fantastic game!

Play The Alchemist's Apprentice


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HuntyExperimental Gameplay competition games are inJust wanted to let you know that the entries are all in for Experimental Gameplay's second competition. The first competition was to create games with a "consume" theme, and the theme of this one (which is sponsored by Red Octane) is to create games that use a dance pad, but that are not dance games. Despite a rocky start, and some trouble getting pads out to the entrants (which resulted in the deadline being pushed back) there are a lot of great games in this one, and some very impressive prize packages from the sponsor.

All of the games in the contest are designed to take alternate input from the keyboard, so even if you don't have a dance pad you can still play along.

Check out all the entries.

...especially "Wedgie Ninja", which is my entry. :)X


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Rating: 4.3/5 (36 votes)
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JohnBOut 2: Out of File is the sequel to the room escape game Out File #01 by Isomura Kai of Tonakai Interactive. The story picks up after escaping the room in the first game and walking through a long winding cave. Now you find yourself in an underground complex filled with computers and machinery with no way to make it to the surface. The game was released a few weeks ago in Japanese but how has an English translation.

out2outoffile.jpgJust like its predecessor, Out 2 features a lot of little innovations that really set it apart from the pack. Many puzzles pull you out of the standard point-click-solve mindset and let you interact with the game more directly. You'll have to edge down a cliff, use a stylus to operate computers, even aim and fire a rocket launcher later on. They're almost like miniature arcade sequences, yet they require no special dexterity skills (fortunately).

In your quest to find a way out of this place you'll need to activate machines, swipe data cards, assemble items, locate keys, and solve puzzles on four computer consoles. None of it is as easy as it sounds. Out 2 boasts a fairly high level of difficulty, so don't expect to sail through the game without running into a snag or two (or... well... twelve). To make matters more tense, there are a few places in the game where you can actually die, though the game is fairly forgiving and allows you to restart from your previous location a few times.

Another outstanding aspect of Out 2 is its dramatic presentation. Although the graphics are minimalist they have a very polished, professional feel to them. Well-used sound effects add to the experience and make the game feel like an interactive spy movie.

Analysis: I was really impressed with the overall production values of Out 2: Out of File. The graphics and sounds, as mentioned above, are used extraordinarily well to increase the dramatic atmosphere. Puzzles aren't just A + B = C, and right when you think you've solved something you've really only scratched the surface. The difficulty can be frustrating at times, but in the end you won't regret a moment you spent playing the game. Out 2 is a remarkably well-done room escape game with a polished presentation and intricate puzzles to solve. Grit your teeth and give it a go. Play.

Cheers to Emdf for alerting us that the English version had just been released! =)


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Rating: 4.4/5 (45 votes)
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Noahabcgame.jpgA surreal, ravaged landscape lies before you. All is still, until a flash of motion catches your eye. You whirl around, your heart pounds... An enormous, impossibly horrible monster rises up from the horizon! What an awful shape! And yet, somehow familiar...

Produced by Norway's Orgdot Media Lab, The ABC Game is an educational game aimed at familiarizing 6 year-olds with the alphabet. Despite being short, uncomplicated and an absolute breeze for anyone already familiar with the world of letters, Orgdot's beautiful illustrations and animation make The ABC Game a must-see and, after some of the devious brain-smashers submitted in our recent contest, a bit of a rest for throbbing minds everywhere.

Move the mouse to look around the landscape. Monsters soon appear, each resembling a letter of the alphabet. Clicking on one opens up a mini-game in which you must finesse a scattered group of lines and curves into the shape of the proper letter. Click on any (non-empty) grid cell and the contents will squirm and reform themselves organically into a new or rotated shape. At first this appears to be a grid-based rotation puzzle like so many others, although The ABC Game's take on the concept has one dubious distinction: each panel has only two completely arbitrary positions. As a result, forming the letters is a simple exercise in trial and error, and thankfully brief.

Analysis: My favorite part of ABC was panning around the landscape, observing its inhabitants. It could have been nice to have a reason to explore and interact with the scenery a bit more, perhaps by making the monsters slightly more difficult to find or catch. Ultimately, The ABC Game succeeds at the challenging task of appealing both to the very young and to their elders, although I do wish Orgdot could have thrown a few more bones my way.

Play The ABC Game

Other games from Orgdot reviewed or mentioned here: DNA Factory, and Kharon4a.


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (38) | Views (64)

ttbanner.jpg

JohnBTribal Trouble is a downloadable real-time strategy game for Windows, Mac or Linux. Compared to most RTS games, Tribal Trouble is easy to learn and to pick-up and play, yet it still offers a deep strategy that takes time to master. The game, created by Oddlabs, has earned many words of praise, including being a finalist for an IGF award for technical excellence, a spot on Game Tunnel's Top Indie Games of the Year list, and some impressive sales and downloads statistics.

tribaltrouble.jpgThe story may sound serious, but the tone of Tribal Trouble is quite light-hearted: A group of vikings were sailing the South Seas when they crashed near a set of small islands. As vikings are apt to do, pillaging and plundering quickly ensued. Of course the native islanders weren't too pleased with these newcomers and their looting, so they picked up spears and stood their ground, competing with the foreigners for land, resources, and their lives.

Nearly everything in Tribal Trouble is based on gathering and using four main resources: wood, rock, iron and chicken. Yes, chickens are a resource. You can build the game's three basic structures right off the bat and never have to worry about upgrading them later on. Peons even harvest the materials automatically. This lets you jump right into the game without having to worry about managing statistics early on.

tribaltrouble2.jpgAfter settling in you'll want to amass an army to defend yourself and/or conquer your foes. Tribal Trouble simplifies all of these tasks into one central hub: the Armory. Once you build this structure everything you need to create warriors is just a few clicks away. Fill the Armory with peons, click on the building and start giving orders. First you'll need to send workers out to gather resources. Then, turn those resources into weapons that will go into the hands of your trained warriors.

A major part of the strategy in the game is deciding where to allocate your peons and which resources to hoard. Wood is the most abundant but produces the weakest warriors. Chicken is the most difficult resource to find but, surprisingly, will create a powerful fighter.

Tribal Trouble offers three modes of play: a single-player campaign, online multiplayer, and a solo battle mode. Campaign includes dozens of unique missions for both the vikings and natives and will keep you busy for quite some time. The real fun begins when you take your tribal troublings online and battle against players from around the world.

Analysis: As a genre, real-time strategy games are notoriously time-consuming. It can take hours just to learn how to play, and missions can devour whole afternoons. As a self-confessed gamer-gone-casual, I've gradually turned away from these games simply because I don't want to invest so much time into them. But along comes Tribal Trouble and breaks some of those conventions. It manages to gather most of the strategic elements from RTS games without all the complexities.

Tribal Trouble's interface is very clean and easy to use. Every action has a corresponding icon and keyboard shortcut, great for beginners and experienced players alike. I was impressed by the fluid camera controls that let me do everything from tilt, rotate and seamlessly zoom with the touch of a button. There's nothing like pulling the camera behind my warrior's shoulders when they move in for the attack.

On the down side, Tribal Trouble does suffer from a few minor issues. When you order peons to gather materials, they'll strike out across the island to find what they need, even if that means walking right into an enemy's camp. Then you're forced to deal with the inevitable attack. And if too many peons are assigned to one task they'll clump in useless groups rather than spread out to get more work done. There are a few annoyances of this nature, but nothing you won't quickly learn to work around.

Tribal Trouble should satisfy most RTS fans but is especially well-suited for casual gamers. The game has a lot of little perks and ends up being just plain fun. No serious real-time strategizing, no losing sleep over missions, just a few vikings and a few native islanders duking it out with spears made out of chickens.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version


[Jay adds: Tribal Trouble is an excellent casual game and one that we highly recommend. It is also a game from which we will benefit when you purchase the full version. These sponsored game reviews provide us a way of informing you about the best downloadable casual games available, while giving you another way to help support this site via your purchase. We will continue to provide sponsored reviews only for games we emphatically endorse.]


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (11) | Views (48)

JayColour ConnectColour Connect has many of the qualities of a classic casual game: it is easy to understand, simple to pick-up and play, and the randomly generated puzzles present a challenge that is difficult to master.

The objective is to clear all colored discs from play by clicking on them one-by-one, provided that the next disc you click contains the same color as the previous one. Some discs contain multiple colors, and others only a single color. Some discs fade in and out alternating between two colors.

Although you may begin with any disc you choose, you will soon discover that some strategic planning is in order if you wish to actually win. I found that there are some discs that absolutely must come last, and so I work my way backwards to find the discs to start off with.

Analysis: The game is an excellent design and, like many of the other entries in our competition, was only very narrowly edged out of being among the winners. One area that the game comes up short is in its accessibility to those who are colorblind. This issue could easily be avoided by pairing each color with a unique texture to identify and distinguish it from the others. This is an area that all game developers should take notice to and address in their own designs.

Created by Matthew Dirks of British Columbia, Canada, for our recent game design competition, this puzzle game not only plays great it could also pass as an abstract work of art. Simple minimalist design, lucid and yet challenging gameplay makes this creative and original puzzle game one to return to again and again.

Play Colour Connect


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Rating: 4.4/5 (21 votes)
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JaySWF RoadsClassic style arcade gameplay recreated in Flash, SwfRoads is an absolutely brilliant fast action driving game with simple controls, great minimalist visuals and an energizing soundtrack. Take to the sky in your spacecraft and navigate the geometric terrain of each of the game's 18 selectable roads.

Use the [up] and [down] arrow keys to change speed; press [left] and [right] to navigate. Press [space] to jump. To quit a game in progress and return to the road select menu at any time, press [esc].

You must stay on the road and make it to the end of each one to advance automatically to the next, though you may play any road you wish. While driving you will notice that some colored terrain have special properties, such as changing your speed or destroying you if landed upon. Also, the gravitational force changes between roads and so will the tactic required to make it safely to the end.

You are given unlimited lives, and there is no score tallied and no levels to unlock. This is pure arcade goodness without all the overhead. You will notice, however, that a brute force method will not get you very far; you will need to plan your moves and your speed wisely for each road. Great arcade fun in a fantastic Flash implementation.

Play SwfRoads

The game was coded by Zooli and is actually a remake of SkyRoads, a now classic game released by Bluemoon Interactive back in 1993 as shareware for the PC (DOS). SwfRoads looks and plays a lot similar, though it does not include the oxygen and fuel gauges, nor the time limits that SkyRoads has. Bluemoon has since made the demo and full versions of SkyRoads freely available as downloads from their site.


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (16) | Views (34)

JaySigil of BindingSigil of Binding is a simple puzzle game submitted to our recent game design competition by John-Paul Walton of Ohio, USA. It is based on the familiar 'flip the squares to turn them all the same' concept of puzzles, and yet John-Paul's impressive audio and visual production skills turn this version into one all his own.

To play, simply move the mouse over the puzzle grid to highlight an outline of the squares to flip. When the mouse is clicked, all squares within the outline will flip over to reveal either a section of the sigil or the dark brown underside of each piece. The objective is to turn all 16 squares to the sigil image for each of the eight (8) puzzles contained in the collection, and to do it in the fewest possible moves.

Analysis: This was yet another competition entry that was only narrowly edged out from being a winner (note to self: get more prizes for the next competition!) The presentation of this game is certainly one of the best I've seen in any Flash puzzle game, and John-Paul clearly shows he is no novice to the Flash platform. Although the concept is not an original one, it is one of my favorite types of puzzles and I enjoyed playing this game over and over until I solved it. An engaging and compelling puzzle game, and an excellent entry to the competition, Sigil of Binding will have you bound.

Play Sigil of Binding


| Comments (42) | Views (50)

Wii to support Adobe FlashToday the wraps were taken off the remaining details regarding the launch of Nintendo's next console, Wii (pronounced "we"). Besides being available November 19th for a retail price of $249, what was even more interesting (at least to me) was word confirming that the Wii Opera Web browser would indeed support Adobe Flash(!)

This is GREAT NEWS!

This means you should be able to surf to our illustrious Casual Gameplay site and play many of the games we feature here using the innovative Wii controller ("Wiimote") while sitting in the comfort of your living room. The Opera browser will not be free, however; it will be available for purchase using Wii points through Nintendo's online service.

And if you're a Flash game developer reading this, you can now design games with the Wiimote in mind. In other words, rely less on the keyboard and more on the pointing and clicking.

Bravo, Nintendo! And thank you kindly. =)


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Rating: 4.7/5 (40 votes)
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dancemonkeywhitejigsaw.gifThe problem with jigsaw puzzles is that they engage two conflicting parts of my brain: my hatred of disorder, and my utter lack of desire to do anything about it. You open the box and there they are, laughing at you, hundreds (thousands, maybe?) of oddly-shaped bits of cardboard. Some of them are even upside-down!

White Jigsaw, by Taro Ito of gamedesign.jp, solves a lot of those problems. There's no picture, the pieces can't be rotated or flipped over, and it starts off small: a 4x3 puzzle of 12 totally white pieces. That's right, it's not called White Jigsaw for nothing. The game is not hard by any means, but it's not really intended to be. It's intended to be evil, but in a nice way.

You begin each level the way your grandma taught you: the edges first, working your way in. By the third level you're taking guesses at some of the middle pieces, and you're probably right most of the time. Soon you're staring at a 11x8 88-piece monster and wondering how you got there, and why can't you just stop? I got hooked on the pattern matching, scanning the available pieces, searching for that one pattern I'd locked into my head, and feeling that rush as the last handful of pieces click into place.

The thing about jigsaw puzzles is that the finish is what you're playing for, and this is no exception. The designer has taken away the picture, but by feeding the puzzles to you in ever-increasing sizes you get drawn in little by little to his masochistic master plan. I couldn't help myself: every time I finished a level I felt flush with joy that I'd earned the right to move on to the next level, only to be crestfallen at what I'd gotten myself into.

Be careful, this game is utterly addictive.

Play White Jigsaw


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Rating: 4.5/5 (21 votes)
| Comments (37) | Views (13)

JayDrag the DotSometimes we like to spread out games of the same genre, and sometimes we like to group them together in what you might call a "theme". Well, today the theme is simple idea, mouse-play games, and this next one goes nicely with the previously reviewed, Reverse 2. In fact, this one might pose an even greater challenge by following close behind. =)

Drag the Dot is a simple Flash game, created by Oliver Castañeda of Scarsdale, New York, in which the objective is literally self-explanatory: Just drag the dot to the goal in each of the game's 16 levels. There is lots of movement and animation happening to thwart your advance, but thankfully there is no time limit and no limit to the number of tries you can take to complete each level. I especially like the fact that you can stop dragging to take a breath without the dot returning to the starting point. The 'magnetic' sticks that rotate relative to the mouse position is also a nice feature, and creates an additional challenge to the simple gameplay formula.

Oliver promises that the final 'boss' level is "better than doom" (whatever that means), but you'll have to take his word for it because I can't quite seem to get there. Twice I've tried but I've either closed or reloaded my browser window and lost my progress. Therefore, an improvement to the game I would like to see is selectable levels, perhaps even unlocked as you advance, so you may return at any time without having to go through all the completed levels over again.

Play Drag the Dot


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (23) | Views (14)

RobReverse 2An updated version of the original Reverse game previously reviewed on JIG, Reverse 2 is a very simple point-to-move-the-block game where the basic rule is that the mouse input directions have been reversed, so pushing the mouse up pulls you down, and so forth.

Updates on the original include:

  • Homing blocks. While parts of the playing area could move in the original, in the update there are also certain blocks which home in on you, and - unlike you - are not stopped by walls!
  • Invisibility. Usually a bonus in most games, this is a crippling power-up. It is invariably placed so it is impossible to avoid, and means that your cursor vanishes.
  • Gold keys. These unlock sections of the current level, and are simply a game mechanic which forces the player a certain way, without the use of walls.
  • Black keys. These are fun, and despite the fact they should make things easier, they don't unless you think about it!

The game comes with a handy timer, and it took me 1261.13 seconds to finish the whole thing. Literally about half of that time was spent on level 25, so if you do that one quickly you should comfortably beat my time.

In terms of ease of play compared to the first game, it's quite a lot longer. The first game took me about half as long to complete in one sitting. I really enjoyed it though, despite its occasional roar-inducing frustrations! The moment I reached level 26 was a happy one. :)

Play Reverse 2


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Rating: 4.2/5 (25 votes)
| Comments (37) | Views (139)

JohnBGear PuzzleFrom Warwickshire, UK, David Durham's Gear Puzzle is a simple puzzle game featured in our recent game design competition. As the game begins, a small blue character with big puppy-dog eyes catches sight of a pink character locked in a cage. The cage is chained to a gear suspended from the top of the screen. Pegs line the wall and various sized gears are scattered around. Helpless but heroic, the blue guy does the only thing he can to help: jumps on the gear across the room and starts spinning it. Your job is to arrange gears on the pegs to transfer the motion across the room to lower the cage.

Solving Gear Puzzle is a simple matter of experimenting with gear combinations, but you do have to put some thought into your actions. The gears must come in contact with each other in order to keep the movement going. Because of the pegs and the gear sizes this can be a challenge. A little trial and error can go a long way, and there are a number of ways to complete the game, so persistence and planning are your greatest weapons.

The design of Gear Puzzle is very clean and crisp. Sound effects are elegantly confined to the clicking of gears as you lift and place them on pegs. The dungeon-esque setting is great, and the characters couldn't be any cuter. Just look at those eyes! The game isn't difficult to solve and once you complete it there isn't much impetus to come back and play again. Nevertheless, Gear Puzzle is very well designed and a complete joy from beginning to end. Thanks for the great entry, David!

JayJay: What I like most about David's adorably cute Gear Puzzle is the simple yet effective goal of rescue mission as motivation to explore and solve the puzzle within. It is a universally identifiable objective that David brilliantly conveys without words through the game's intro animation, and makes this entry in the competition stand shoulders tall with the best of them. A possible improvement might be to allow the player to select which of the two characters she wishes to play as, since I know some girls that would like to play the part of the rescuer. ;)

In terms of the design of the puzzle game, there are a few too many possible solutions, which makes it seem just a little too easy overall. An excellent production none the less, and an enjoyable game while it lasts. Cheers, David! =)

Play Gear Puzzle


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (168 votes)
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JaySubmachine ZeroSubmachine Zero: Ancient Adventure is a spectacularly detailed Flash point-and-click puzzle game from one of the leading designers of the genre, Mateusz Skutnik (also known as Murtaugh) of Poland. This competition entry also placed within a tight group of puzzles that resembled a photo-finish at the horse races. In other words, it was difficult to pass this entry by as a prize winner.

This latest adventure offers similar mood and mystique as the other games in the Submachine series, and Mur demonstrates his masterful ability to create engaging and compelling game play experiences, even within a game of a smaller scale as this was designed specifically with the competition in mind. The level of immersion experienced by the player is enhanced through both sight and sound making this an excellent addition to the series. The interface is especially remarkable, as it is very intuitive and does not get in the way of the game play. This is more an evolution than a revolution of styles, however, as Mur extends and refines his game-making talent.

Overall, the game is very easy; too easy, in fact, for it to have been rated highly as a puzzle game in the competition. It just doesn't offer much of a challenge as its puzzle is straight forward and easy to complete. I had figured out the solution to the puzzle before I was even half-way through, and from then on it was just rote.

Still, I would be remiss if I did not whole-heartedly recommend the game, especially if you enjoy the rare experience of a well-produced, point-and-click adventure game as this one is.

JohnBJohn: I was thrilled to see a Submachine-related entry from Mateusz in our competition. If you aren't familiar with these games, I'll advise you to start playing right now. Each of the installments is a shining example of style, atmosphere and simplicity rolled into a surprisingly deep casual gaming experience. Submachine Zero takes the same point-and-click pizazz from the previous games and scales things back just a bit to fit our competition theme. The game has a wonderful setting that hints at volumes of backstory. It's a little more straightforward than previous Submachine titles, but because of the depth of design you won't forget it anytime soon. Rarely do I get so engrossed in a game that I am compelled to finish it before leaving my chair, but Submachine Zero did the trick!

NoahNoah: Mateusz surprised everyone with a new edition of his popular Submachine games, reviewed here, here, here and here. With moody graphics that would be at home in an Edward Gorey book and spooky sound by the ThumpMonks, Submachine Zero is yet another great contest entry, and just as absorbing as Mateusz's prior work.

Play Submachine Zero: Ancient Adventure

We've been here covering the entire Submachine series since the very beginning with reviews and walkthroughs for all of them...

Outside the main storyline, and yet still another great Submachine, is a game created for the band Future Loop Foundation:


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Planet Internet interviewDutch website Planet Internet just published a feature article about this site including an interview that author and JIG visitor, Wouter, conducted with me over email a few weeks ago. It is all in Dutch, so reading it may be tough if English is your only language (or you might try a translated version.) Still, it's very flattering to see my very first interview in 'print', and I wish to thank Wouter for the exposure and for the very kind consideration of requesting the interview to begin with.

Oh, and by the way, it was never asked, but some of my ancestors were Dutch. =)

Dank u.


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<rant>Dreamhost, why can't you give me even one complete week of uninterrupted service? And why, once you verify that one of your servers is down, does it take an hour to bring it back online again?</rant>


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (379 votes)
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Dragon FableYou've managed to make it to lunchtime. It's been a rough day but you are free for an hour and you'd love to spend it laying the smack down on some monsters RPG-style. However, it's going to be hard to install World of Warcraft on your puny work PC, and besides, you simply don't have time. What do you do? Fire up a game of DragonFable.

This Flash-based online game brings Final Fantasy style monster battles to a casual audience. Once you've created your character and begin playing you'll acquire weapons, face legions of monsters, visit shops, and just about every cliche'd activity you can imagine (except no fishing yet, or fighting rats in a cellar). DragonFable is a prequel to Adventure Quest from the team Artix Entertainment. Like it's older sibling you will not find much of a storyline (yet) or complex gameplay. Instead you will find a lighthearted adventure consisting of: traveling a basic map, fighting a sequence of creatures (all beautifully animated), and reaping the reward at the end of the map - usually gold, experience, or a weapon.

If you are looking for a hard core RPG you might look elsewhere. But that's not what DragonFable is all about. It's all about the sheer fun of fighting magical creatures, leveling up, and exploring something new. Every week this game adds a new aspect as it is still in the early stages. As I've been playing they've added many campaigns, new weapons, a test mode for player vs player, pets that battle with you, and new stores in the village.

DragonFable is a perfect game for a quick 30 minute RPG fix—where you know that your experience and that new weapon you discovered will still be there when you log in again! Did I mention this game is free? You can pay to get more characters and weapons, as well as purchase Dragon Coins for special weapons. So, if you are looking for a great lunchtime game that brings fun back to the leveling up grind then DragonFable is for you. Click.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (237 votes)
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JohnB Monkey Kick Off is a stylish flash arcade game created by Niclas Åberg of Totebo Interactive. A monkey juggles a ball with his feet on the side of the screen. Wait for the right moment, then click the mouse to punt the ball as far as you can, sending it flying through forests, deserts, a Monkey Village and beyond. It's a classic game idea made fresh by creative design and a sharing feature that allow you to challenge your friends to beat your top score.

monkeykickoff.gifUnlike other flash games of a similar style (Nanaca Crash comes to mind), Monkey Kick Off features no power-ups, special moves or obstacles to contend with. The gameplay has been streamlined so all you need to worry about is timing the initial click. The ball bouncing physics are quite natural, making the whole experience feel very organic. I just wish I knew how many Monkey Meters are in one human meter...

The best feature of Monkey Kick off is the "Challenge your Monkey Friends" option. Your personal best score is saved across gaming sessions and at any time you can bring your pals in on the fun. Just click the icon and you can create a customized URL to e-mail, post on your blog, or even share in the comments section of a casual gaming website (hint hint). When anyone visits the URL they can watch a replay of your best kick and can try to top your score.

As you kick the ball farther you are treated to new scenery scrolling in the background. Wondering what rests beyond adds a nice element of exploration to the game. A good strategy is to wait for the monkey to juggle the ball above his head, then click when it's even with his chest. Time it right and the ball will soar out of sight. Then just kick back and enjoy the tour.

Monkey Kick Off is a well-executed idea that's a winner for its simplicity and playful design. Try it and get your friends hooked.

Play.


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Facelift for FavoritesI took time out from playing and reviewing games today to give the Favorites editor a long overdue update. I switched the underlying technology from DHTML to Flash (8), which made cross-browser support a lot easier on me. Sorry Linux users; you will still have to use the old interface until Flash Player 9 comes out early next year.

Presently the icons are ordered from newest to oldest in terms of when they were featured on this site. There are still some improvements yet I plan to implement to this new interface, such as sorting by Title—and perhaps even genre when I get tags in working order. I would also like to pop up the title of the game when you mouse over the icon, but we'll see how that goes. If there is anything else that you think of that may make using this tool more useful to you, please share them in the comments.

Managing your favorites just got a whole lot easier. Bug reports are always welcome and appreciated. =)

Update: Pop-up game titles have been implemented.

Update #2: Double-click an icon to read a review excerpt.

Update #3: Sort alphabetically or chronologically.

Update #4: Changes are saved automatically.


(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (31) | Views (46)

JayJewel DropAnother competition entry that was only narrowly edged out of an award, Jewel Drop by Nick Redmond of Iowa, USA, consistently received high marks from each of the four reviewers.

This ear-training, color-layering game features a clean and appealing interface and a luxuriously rich soundtrack that together create a unique and original game play experience.

The objective of the multi-level puzzle game is to identify the three (3) colors and notes that make up the composite sample given at the top of the circular game window. The sample is made up of three (3) different colors layered one on top of another, and three (3) different notes played simultaneously. Just mouse over the sample to hear the resulting musical chord.

There are five (5) colored disc-shaped "jewels" from which to choose, with each one containing a different color and a different musical note. Simply mouse over each disc to hear its note.

Once you have identified the constituent notes/colors, you must next decide their order. Remember that you are layering colors on top of one another and not mixing colors as with liquids. The last jewel on top will be the dominant color of the trio.

Drag and drop your choices, one-by-one, onto the center circle. Guess the sample within the number of tries indicated to advance to the next level.

Analysis: Before I say any more, I really want to say that I love this game. It is elegantly simple, unique, and creative. The ear-training component is an area that I have longed to see explored in a game since the Music Theory courses I took at RIT. I love the sound samples Nick has integrated into the gameplay, as well as the smooth and seamless layering that occurs when playing multiple sounds in succession. Being able to choose between guitar and piano is frothy icing on this already richest of cakes. On the surface it's an amalgamation of sensory stimuli bordering on the self-indulgent; decadent.

However, dig a little deeper to discover the game contains a great idea with a slightly flawed execution. On the one hand, the player is given a single chord made up of three notes that must be identified where order does not matter. And on the other, the player is given a single color combination made up of three unique colors that must be identified, and yet order does matter.

Jewel Drop wrong answerWhile the player will likely grasp the concept quickly of identifying the three notes of a chord and even the three colors of a color swatch, many will likely be confused when they discover that layering three colors in different orders produces different results. This is because there are many more examples familiar to us in which color mixing is not dependent on order. For example: mixing RGB light of a computer monitor (additive color), and mixing dyes in ink or paint (subtractive color). I am not learned in color theory, but my intuition tells me that neither are most casual gamers.

From the usability heuristics of Jakob Nielsen we know that a human-computer interface should provide a match between the system and the real world, using words and concepts familiar to the user and following real-world conventions. Requiring the player to think in layered colors, which I believe will be a foreign concept to most, is where this game breaks down.

The result will likely be a methodical approach by many players to guessing the correct order of the target color, which doesn't turn out to be much fun once this is realized.

The other and more obvious problem, of course, is the game's accessibility issues: it is simply not playable by anyone deaf, hard-of-hearing, or with any form of color-blindness.

While it's easy to sit here nitpicking it apart, it's not so easy to come up with ways of addressing these issues. Accessibility issues aside, I believe there is an exceptional game design here if the usability issues are addressed first and foremost. Otherwise, it's just a great game idea with significantly unrealized potential.

JohnBJohn: Jewel Drop requires something most of our other competition entries don't: a good ear and a sharp sense of color. It's unusual in that it tricks your brain into fighting itself for dominance: the left side tries to solve the puzzle while the right side digests the color and sound. I won't pretend I didn't have a tough time with this game at first, but finally I got the hang of it. Jewel Drop is a great game to crank up the speakers and relax with at the end of the day. It's also perfect for playing with more than one person at the computer. It's a little light on the "puzzle" aspects as compared to our other entries, but what it lacks in logical challenge it more than makes up for in elegance and beauty. A fantastic creative accomplishment by Nick Redmond!


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Rating: 3.7/5 (25 votes)
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JohnBdonaroom2-1.jpgDona Room 2 is the second room escape game from Japanese flash designer Noaki Nakashima. The game is every bit as quirky and amusing as the original Dona Room and offers more great point-and-click gameplay. The entire game takes place in your kitchen where a note from your mother says you must find a snack before you can leave. Unfortunately the potato chips and cake are locked away, so you must find items and solve puzzles in order to get to them. The game has a little Japanese text but is completely playable without knowledge of the language. Check the comments below for some rough translations.

Use the hand-arrows at the bottom of the screen to move around the room and click on areas to zoom in and interact. You have quick access to your inventory by clicking the icon at the top of the screen, but be sure to switch the item bar off when you aren't using it, as it tends to hide important areas of the screen.

The puzzles in Dona Room 2 center on deciphering clues to come up with codes to unlock doors, cabinets, etc. You'll also swipe a few items and use them in fairly logical ways. There are some really unique puzzles to solve in this game, but I certainly won't spoil the fun here. As with most games of this genre, keep some note paper handy to jot down hints as you come across them.

Dona Room 2 is a quirky and extremely enjoyable point-and-click game. Come for the great puzzle solving, stick around for the chips and cake.

Play.


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locoroco_toy.jpgThose wild and muy loco hombres over at VH1 Game Break are running a contest in celebration of the US release of Sony's LocoRoco for the Playstation Portable (PSP). With prizes including: One (1) copy of LocoRoco for the PSP and one (1) 3-foot LocoRoco inflatable figure (shown), a LocoRoco T-Shirt and LocoRoco PSP charms, head on over to VH1 Game Break for details on how to enter.


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Rating: 4.3/5 (30 votes)
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Keys

JayKeys very nearly placed among the winners in our first game design competition (CGDC #1), and if we had but one additional prize, it would have. This mysterious and charming little puzzle game fit the theme perfectly by closely resembling a puzzle you might find in Click Drag Type. In fact, there weren't many other games that came this close to exactly what we were looking for.

Rob Allen of England, UK, is the creative force behind this delightful game of sight and sound. And if you're concerned about accessibility, don't be alarmed: the game can be solved with the sound completely turned off. But keep it on if you can, as it adds to the overall enjoyment of the puzzle.

It is a simple puzzle that will surely have you scratching your head with wonderment while trying to figure out exactly what to do. But it's not very difficult, so I don't want to give away anything about it here.

Analysis: If I could make one change, it would be the implementation of a more complex set of rules governing each 'key'. As it is, once I figured out the key it then became a simple task of trial and error. Overall, Keys is an excellent puzzle that leaves you wanting more.

Play Keys


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Plasma WormPlasma Worm is a free (until Sept. 15th) downloadable arcade action game for Windows, and it is an evolution of the traditional snake-eats-the-pellet games that have existed since time began. Created by indie developer, Digital Eel, the game pays homage to Douglas Adams, and the storyline (such as it is) involves the piloting of a plasma worm through a tank within the Improbability Drive, eating stray probabilities that could gum up the engine.

There are several features that make this game an engrossing and enjoyable diversion. First, the game is comprised of 20 levels of increasing difficulty, rather than being a single-level, live as long as you can, exercise in inevitability. Collecting 10 probabilities (at which point the worm is pretty darn long) advances you to the next level. Passwords allow you to jump to particular levels, so you can start up again where you left the game or replay levels later. The separate levels make the game obsessively playable, and the early ones also help to teach the player about the various enhancements to the game.

Those enhancements are quite cool. The plasma worm, really just an outline in a sea of hallucinogenic goo, gives a strong impression of swimming through the game field. You can move the worm left or right with the arrow keys, and in certain situations fire little plasma bullets with the space bar. The controls are very fluid and responsive, with a full range of movement and decent reaction to nudges. Although you can't turn on a dime, the worm is capable of navigating pretty tight spaces and making sharp turns. This is obviously enormously helpful in a game where the whole point is not to bump into anything.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (260 votes)
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dancemonkeyGatewayGateway is an impressive and delightful 3D puzzle game from Anders Gustafsson, awarded Honorable Mention and the coveted Audience Award in our recent Casual Gameplay Design Competition. The game has a very simple premise: guide a robot through a series of rooms; but you will have to solve a mini-puzzle within each room to advance.

Using the mouse for control, simply click where you'd like the robot to move and it will walk to that spot if its path is unobstructed. By moving the robot around each room you can pick up objects and interact with controls and devices. You can even combine objects that you've picked up in your inventory. And you will need to do all of these things at one time or another in order to finish the game (sometimes all of the above for the same puzzle).

Competition Honorable Mention award winnerAnalysis: Although the formula is not an original one, the game does possess a charming artistic style and a wonderfully moody environment. The designer managed to create a world that is at the same time whimsical and ominous, through a film noir style of high-contrast environments and downplayed musical backgrounds. The music is used sparingly but effectively, striking a dark chord from time to time at just the right moment ("PEEPER"!).

I found the puzzles overall to be very easy, with a couple of notable and devious exceptions. The tutorial was not at all necessary, and were I not judging this for a contest I may not have sat through it. Hopefully Anders will address this in future installments (which I very much hope to see).

Competition Audience award winnerJayJay: The first time I fired up Gateway, slogging through a tutorial was the last thing I wanted to see. I didn't realize until after I had completed the game that it can be turned off in the options menu, but by then it was too late. With the exception of some minor control issues, the design of the game and its interface is quite intuitive, therefore the tutorial won't be necessary for most people. Instead of hiding it away in the options menu, a possible improvement might be to ask the player, via a simple Yes/No dialog when starting a new game, if a tutorial is desired.

Once past the tutorial and into the first room, the game begins to take on a much more mysterious and ominous tone. Anders blends sight and sound masterfully to create an atmosphere ripe for what he delivers in the telescope room, which is both the game's finest achievement and its biggest disappointment. I wanted to see some connectedness between the character we see through the telescope and the player character of the game. As it is, there is no common thread that ties together these potentially powerful vignettes.

There are now two Gateway games to play. Be sure to play the award-winning sequel, Gateway 2.

The puzzles, of course, are all very creative and I enjoyed playing through the game from start to finish in one sitting, which is not difficult to do. I am looking forward to seeing the direction Anders takes with this game and its underlying Blockman engine, as it appears to have a great deal of potential.

Play Gateway


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Rating: 4.6/5 (156 votes)
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Click Drag Type 3 logo

Jaycdt3.gifHot on the heels of our first game design competition, the impetus for which was Simple Andy's brilliant collection of simple puzzle games known simply as Click Drag Type, comes another installment of the series that includes five (5) brand new puzzles!

Click Drag Type 3 picks up where the others left off. In fact, this collection includes a brand new interface that houses all three puzzle collections in one. There's no finer, more creative collection of discovery puzzles than the Click Drag Type series.

So what are you waiting for?

Play Click Drag Type 3


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Rating: 4.6/5 (38 votes)
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NoahCyberpunkFrom Argentina, Rey Gazu's Cyberpunk is a simple Flash puzzle game disguised as an arresting and involving hacking simulation. Armed with four programs and some intuition, you'll have to sneak into a remote computer guarded by obscure (and not-so-obscure) passwords, as well as by some nasty puzzles.

The game begins when a mysterious message instructs you to "access the overlord terminal and retrieve the datacore". You are faced with what appears to be a window on a computer desktop containing two icons, one for your local computer and one for a remote host, atlantis. Four other icons, your toolbox, are at the bottom of the screen. Begin by clicking the shell icon and connecting to atlantis. Figuring out how to log in is the first of many puzzles ahead.

Competition Runner-Up award winnerAnalysis: Compared to some of the other entries in the contest, Cyberpunk is actually a fairly inviting and forgiving game... at first. The interface should be intuitive for anyone at all familiar with DOS or UNIX and the goals are usually clear, with plenty of hints. Several amusing easter eggs invite exploration while demonstrating that, despite Cyberpunk's sterile exterior, Gazu is not without a sense of humor. I wonder if he was laughing when he designed the incredibly punishing Hex puzzle near the end of the game?

I found it interesting that, while very different, both runners up dealt with puzzles in the form of simulated computer interfaces. Cyberpunk eschews Thief's exotic and colorful machines for a more familiar, and more believable, command line that does a fine job of tying the game's two larger puzzles together. It's a shame that Cyberpunk ends so abruptly, and I hope that Gazu decides to continue adding more puzzles to his already excellent work.

JayJay: What I love best about Cyberpunk is that it seems a whole lot larger than it is. When dropped into the game at the very beginning with nothing but a command line at your disposal, the game gives the impression of being expansive and virtually limitless in possibilities. Closer examination, however, reveals that the commands available are few and quite logical to invoke. Yes, the game does favor anyone with even slight familiarity to DOS or Unix (cat being the Unix command to concatenate the contents of a file, in this case to standard output—the screen), and therefore it may be frustrating, or downright intimidating, to those with command line phobia. That being said, Cyberpunk can be completed with just a few well-placed commands and the solving of two (2) excellent puzzles, both of which require you to dig beneath the surface of what is happening on-screen relative to your actions. The presentation is gorgeous and the technical implementation exceptional. Cyberpunk is clearly one of the best puzzle games of this competition, even though it stretches the "simple puzzle game" idea virtually in all directions. ;)

JohnBJohn: Cyberpunk makes me feel cool. When I'm staring at the opening screen an entire world of possibilities lurks around the corner. With a few simple keystrokes I make things happen. Good things. Hacker-like things. Scanning for networks, cracking passwords, shuffling through file directories and causing computer crashes are only the beginning. The illusion of infinite possibilities is present, yet Cyberpunk follows a remarkably logical formula. So logical, in fact, the answer can sit right in front of you and you won't even realize it. Beyond the raw thrill of solving puzzles through a command line interface, Cyberpunk also features two visual puzzles that are forces to be reckoned with. With the excitement of discovery, the undeniably cool feeling of being a hacker, and lots of little surprises along the way, Cyberpunk is undoubtedly the most unique of our finalists. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to put on some really black sunglasses and get back to hacking...

Play Cyberpunk


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Rating: 4.5/5 (49 votes)
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JohnBThiefA Flash design project by Phillip Reagan of Texas, USA, Thief weaves a cryptic atmosphere with captivating puzzles to pull you into a story you didn't even realize you were participating in.

You begin staring at a table that holds a monitor and a strange box. You can click on either object, one leads to a puzzle with rotating triangles while the other has some unusual buttons and a beeping grid. No explanation is given, you just have to figure things out on your own. And I surely won't ruin the fine experience with spoilers in this review! It isn't until you solve a few of the puzzles that you realize the story behind the game and learn just why it's called Thief. The atmosphere is extremely mysterious and draws you in from the moment you begin. Warning: you will be hooked.

Competition Runner-Up award winnerAnalysis: My first foray into Thief happened to be the radar-like puzzle on the right. It's entirely possible to complete the game starting here, but only if Lady Luck happens to be a close relative. Needless to say I didn't last very long and went to give the flashing grid a try. Coming up with the solution was fairly intuitive, but progressing through the series of puzzles proved a little more difficult. I quickly learned to pay attention to the small details that were repeated throughout the mini-puzzles. I snatched some paper and kept notes that turned out to be priceless. And the moment I learned the story behind the game, I was completely hooked.

The pacing and difficulty are perfect in Thief, keeping you on the verge of frustration so you keep plugging away for the solution. I like the open-ended feeling (though it's an illusion) and using clues from one puzzle to the next is a great way to create a fuller sense of satisfaction, especially in a smaller project of this nature.

Just like the other finalists in the competition, Thief drops you in the middle of a puzzle (or set of puzzles) and leaves you to your own wits to find a way out. It's captivating, creative, and enormously rewarding to play. Phillip has done a wonderful job and is deserving of one of the top prizes!

dancemonkeydancemonkey: This was hands-down my favorite of all the entries. I loved the story, and loved that you didn't get to discover the story until you'd solved a fair amount of the puzzle itself. The puzzles were my favorite variety: they required experimentation and observation to figure out the mechanism, but once you'd deduced the solution none of them required a great deal of time to actually solve. I actually felt proud of myself when I finished the game!

JayJay: Although Thief strays a bit from the theme of the competition by including several puzzles to solve, most of the puzzles are, in fact, exactly what I was hoping to see. Not only are they great puzzles, they are also brilliantly woven together into a seamless game play experience that is engaging and enjoyable from beginning to end. Creative and original, with an overarching narrative that steals away your innocence as third person observer, Thief belongs among the best of this Casual Gameplay competition.

NoahNoah: Thief is a perfect example of what I was looking for in the contest entries: great puzzles—some very delicious—and a lot of personality. It even offers a creative back story to those willing to put forth a bit of effort. Though, if we could only take a peek inside that book...

Play Thief

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